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Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico

Huautla de Jiménez

Southern Mexico under the influence of mushrooms, ceremony and celebrity. 

Before 1955, María Sabina was just a farmer. She lived off the land near Huautla de Jiménez and enjoyed a respectable standing among the community as a curandera, or healer. Within the blink of an eye, that all changed and 30 years later, Sabina was left in poverty, ostracized from her community and dying alone.

María Sabina was well known in Huautla de Jiménez for performing night rituals using psilocybin mushrooms, which she referred to as Saint Children. According to legend, she had first consumed the magic fungi at the age of 7, regularly doing so throughout her life. Being famous for her abilities, an interested American named R. Gordon Wasson visited her in 1955 and was led through a mushroom ceremony.

When he returned to the United States, he reported his experiences to Life Magazine, and the article began the psychedelic movement in America. Shortly after its publication, Timothy Leary and hosts of other celebrities flocked to Oaxaca to ingest the mushrooms with Sabina. Along with serious researchers, the allure of the drug brought John Lennon, Bob Dylan and a number of other musicians to Sabina’s door as well.

Unfortunately, the influx of drug-tourism had many negative effects on the town and locals began to blame María Sabina. In a number of attacks, the villagers burned her home and tried to run her out of Huautla de Jiménez. Oddly enough, Sabina accepted her fate as if it was pre-determined and told to her during one of her ceremonies.

Aware of her approaching death, Sabina reflected on her experience with Western visitors. “The moment the foreigners arrived to search for God, the saint children lost their purity.” Tragically, Sabina’s fate paralleled that of the free love movement, and as the hippies lost interest in honest pursuits, their credibility was debased. Spiritual enlightenment gave way to hard drugs, which gave way to the 1980s, closing the lid on an era and María Sabina.

Today, visitors can still procure psychoactive mushrooms that grow in the region. However, tourists looking for the trip of a lifetime might be hard pressed to find a spiritual healer that will take a risk and lead them through a ceremony.