The dignified and reclusive Tarahumara Natives are a tribe who has chosen to live apart from modern western culture. They live primitively, subsisting on corn, beans, and their livestock. In the winter they live in caves, moving into small log cabins in the summer. They are excellent weavers and produce fine wool blankets to provide warmth during the harsh winters of the canyon.
The Tarahumara — like most Native American tribes — have suffered since the arrival of the conquistadors. Though they were not hit as hard as some other tribes by smallpox and other European diseases their lifespan is, on average, fairly short. According to the legend of the ancient dwellers of the sierra, the world was created by Rayenari — Sun God — and Metzaka— Moon Goddess. In their honor, in the present times they dance, sacrifice animals and drink “tesguino”.
There, where the western Sierra Madre becomes rough and uneven, the Tarahumara — who call themselves Raramuri (Light Feet) — live. The most important activity among them is growing corn and bean and some raise cattle. Due to the fragility of their economy some look for work in the wood mills.
At present the Tarahumara consititute the largest indigenous group in the state of Chihuahua. The number varies from 50,000 to 75,000 although is difficult to determine precisely because of the inaccessibility of the mountains, and the deficient communication links.
The Tarahumara are spread in the municipalities of Guerrero, Bocoyna, Ocampo, Uruachi, Chinipas, Guazapares, Urique, Morelos, Batopilas, Guadalupe y Calvo, Balleza, Rosario, Nonoava, San Francisco de Borja and Carichi. The mountainous region is divided in two large regions called Alta and Baja Tarahumara, corresponding the first to the part dominated by the Sierra Madre Occidental and the second to the area west of the same sierra, including the zone of the canyons that forms the warm lands of the state.
The men are svelte, with strong muscles, recognized as the best long distance runners. The women are shorter, with oval faces, black and oblique eyes and straight nose.
The men wear a hairband known as “kowera”, huaraches, and loose shirt. The women wear a wide skirt and loose blouse, the hair usually covered with a shawl, and a wool waistband known as “pukera”. Their language is sweet and with an abundance of words referring to customs and their environment, with polite words like: “I greet you, as the dove that warbles, I wish you health and happiness with your loved ones.”
Each house has a hearth and in the bowls they make they cook maize and beans that were harvested during the season. Among the Tarahumaras everything belongs to everybody, private property does not exist, so they share food and housing.
They elect a governor — a man who distinguishes for his services to others and his intelligence — who in turn elect “gobernadorcillos” (priests, shamans, and sages). These go all over their corresponding towns preaching the pride of being Raramuri, the customs and morals to uphold; function as judges in problems and are in charge of prayers.
There is always a great deal of reserve between the sexes, especially in the conservative groups. Among the Tarahumara, a man calling at the home of a friend will make his presence known before approaching the door of the house, and if the woman is alone he does not enter but remains at a distance. Unless there is a close relationship, men and women generally talk to one another only when necessary and then at a respectful distance with averted faces.
Because we care and are sure that you do too, we invite you to make much more of your vacations at Copper Canyon by caring and giving a little bit of hope to the remote Tarahumara children of the Sierra Madres. Be part of this humanitarian project; see the smile on the face of the children when they receive your contribution – directly from you.
You can do so much by bringing supplies to contribute to their education and health care. Simple things such as notebooks, basic books, pens and pencils, warm clothes, blankets, shoes, medication for colds, fever and stomach aches. Used clothing and blankets in good condition are also acceptable.
The Tarahumara families bring their children to boarding schools located in areas often far from their homes. Most children have to live in those facilities and stay because of the distances. They often go home only on holidays and summer vacations. These families have no way to pay for their children’s education. Some of them still live in caves and have no electricity or running water.
Institutions such as The Tewecado School must rely on the support of individuals and organizations to continue their life-affirming work. You can help the nuns make the world a better place for one more Tarahumara child by sending your donation or bringing it with you.
Contribute if you can, it means so much to the children.
You can also sponsor a child for as little as one dollar a day.