Carlos Chávez

Ashoka Fellow
Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when Carlos Chávez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Carlos Chávez is helping the Huichole Indians to engage with Mexico's development on their own terms. The Huicholes are the least assimilated of Mexico's 56 indigenous peoples; they are the only ones who have never converted to Catholicism. The wellspring of their culture is their relationship with nature: for them, the earth is mother and sacred. In Carlos's words, "We're talking about people that describe themselves with the mission to work for the conservation of life on earth. They sing, pray, dance and sacrifice for all living beings. [They are] a society in which the highest point in the social scale is reached when wisdom has been achieved and 'one can hear the voice from the other side of the mirror.' For thousands of years these people have concentrated their energy to perfecting ways to perceive and follow the rules from nature."
In Carlos's concept of development, human society will not be viable unless it manages a respectful exchange among cultures. He believes that the Huicholes can offer vital new ways of thinking to the western model of development, and he is creating mechanisms for them to do so that are adaptable for other communities. Thus his work directly contributes to the implementation of Mexico's obligation to respect the autonomy of all indigenous peoples under the provisions of the International Labor Organization. In contrast to other efforts, he assists the Huicholes to develop their community from the perspective of what they want to conserve and to work out an economy that supports a high priority for their environment.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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