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.
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
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 were 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 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
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
distinguishes for his services to others and his intelligence — who in turn elect
"gobernadorcillos": priests, shamans, and sages. These go all over
their correspoding towns preaching the pride of being Raramuri, the customs
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.
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