November 2019; revised January 2020


[1] Purpose of the HSF
[2] Creation of the HSF
[3] First year of operation, fall 2018 – fall 2019
[4] Feedback from the 2018-19 recipients
[5] Second year: applicants and recipients in 2019-2020
[6] Conclusion
Table 1: HSF scholarship recipients for 2019-20

[1] Purpose of the Huichol Scholarship Fund&(HSF)

The HSF was created during the summer of 2018 to assist Huichol university students to complete their studies, thereby strengthening prospects for the long-term cultural survival of their community.

The Huichol are an Indigenous nation who traditionally reside in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, in Jalisco and the neighboring states of Nayarit, Zacatecas and Durango. In recent decades, some Huichol have also taken up residence in cities and towns in Nayarit (Tepic) and Jalisco (Guadalajara). While the size of the Huichol population in Puerto Vallarta remains small, the omnipresence and popularity of their art and craft products give them an important profile.

Puerto Vallarta’s expat community has created many valuable charitable organizations to assist the Mexican population. However, prior to last year’s creation of the HSF, none was devoted specifically to support for the Huichol community.

Like other Indigenous nations in Mexico, the Huichol are among the poorest segment of the country’s population. Their home communities have poorer living conditions and inferior educational and social services by comparison to those enjoyed by other Mexicans. As a people, the Huichol are seeking not only cultural survival, but enhanced capacity to defend themselves against extractive industries, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and those intent on selective appropriation of their culture for tourist promotion.

World-wide, Indigenous students face greater barriers to completing university programs than other poor populations. They often start with an inferior education, need to leave isolated home communities to attend school in a culturally different urban environment, usually have to study in a second language, and experience higher rates of attrition and poorer educational outcomes. Scholarship programs, like the HSF, are critical to their success and to the development and cultural survival of their communities.

[2] Creation of the HSF

The volunteer-run HSF began operating during the summer of 2018, making its first scholarship awards  last fall.  It was created by members of three organizations: the International Friendship Club (IFC), the Wixarika Research Centre (WRC) and the Volcanes Community Project (VCP).

The IFC in Puerto Vallarta, home of the HSF volunteer committee, is responsible for raising funds and  promoting greater understanding about the Huichol within Vallarta’s expat community.

The Wixarika Research Centre (WRC), based in San Diego and Jalisco/Nayarit, is responsible for promoting  the scholarship in Wixarika communities, selecting which applicants to support, delivering cheques, and reporting on the experience of the HSF students.

Our third partner is the Volcanes  Community Project (Rotary Club), also based in Puerto Vallarta. They provide essential financial and administrative services, assisting in the delivery of funds to the WRC and documenting receipt of the scholarships.

[3] First year of operation (Sept 2018-Aug 2019)

Starting in the fall of 2018, the HSF provided each of six students with $5,000 (pesos), based on an  initial contribution of $25,000 from the IFC and $5000 from WRC. However, from the start, creators of the HSF expressed a commitment to educational activity that would promote expat appreciation of the strategic importance of the program, while raising the funds needed to expand the financial support available to Huichol university students.

During early 2019, HSF volunteers made appeals for funds at IFC public lectures and organized a movie night benefit to raise more than $18,000 pesos. Additional donations totaled $39,500 pesos, giving the HSF much greater capacity to support students in 2019-20.

Significantly, the public lectures and movie night also reinforced how little expats know about the current circumstances of the Huichol and the importance of educational assistance in building Huichol capacity for self-determination. People who attended the IFC events expressed a willingness to support Huichol cultural survival and a desire to learn more about this Indigenous nation.

[4] Feedback from the 2018-19 recipients of an HSF award

In the spring of 2019, we learned more about the experience of our initial cohort of scholarship recipients. Answering a brief questionnaire we sent them, they told us how they used their scholarships and the difference it made to their academic success. Below are some of the highlights of what they told us.

How they used the money

Recipients used their awards to cover a variety of university-related expenses, including the following:

  • Living expenses: food and accommodations (e.g., $2200 pesos per month rent)
  • Tuition, student debt & administrative fees: paid for tuition, tuition-related debt and  administrative fees (graduation costs)
  • Transportation: paid for urban transit (between home, school and work); paid for travel from university to the home community and back at the end of term
  • Purchase of school supplies and books: mentioned by several students
  • Academic support & enrichment: paid for supplementary language courses, academic field trips (cost of about 1,000 pesos each)

“I designated $500 pesos to cover transportation costs from home to work, work to school, and school to home, this amount covered one month and 21 days of transportation, approximately…I also designated $500 as savings for emergencies as this spring I can use that money to buy the first book needed for my first course. The remaining $800 were used to buy school supplies at the end of the fall 2018 for use this coming semester.” — Angel, Financial Administration student at the ITESO

“The funds…were used for academic matters, payment of tuition, liquidation of graduation fees (titulación), transportation to the university and school supplies; with this I was able to successfully complete the quarter I was studying, it eased my university studies because I was able to liquidate all of my fees, and with this I can incorporate myself into the labor market and serve my community.” – Geydy, International Logistical Engineering, Technological University of Tepic

How the scholarship helped them

Students identified several ways the scholarship assisted them to achieve their academic goals. For one student, it meant he could reduce his hours of part-time work and devote more time to study. For two others, the scholarships meant a reduction in their overall level of financial stress, particularly in the crucial period towards the end of term. Some students saw the award as a vote of confidence in their ability and as added motivation to complete their programs and assist their home communities.

