The Tarahumara are a simple, content, people who live in one of the most rugged places on Earth. They live in Sierra Madre Occidental of Southwestern Chihuahua. The area is often referred to as the Sierra Tarahumara. It contains the tallest waterfall in the hemisphere and canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The Tarahumaras name for them is Raramuri which literally means fleet foot. It refers to their ability to run ceaselessly in the rugged terrain. Today many Tarahumara live modern or near modern lifestyles in or around Mexican cities. Most, however, retain indigenous lifestyle practicing dry farming with hunting and gathering. Those are the Tarahumara who will be the focus of this paper. They are one of the most culturally intact indigenous groups in Mexico. Examining the Tarahumara culture from contact till now, along with the history of that contact, helps explain how their culture has been so persistent.
[...] The dates for these periods are tentatively at 1 AD AD, and 1300 AD (Pennington 12). Evidence shows that Tarahumara beliefs and lifestyles have not changed considerably since contact. It was seen earlier that Catholicism had little effect in altering Tarahumara beliefs and was merely grafted onto indigenous beliefs. Their simple traditional beliefs in which spirits are responsible for changes in health and weather probably have origins long before contact. Crystals believed to be curing artifacts were found in cave- dweller sites (Bennett 384). [...]
[...] Even sheep, which are highly prized for wool and are better adapted to the cold than goats, are highly out-numbered by goats because of their manure producing capabilities (Zingg 9). The Tarahumara still manufacture most of their possessions. The women are expert basket weavers and very good pot makers, but the results are always very utilitarian. The women also spin and weave the sheep's wool producing clothes and blankets. Tarahumara men build dwellings, corrals, and granaries from stone, wood, or a combination of the two. [...]
[...] Moving north and east precipitation drops to 18 inches in Papagochi valley and 12 inches at the margins of the plains (Pennington Map 3). The regions just described defined the Tarahumara territory when the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century. Today the Tarahumara occupy a much smaller territory in the southwest; deeper into the steep barrancas and mountains and farther from the more stable floodplains to the northeast and east. The reasons for this are found in the history of Outside Contact. [...]
[...] The policies of the Crown, the Jesuits, the Mexican government, and the growth of the nation all had roles in pushing the Tarahumara to the margins. It is ironic that the few aspects of Tarahumara culture changed by contact (specifically introduction of livestock and the axe) allowed them to survive in those margins, thus allowing the rest of their culture to remain intact. Works Cited Bennett, Wendell, Robert Zingg. The Tarahumara: An Indian Tribe of Northern Mexico. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Dunne, Peter Masten. Early Jesuit Missions in Tarahumara. University of California Press Fontana, Bernard L. Tarahumara: Where Night is the Day of [...]
[...] The wool was made into extremely warm blankets allowing the Tarahumara to remain at higher elevations in winter. The steel axe also had great effects on Tarahumara culture. It basically created a wood culture. The axe greatly increased the ease of dwelling and granary construction. All of these combined to improve subsistence on their currently held lands and greatly increase the land that could be used for subsistence. Namely they made the rugged southwest more inviting. While it is clear that Spanish contact has had important effects on Tarahumara culture it is also clear that their culture has been remarkably persistent. [...]
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