What Are Los Ojos De Dios or God’s Eyes?

Huichol folk art: Ojos de Dios, or God's eyes.

As a child, you may remember having made one or several ojos de Dios or God’s Eye during art class. But you probably were never taught about their cultural and spiritual significance. This Mexican folk art, like many others throughout the world, is more than simply a beautiful craft. For the Huichol people, God’s Eyes are an integral part of a child’s development.

The Huichol tribe (wixárikas/wixáricas in their own language) is an indigenous group that lives in central Western Mexico in the Sierra Madre Occidental, many in Jalisco. Their best-known traditional religious offerings, nierika (nearika), are small diamonds or circles that have threads of yarn pressed into them. The sikuli, or God’s Eye, is actually a special type of nierika that is also called a Huichol cross.

Early anthropologists gave them the name in English and Spanish, noting that nierika comes from the Huichol verb nieriya, “to see”. Viewed as a talisman and placed in religious shrines and other sacred places, the sikuli came to be called the ojo de Dios.

The Purpose of God’s Eyes

Huichol folk art: Ojos de Dios, or God's eyes.

Huichol folk art: Ojo de Dios, or God’s eye.

The spiritual purpose of the ojos de Dios is to protect children in the first years of their lives. When a Huichol child is born, parents create the central part of a God’s Eye by tying together the two sticks into a cross. As the child grows, each year the parents add another color, until the age of five.

The resulting God’s Eye, considered a protective talisman, is then treasured throughout the person’s life and may be used in rituals and traditional medicine. The colors parents use to make it have different meanings, just as the points of the ojo de Dios represent the elements and the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).

While God’s Eyes are the most famous of their folk arts, the Huichol are also well-known for other more modern artisan pieces used as Latin decor such as intricately beaded sculptures and yarn painting.

How to Make Your Own Ojo de Dios

Given their significance in the lives of children, it’s appropriate that God’s eyes are a common craft for young people.

Want to give it a try?  You’ll need two sticks (Popsicle sticks will work) and several colors of yarns or embroidery thread.

  • Make an X with the sticks, tie a slipknot with the first color of thread, and wind the thread several times in figure eights around the joined sticks.
  • Once they are firmly in place, don’t cut them – you’ll start weaving with the same color.
  • Going counter-clockwise, weave the thread over and under each stick, making a loop around each.
  • Once you have gone over and under all four, you have completed a round.
  • Change colors by tying a new thread onto the strand. Finish up by wrapping the sticks with the remaining thread.

Need a visual? Here’s an easy tutorial with video about making your God’s eye.

If you have little ones around, give it a shot! And this time, you can let them know what this Hispanic tradition means to the Huichol people.

Have you ever made a God’s eye? Tell us in the comments!

What Are Pupusas Salvadoreñas?

A Salvadorian pupusa with traditional accompaniments.

With that strange name you may ask what are pupusas Salvadoreñas?  Let me put it this way, have you ever had the opportunity to eat in a Salvadorian restaurant or food stand? If so, chances are that you have eaten a pupusa, often considered the national dish of El Salvador. Essentially a thick, filled corn tortilla, they are a delicious example of not only Salvadorian food, but also Mesoamerican cuisine.

The ingredients for making pupusas are very simple: masa (ground corn mixed with water) and filling. Common ingredients include cheese, beans, pork and flor de loroco or loroco flower.  You can add this fillings individually or you can combine them.

Pupusas are traditionally served with tomato sauce, curtido (pickled cabbage with carrots and onions), and chile sauce, added to taste.

Making Pupusas

Watching an experienced cook form pupusas is fascinating – the masa goes from a lump, to a ball, to a hollow moon shape which is then filled and patted into a thick pancake and tossed on the grill or comal… all in the blink of an eye.

When making a pupusa, perhaps the most challenging – and most important – part is making sure the two sides don’t fall apart. Proportions are key, and, similar to tortillas, the texture of the masa must be soft and pliant, yet not runny.

The History of Pupusas

Pupusas: a Salvadorian staple, shown with traditional accompaniments.

Pupusas: a Salvadorian staple, shown with traditional accompaniments.

The history of pupusas goes back to the Pipil people in pre-Columbian times, and utensils used to make pupusas have even been found at archaeological sites. Written history dates to 1570, when Fray Bernardino de Sahagún wrote about a food consisting of cooked masa mixed with meat and beans.

While there is not complete agreement as to the etymology of the word “pupusa,” it is likely to have come from word or combination of words in Nahuatl, the language of the Pipil. Perhaps the most accepted explanation is that it comes from combining the words popotl (meaning big or stuffed) and tlaxkalli (tortilla) into the word popotlax.

Popularity of Pupusas

Other Latin American cuisines  also have foods that are similar to pupusas, such as South American arepas. Unlike pupusas, however, arepas are filled after cooking (instead of before) and are used much like pita bread, with an endless array of sandwich-like fillings.

The popularity of pupusas extends beyond the El Salvador borders. They are a staple in Salvadorian expat communities, such as the Washington, D.C., area, where you can easily find pupuserías and food trucks specializing in the tasty snack. Frozen pupusas can even be found in many grocery stores in areas with large Hispanic populations.

Other Central American countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica have also adopted the pupusa as a standard in their taquerías and small restaurants. In Costa Rica, for example, they are a staple of the food stalls at regional carnivals known as fiestas.

Now that you now what are pupusas Salvadoreñas the next time you have a chance to try this traditional Latin food staple, go for it!

Have you tried a pupusa?

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