Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Tarahumara Indians
The Tarahumara people, with a population of about 50,000, are the largest group of indigenous people in Mexico. They are also known as the Raramuri-the people of the swiftly running feet, known for their long-distance running ability and their primitive ways of living. Each year, they have a relay where they kick a ball through 160 kilometers of rough terrain without stopping for three to four days. These Indians live in caves or wood huts. The men chop wood and hunt while the women weave, cook, look after their families, and sell goods.
Tarahumara tradition and culture have survived only because they’ve isolated themselves since the Spanish Conquest. They lived above the canyon, but in the 1500’s, during the Spanish Conquest, they fled to the bottom of the canyon to be able to practice their traditions freely. In the 1700’s, half of the Tarahumaras came back up from the bottom of the canyon. They continued to follow their own beliefs, but some got caught up in the Catholic religion. So, 20% of the Tarahumara follow both Catholic and Tarahumara beliefs while the rest follow only Tarahumara beliefs. An example of this is in the Tarahumara village of San Ignacio where the church, built in the 1700’s by the Tarahumaras themselves, included Tarahumara symbols in one of its walls.
When we visited Copper Canyon, we got the chance to visit the Tarahumaras both at the bottom and top of the canyon. At the top of the canyon, we were allowed to go into someone’s cave. Inside the cave were four beds and a table that were made level by stacking wood under the legs. The Indians that we saw at the top were shy and scared and wore traditional clothing. At the bottom of the canyon, some Tarahumaras wore traditional clothing and others wore the clothes we wear. The lower Tarahumaras were very friendly and not nearly as shy as the higher Tarahumaras. I had so much fun at Copper Canyon and seeing the indigenous people there made it much more enjoyable.