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Raramuri of The Sierra Tarahumara

04.12.2008
 
Pages: 1234
Raramuri of The Sierra Tarahumara

By Mark S. McGrew

They are said to be the most primitive tribe above the equator.

I’m not so sure about that.

I have read many so called “expert’s” findings on the Tarahumara and there are few that are accurate. Scientists today exist in a virtual reality world of their own making with little if any facts to back them up. They puff out one hair brained theory after another just to get free Grant money and their names in the News.

I have been to the Sierra Madre del Norte in Mexico possibly fifty times or more. I have stayed sometimes for several days and a few times for a month or more. What I will say here is from actual experience.

The Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre are a separate nation, inside Mexico. They have never signed a Peace Treaty with Mexico. This region of the Sierra is theirs and this is why they call it the Sierra Tarahumara.

Their world is approximately 500 miles by 300 miles, from sea level to over 8,000 feet. There are five canyons, each deeper and wider than the Grand Canyon in the USA. Thousands of smaller canyons weave through the Tarahumara nation making travel by car impossible, except for a few, very rough, dirt roads.

The Tarahumara people call themselves Raramuri and we are told that the word means “Runner”. I don’t know if that is true and many of the Raramuri don’t know if it is true. I have never gotten an answer from a Raramuri as to what Raramuri means. Maybe they don’t know any more than any American knows what America means or where the word came from.

But, they do run. They can run day and night non-stop. They can chase a deer to death, out distance any horse and run down a rabbit for dinner with no more effort than for us to drive to the nearest restaurant.

The young men, in their early teens play a game. Two groups of five men each, have a ball made of wood a little bigger than the ball used by us to play soft ball. They kick the ball to start the game and keep kicking the ball, up and down trails in the canyons, for five days in a journey of near 250 miles. They do not touch it with their hands and they do not stop to eat or drink or sleep or for any other reason. They stay constantly in motion for the five day race. When they return, their feet are cut and bloody and some may be crippled for life.

Another “game” they play is to determine whether their next spring crops succeed or fail. One man is painted white, to signify the white devil Spaniards who enslaved and murdered them for hundreds of years. The white devil pairs off with a Tarahumara standing face to face, and they lock arms and try to off balance one another. The first man to hit the ground loses. If it is the white devil, they will have a good season. If the white devil throws the Tarahumara to the ground, their crops will fail. And many do take this game very seriously as they believe that their lives, every minute and every action is in the hands of the spirits.

The spirits determine everything. So much so, that when a man is bitten by a rattlesnake, it is only because he must have angered the spirits. He will live or he will die from that bite only at the will of the spirits he has angered.

He wears goat skin leather sandals, with rawhide strips laced above the ankle bone.

When he walks through water and later the rawhide dries and shrinks and cuts into his flesh, it is because the sprits have been angered. Gouges a quarter to a half inch deep in his ankles is not unusual, because loosening the straps is not the solution. Pleasing the spirits is.

The most primitive live in caves. Others live in log cabins. The more modern ones live in houses and drive pickup trucks. As in all cultures there are various levels of development.

I have spent the night in log cabins, with no mud to chink the logs to keep the wind and rain and snow out. When the wind is blowing freezing air, it is because the spirits are angry and it is useless to try to defeat them by sealing the walls. They accept their fate.

They will, year after year, plant their crops near a river that floods every year. Maybe many years or centuries ago, it did not flood, but it has flooded every year in their lifetime and they still plant, hoping the spirits will be generous to them this year.

The young ladies make baskets of all sorts, small and large from river grass. The craftsmanship is excellent. Each and every sized basket has a specific purpose.

Raramuri are an amazing people. They marry when they are in their early teens, sometimes at eleven or twelve years old, when they know the ways of the Sierra and have proven themselves to be mature and adult. Normally, their lives are short with only 50 to 60 years to experience the life that God gave them. In America, in revolutionary times, life was short and brutal also and our people married at a young age and graduated from universities in their young teens. Perpetuation of the species is not a crime in any culture.

Their children are raised to be respectful and obedient. Obedient to their parents, to their friends, their elders, to the white man’s Catholic God, to their spirits and to their Gods. Many researchers have said they do not lie. They just do not have that little kernel in their brains that allow them to lie. But that is a fallacy. They can lie and they do.

Pages: 1234
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