“It was a great form of support in order to concentrate on my studies during the remainder of the [fall] semester, I was able to redo courses that I had been unable to perform well in due to needing to work to cover my costs.”—Angel, Financial Administration student at the ITESO

“This scholarship served as an incentive to work even harder to better myself in one of the 10 best universities of the country, and the number one in agronomy in all of Latin America.” –Isaías, Forestry Engineering student, UAM-Chapingo

“The support helped to end the semester with less pressure, knowing that you have extra money, and that it is safe…and focus more on studying. This helps a lot in self-esteem, in trust, and generates joy, for that I will always be grateful.” – Herminio,

This feedback confirmed the need to continue providing financial support to Huichol university students. It also suggested the initial expenditure of $25,000 pesos in 2018-19 was not sufficient. Student comments indicated the awards should be larger, so we’ve increased them to $6,000 pesos for 2019-20. We anticipated that since the HSF was now an established scholarship program, we were likely to receive an increased number of applicants for 2019-20.

[5] Applicants and scholarship recipients for year two (Sept 2019-Aug 2020)

This summer, 21 new applicants applied to the HSF for a scholarship. With 5 returning scholarship recipients and limited funds, we were only able to offer 8 new students scholarships. Many qualified applicants had to be refused. We’ve learned the need for financial support still exceeds our capacity to provide it. As the Table below indicates, the cohort of students now receiving scholarships is comprised of 5 females and 8 males. That partly reflects the reality that males are more likely to attend university. (Only 7 of our 21 applicants this year were females.)


HSF recipients, 2019-20 (last names of students omitted)

Community Gender University Major Grad date expected
Herminio R San Andrés Cohamiata M ITESO Law


Angel B Tuxpán de Bolaños M ITESO Financial Administration  2022
Felix B  San Andrés Cohamiata M ITESO Civil Engineering


Aquileo C D San Miguel Huaixtita M Instituto Tecnológico José Mario Molina Electromechanical engineering


Isaías N C Tuxpán de Bolaños M Universidad Autónoma de México Chapingo Forestry


Community Gender University Major Grad date (expected)
Bianca E L Bajío del Tule, Waut+a F Universidad Enrique Rebsamen Law


Dagoberto R G San Miguel Huaixtita M Un. Autónoma de Nayarit Applied linguistics


Eusebio de la C Tuapurie M ITESO Business Adm. And Entrepreneurship


Sintia Y C V Mesa del Tirador F Un. Autónoma de Nayarit Education sciences


 Virginia E de la C Tepic, Nayarit F Un. Autónoma de Nayarit Pharmaceutical science


Xóchitl X C A Rosamorada, Nayarit F Un. Autónoma de Nayarit Law


Prudencio R C Potrero de la Palmita, Nayarit M Un. Autónoma de Nayarit Education sciences


Casiano M San Andrés Cohamiata M Un. Pedagógica Nacional, Nay. Primary education for the indigenous environment


Community Gender University Major  
Geidy B D Tuxpán de Bolaños F Universidad Tecnológica de Nayarit Logistical engineering  

HSF recipients are spread across 7 different Mexican universities, with institutions in Tepic and Guadalajara being most heavily represented. (The Autonomous University of Nayarit in Tepic has 5 students, while ITESO in Guadalajara has 4.) There is also considerable diversity in the program of study by HSF recipients. Law, education and engineering are the favored programs, with 3 students each. In addition, there are currently 2 students in business and administration, and 1 each in pharmacy and linguistics.
To qualify for an HSF award, students must have completed their first year of university studies maintained an average of at least 80%, and demonstrated a commitment to community involvement.  The new 2019-20 scholarship recipients all meet those qualifications. Typical were the following cases:
  • a single mother with a solid record of academic achievement and aspirations to be a teacher and foster mother
  • a student active in language revitalization projects
  • a student with lots of ideas about community-based businesses
  • a law student with two jobs, no internet access and serious economic need
  • a single mother with a solid record of academic achievement and aspirations to be a teacher and foster mother

The expected graduation dates for the current group of HSF recipients are spread almost evenly across the next three academic years: 4 will graduate in 2020, 5 in 2021 and 4 in 2022. That means if the HSF can sustain the 2019-20 levels of funding next year, we should be able to offer scholarships to at least 5 new students.

[6] Conclusion

We will keep you informed as we learn more about how best to support the university education of Huichol students. Our overall goal, which we cannot yet attach a monetary figure to, is to provide enough support to every qualified Huichol student to ensure they complete their university programs and contribute to the future of their communities.

We recognize that goal cannot be achieved without ongoing public education about the challenges the Huichol face as a community, and the stories Huichol students tell us about their educational experience. Volunteers with the HSF will endeavor to create opportunities for you to learn more and to continue expressing your support for Huichol cultural survival and self-determination.


‘Huichol’ was the name the Spanish gave to this Indigenous group. However, they have always referred to themselves as the ‘Wixaritari’. The scholarship program uses the name ‘Huichol’ because expats are far more familiar with that term than ‘Wixaritari’ (noun) or ‘Wixarika’ (adjective).