Sonora Feature

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Tribe on the Verge

A rustic Seri fishing village perched at the end of a long, bumpy, winding dirt road, Punta Chueca is 27 km (17 mi) north of Bahía Kino. To get there, you'll pass exquisite vistas of the bay, distant empty beaches, and rolling mountains. The inhabitants of this community live a subsistence lifestyle, relying on the sea and desert.

With fewer than 700 remaining members, the Seri tribe represents an ancient culture on the verge of dying out. The Seri love for their natural surroundings is evident in the necklaces that they have traditionally worn and now create to sell. Cute little shells are wound into the shape of flowers and strung with wild desert seeds and tiny bleached snake vertebrae. Seri women also weave elaborate canastas (baskets) of torote grass, which are highly prized and expensive.

As you get out of your car anywhere in town, be prepared to encounter an entourage of Seri women dressed in colorful ankle-length skirts, their heads covered with scarves, and their arms laden with necklaces for sale. The Seri are best known, however, for the carved palofiero (ironwood) figurines that represent the animal world around them, including dolphins, turtles, and pelicans. Many Mexican merchants have taken to machine-making large figures out of ironwood for the tourist trade, thereby seriously depleting the supply of the lilac-blossomed tree that grows only in the Sonoran Desert. (If the bottom of the statuette is smooth, it was cut with an electric saw and not made by the Seri.) For this reason, the Seri now carve figures out of several types of stone. In fact, those in the know suggest that few, if any, ironwood sculptures are being made by the Seri anymore. If you desire an original bit of Seri artwork, you're best off purchasing a necklace or one of the impressive grass baskets.

This is no place to hang out after dark, as there is some completely open drug trafficking on the part of local narcotraficantes.

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