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Mexico - Northern Mexico

Tarahumara Indians

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A Karen Brown Recommendation

One of the highlights of a visit to the Copper Canyon, in addition to experiencing the canyon itself, is the opportunity to learn more about the gentle Tarahumara Indians (also called the Raramuri), who share a common ancestry with the fierce Aztecs who settled farther to the south. They are really your hosts, having dwelled in this remote, almost inaccessible part of Mexico long before any tourists arrived. This is their home and you will be introduced to them from the beginning of your train trip, since the women, colorfully dressed in their native costumes, are at all the train stations and hotels where they sit quietly weaving their baskets, which are always for sale. They bring their children with them—infants, warmly wrapped in blankets, sleep beside their mothers, while older children romp and play nearby.
Be sure to buy a few baskets—they are beautifully made and reasonably priced. The Tarahumara Indians are renowned as long-distance runners and if you walk the paths twisting along the canyon walls at what you think is a brisk pace, you will be amazed at how quickly you are passed by women and children whose speed will far surpass yours. It is said the men were able to chase deer tirelessly, following them for days at a time until their prey collapsed from exhaustion. The Tarahumara Indians used to occupy the entire state of Chihuahua. However, in the 17th century when the Spaniards arrived and began to enslave the Indians to work their mines, the Tarahumarans moved ever deeper into the remote, hidden valleys of the canyons. In winter, when the weather can be very cold due to the high elevation, they move to the floor of the canyons where the climate is almost tropical. In summer, they move to higher elevations. They live in cliff dwellings in the side of the canyon or log huts, or a combination of both. Due to their isolation, their way of life, dress, food, and traditions have changed little. They are a shy, independent people, who seem to treasure their way of life. Although the government has tried to make their life easier, they seem to prefer living as they do protected against the influence of modern civilization.

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