Tarahumara Project, Chihuahua

Tarahumara Project, Chihuahua

The Tarahumara Indians live in the remote regions of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Chihuahua. They are the largest and northernmost indigenous tribe in Mexico. They are nomadic and typically live in different dwellings throughout the year, including caves.         

The Tarahumara refer to themselves as Rarámuri. The name means to run-and running long distances has become their characteristic. They hunt the deer by chasing it until the animal falls from exhaustion. The Rarámuri also periodically compete in long-distance races. In these, barefoot runners cover distances of up to 150 km while kicking a wooden ball the size of a baseball.

Tarahumara customs have changed little over the centuries, but today the threats to their well-being and survival are numerous and strong, among them disease, scarcity of good land for cultivation, lack of reliable water supply, an inclement climate and over-exploitation of timber.

Tarahumara handicrafts-pottery, baskets and drums-are of great interest to collectors because of their rarity. Their exceptional baskets are made of pine needles and are very durable, and the hand-carved wooden drums with goatskin patches. Sales of these traditional items help the Tarahumara earn enough money to stay in their communities and preserve their traditions.

Libby Townsend