Tarahumara Essay, Research Paper
The Tarahumara or Rar muri, as they call themselves, inhabit the Copper Canyon, as it is known in the U.S., or the Sierra Tarahumara in northwest Mexico. The actual name Tarahumara was what the first Spanish called these Native American people. The Spanish originally encountered the Tarahumara throughout Chihuahua upon arrival in the 1500’s. After mineral wealth was discovered in the mountains, many areas where Tarahumara Indians lived became desirable lands to the miners & mining companies forcing the Tarahumara once again to head farther into the remote canyons. Today, the Tarahumara are Mexico’s second largest native Indian group with between 50,000 & 70,000 people.
Today the Tarahumara live in caves, under cliffs and in small wood and stone cabins. They live a simple life undisturbed by modern technologies. They are known as a quiet and considerate people who are expert farmers and runners. Rar muri has been translated to mean “runners” in their native language.
Corn is the main staple along with beans. Potatoes, and apples can also be found. Some Tarahumara raise domesticated animals such as goats and cattle. Fish, small game & herbs round out their diet.
Traditional clothing for the Tarahumara consists of a white cloth shirt and white cloth pants or wraparounds with colorful belts or accessories. Headbands of cloth usually red are worn upon the head, and sandals are the footwear of choice.
Running is what the Tarahumara may be most legendary for in the world. They have been known to hunt deer by chasing them until the deer drops from exhaustion. Running or “foot throwing” has always been a tradition and necessity of the Tarahumara. It is their only mode of transportation and many of the small communities are far apart. They also have their own events, and this is where “foot throwing” comes into effect. It is a competition known as Rarj paro and consists of a small wooden ball which is “thrown by the foot” by teams in race to finish before the other teams. The races can last days.
The Tarahumara are very religious and also have many feasts during the year. Two larger events are Semana Santa (Easter Week) and the Fiesta Guadalupana in December. These religious rites are a mixture of Christian and Tarahumara beliefs. There are also other times of celebrations, such as harvests, which are interwoven with tesg ino. It is an alcoholic beverage made of corn and grasses that is good only for a couple of days after it is brewed. Natives will drink until passed out in some cases.
The role of men and women play a big part in the way the Tarahumara survive. The men herd the cattle, plow the crops, and take care of any other physically intense labor. On the other hand women will pasture all other animals except cattle. Women can be gone for as much as 2 weeks while pasturing with the sheep. Women also cook clean and make pottery. Most of the Tarahumaran people live in small groups of only a few families.
Most marriages are arranged, and do involve a gift to the brides family. At the time of the marriage, a mayor will marry the couple. The mayor acts as a priest and tells the couple how to conduct married life. Once married the couple will live with the bride s family, and later move on their own. These people are matrilineal. Most limitations on marriage are very similar as a whole. One cannot marry siblings, parents, cousins, and godparents.
As one can see the Tarahumara are vary simple people, and have survived for many years. Not only have they survived for many years, they have done this while continuing their traditions and not letting the modern world interfere. Although many of their traditions may seem different, one can relate to many of them while comparing our American culture.