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The Seri People

The Seri villages of Punta Chueca and El Desemboque are located in Sonora, Mexico between Hermisillo and Kino Bay on the coast of the Sea of Cortez. They have between 600 and 800 residents total. Seri is a name given them by the conquering Spanish, but they call themselves Konkaak-The People.

The Seri live in poverty, making only a subsistence living from fishing, basket weaving, woodcarving and other crafts. Seri baskets are some of the finest in the world. Woven of fibers from the torote plants, and dyed with vegetal dyes, Seri baskets are so tightly crafted they will hold water. Basket making is a long and tedious process. The plant fibers must be gathered and this involves long trips into the desert. Then there is the preparation process in which the plant material is stripped to its pliable interior. The Seri women do this with their teeth. Seri women also make delicate necklaces out of seashells, seeds and reptile vertebrae. As seamstresses, their skills are unmatched. Needles, thread and particularly scissors are highly prized items in the Seri villages. Using scraps of material and sometimes pieces of bone, the Seri women make dolls; with stitching so fine and perfectly spaced it looks machine-done.

The Seri men began the art of ironwood carving. Ironwood comes from a slow-growing desert shrub that is so heavy, hard and dense it does not float. Using primitive knives and awls the Seri crafted figures of the sea and desert: turtles, whales, dolphins, quail, and roadrunners.

While many of the old ways have been displaced by American, Mexican and Christian traditions, the Seri still live close to the earth and cycles of nature. A great many Seri, even the very elderly, sleep outside directly on the ground with only a thin blanket for covering. They have a vast knowledge of herbal healing, which they guard jealously. They refuse to leave their villages to venture into the larger towns and cities seeking employment. In fact, most Seris speak only their native tongue and a little Spanish. A very few know rudimentary English.

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