Juan Negrín September 20, 1945 - August 28, 2015
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Wixárika Research Center
Juan Román Negrín Fetter was born September 20, 1945 in Mexico City and passed away August 28, 2015, at home in Oakland following a year-long hospitalization for epilepsy. Juan dedicated himself to the arts, philosophy, comparative religions and was active in the movement for social and environmental justice in Mexico and beyond. He is the grandson of Juan Negrín López, the last Prime Minister of the Second Republic of Spain before the fall of Spain to the fascist dictator, Franco.
Juan studied Philosophy, French, and existentialism at Yale, where he formed the Party of the Left. During this time, Juan was profoundly marked by avant-guarde jazz, the developments of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, and 1960s counterculture more generally. Following college he returned to Mexico and was drawn to the art and religion of the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous peoples of the Western Sierra Madre of Mexico. He was welcomed, cautiously at first, by a few Wixárika families and was invited to join them on pilgrimages to their sacred places. As he was accepted by more families and later communities, he came to devote his life to the study, protection and promotion of their culture, art and territorial defense. Together with his wife, Yvonne, Juan founded several foundations including Friends of Huichol Culture, Asociación para el Desarrollo Ecológico de la Sierra Madre Occidental and, most recently, the Wixárika Research Center to preserve Wixárika heritage while providing funds and expertise for education, carpentry and weaving workshops, and solar technology that promote Wixárika autonomy.
Juan accepted the challenges of the Wixárika lifestyle with courage, grace and humor. He became the godfather of several Wixárika children, agreeing to raise them if anything happened to their parents. In the late 1970s, Juan was elected to represent and advise the Community of Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán—the only non-Wixárika to receive this accolade.
Thanks in great part to the efforts of Juan and Yvonne, the iconic Wixárika yarn paintings produced by pressing colored yarn onto plywood covered with beeswax have been exhibited in Europe, the United States and Mexico, with the most recent show in 2014 in Marseille, France.
Juan is survived by his wife, Yvonne, his sister, Carmen, half-siblings Hilda and Rómulo, three daughters, Marina, Catarina and Diana, his adoptive son, Cirilo, and six grandchildren, Marina Sofía, Ayisha, Alexander Cariuxa, Ernesto, Iyari and Juan Julián.