In Season: Cuastecomate (Calabash Tree) / Fruit Used to Make Huichol Maracas

I have always been enamored by the native Huichol Indian artwork sold here in Nayarit, Mexico – from the intricately beaded jewelry and masks, to the colorful yawn paintings. I have purchased several pieces over the years and display them throughout our home.

Many years ago, I met a lovely old Huichol woman who was selling handmade purses, dolls, beaded jewelry, carved maracas and some beaded gourd bowls (both shown below). When I’m out and about, I continue to watch for her as her work is much more detailed and creative than other artists.

Huichol Gourd Bowls

The blue bowl (shown on the right) was my very first purchase from her. Since then, several of the beads have fallen off from use*.

*Editor’s Notes: For anyone who has purchased Huichol beaded artwork, it is worthwhile to know that the beads are attached with beeswax; so if they come loose or fall off, it is easy to gently push them back into place.

A few of the Huichol Indian vendors who sell their wares at the Tianguis in La Peñita have mentioned that the beaded gourd bowls are used as “prayer bowls” to bless the children.

Huichol Carved Maracas
Carved maracas

About two years ago, I ran into the same woman and noticed that she had the most amazing beaded maracas on display. I bought the three she had, and asked if she would be willing to make more. She returned about a month later with 12 new maracas. Because of her willingness to accommodate my request and travel the long distance, I splurged and bought all of them in the hopes of selling them to friends.

Huichol Maracas  copy

They are all unique and use color combinations and symbols I have not seen before.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Editor’s Note: I still have a few maracas left if anyone is interested in purchasing them. They range from $55-65 USD depending on their size. I have posted photos on my personal Facebook page.

You can see the detailed beadwork below.

Huichol Maraca 2
Huichol Maraca 4

Fast forward.

Last weekend, my husband David and I decided to take an impromptu drive north along the coast to visit an area we hadn’t been for awhile. Along the way, my camera’s memory card quit working, so I pulled out my iPhone and took some random shots to document our trip. The quality of the photos are not the best, but as I often say here, es como es (it is what it is).

As we were nearing the end of our day trip, I saw a tree with large round green fruit, approximately the size of a grapefruit, that were growing directly from the branches. There was no one around except a man sleeping in a hammock nearby, but I didn’t want to disturb him. Later that night, I started my online research; and the following day, I asked my maid if she could confirm the identity of the tree (I always ask the locals to find out what things are called here in our region). She informed me that her neighbor had a similar tree growing in her yard, and that she would ask her and bring me some fruit next time she worked.

Cuastecomate Tree 1
Cuastecomate Tree 2

Much to my surprise, I learned that the fruit from this tree is used to make my prized Huichol beaded maracas. The woody gourd-like fruit can be drilled and/or carved during the the “softer” green stage, and the dried seeds inside the hollowed fruit are what produce the sound.

Let me divert for a moment, and express that I don’t believe in coincidences. Life here in Mexico never ceases to amaze me… and the adventures never end. Gracias a Dios!

In a past issue of the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens leaflet, it says that “The beautiful tree (Crescentia cujete) is known in Mexico as Jícaro or Cuastecomate. Its fruits are often dried for use as canteens and musical instruments, most notably maracas.”

It is also commonly known as the Calabash tree. The hard-shelled fruit, which can grow 10 to 30 cm (4-12 inches), is not intended to eat, but rather is used for medicinal purposes. When it turns brown and falls off the tree, the top of the fruit is cut off or a hole is drilled, and alcohol is poured inside. After sitting a few weeks (or up to a few years), the liquid ferments and is supposed to be good for asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Here are a few more photos from the day’s adventure…

Ally Day Trip 4
Taking a wrong turn into a banana field

Ally Day Trip 5
Outdoor bathroom in the middle of nowhere

Ally Day Trip 6
Charming little blue house

Ally Day Trip 7
Clavelina (Shaving Brush Tree) in bloom

Ally Day Trip 8
Close up of blossoms

Ally Day Trip 9
There must have been close to a hundred blossoms laying on the ground below

Ally Day Trip 10
Mooo-oO-OOo

Ally Day Trip 11
Proof that mango season isn’t far away

by Allyson Williams

This story was submitted by one of our regular contributors. To learn more about the author/photographer, click on the “Contributors” tab near the top of the page. If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Allyson@JaltembaBayLife.com

 

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2 Reviews on “In Season: Cuastecomate (Calabash Tree) / Fruit Used to Make Huichol Maracas”

  1. :

    Love your photos and stories, Allyson. I always learn something.

  2. :

    That is true. I personnaly have treated certain bronchial illness with a tonic, made of "Cuastecomate & propóleo" . Congratulations. Lourdes

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