The Tarahumara are called rarámuri, which means 'foot runners' and comes from the roots: rare (foot) and muri (run). For them, it means people or humans.
Members of the Raramuri community are known to walk long distances, up to 320 km in two days, wearing only gaucho sandals that they make themselves.
The Tarahumara could have arrived from Asia (Mongolia), crossing the Bering Strait about thirty thousand years agoThe oldest human remains found in the Sierra are known as Clovis (typical Pleistocene megafauna hunter's weapons) with a date of about 15,000 years.
The territory of the Sierra Tarahumara is rugged, which makes cultivation in general difficult. Excessive logging of forests and mountains has led to the loss of the region's flora and fauna, causing famine and exacerbating poverty in the area. Temperatures can reach -30°C in winter.
They inhabit much of the state of Chihuahua, in the high mountains and valleys of the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental, often called Sierra Tarahumara, because of their presence.
This area of the Siera Madre Occidental, crosses the state of Chihuahua and the southwest of Durango and Sonora. The Tarahumara mountain range is made up of high mountains that reach 2,000 to 3,000 m and deep ravines. It is geographically divided into Alta and Baja Tarahumara. This group lives dispersed in the rancherías and towns of the municipalities of Guadalupe y Calvo, Morelos, Balleza, Guachochi, Batopilas, Urique, Guazaparez, Moris, Uruachi, Chínipas, Maguarichi, Bocoyna, Nonoava, Carichí, Ocampo, Guerrero and Temósachi.
The Tarahumara community has lived a nomadic life. They went side by side in the life of the Sierra. Until the arrival of evangelisation by the Jesuits, to which the Raramuris were strongly opposed, there had even been some struggles against this forced evangelisation, and then New Spain exercised great oppression to quell these insurrections, in which many fled and took refuge in the ravines of what is now the state of Chihuahua. The decision to expel them from the Spanish empire led to their forced return to their nomadic half. This event left them completely isolated in the Sierra Nevada. This helped them preserve their culture and develop a unique religious syncretism that still exists and is unique in Mexico in its blend of Catholicism and shamanism.
The Tarahumara language is part of the Yuto-Aztec family, which extends from Utah in the United States to Central America. The diversity of Yuto-Aztec languages spoken in northwestern Mexico may indicate that practitioners of these languages have occupied the territory for thousands of years. In the Raramuri philosophy, respect between people prevails, therefore other inhabitants, tourists and foreigners should be respectful towards them and their traditions.
A very big problem in the community is the drug trade which has caused illegal displacement to use the land for crops, in addition to the violence generated among the population.
With regard to health, the Tarahumara consider that the human being is composed of a body and one or more souls. The body is composed of sapá (fleshy parts or muscles), ochi (bones) and lá (blood), animated by one or more souls. The most serious illnesses are those that can cause permanent loss of souls and are usually caused by a sorcerer or by the ingestion of jícuri or bakánowi plants.
The Rarámuri doctor is respected and even feared because he can use his power to inflict damage or heal. He establishes a reciprocal relationship with his patients; he must take care of their health, in exchange for which he will obtain prestige and material gifts, be it money, food or animals.
The Tarahumara live on ranches. Their houses consist of a room, a barn and a wooden corral. The houses are built of wood, adobe, quarry or stone, depending on the material of the region. The most common is to find houses made of pine logs laid horizontally, one on top of the other, with a canoe or gable roof. The logs are joined at the corners and the cracks are covered with a mud mixture.
As for handicrafts, the Raramuri primarily make objects to satisfy the needs of the family, both for everyday use and for ceremonies and rituals. What remains is sold in the markets of the neighbouring towns.
The main items made are: women make clay pots, bowls, plates, glasses, cups and jugs. In some places they also use palm trees to weave baskets of different sizes. The men make fiddles, balls, bows, drums, rafts, spoons and carve wooden figures. Both weave blankets and woolen belts with geometric figures.
The Tarahumara are very superstitious. For example, they believe that if an animal lands nearby, such as a quail that suddenly lands at their feet, the soul may be lost. They believe that the rainbow steals children and marries some women, so that they cannot have children. For them, the whirlwinds are evil spirits. In addition, small goblins live under the ground looking for the possibility to damage them.
They believe in the garden of a father who identifies with the sun and a mother goddess who is the moon. They also believe that after death they will turn into birds. According to them, you have to do many things to get the service of God. You have to dance, sacrifice animals and drink tesgüino, which is an alcoholic drink.
For the Tarahumara, the main activity of their subsistence is the cultivation of maize, around which daily and ceremonial life is built.
The religion of the Tarahumara is present in interpersonal relationships, in the political institution of the people, in the moral values, norms and customs that govern their society. Their religion is composed of elements that predate Jesuit evangelisation as well as those borrowed from the Catholic religion. The main deities are Támuje Onorá or Onóruame, "Our Father", associated with the Sun and Tamujé Yerá or Iyerúame, "Our Mother", associated with the Moon and the Virgin Mary.
The festive calendar of the raramuri is closely linked to the agricultural cycle. Here is an example of a celebrated festival:
This traditional festival is celebrated at Easter. The streets are full of music and dance for three days. On the last day, the dancers decorate their bodies, at first completely white, as they dance around a cross and greet the four cardinal points.
In the ceremonies, the dances of Matachines and Yúmari are performed (celebrating the miracle of life) and tesgüino (a drink made of corn and alcohol) and food are offered to Onóruame, which is shared with the participants of the celebration. The dance is very important for the community, because through it, communication with God is established.
Another very important dance is the Tutugúri dance which is pejorative and is usually performed at night, especially during the harvest season. They dance all night and at dawn eat the offerings they have placed at the foot of the altars.
The Raramuri community believes that the soul reincarnates after each death, and after three lives becomes a butterfly on earth, representing the ultimate existence of the soul. When the butterfly dies, the soul dies completely. However, this extreme is not seen as negative or a punishment, but simply as the order of life.
The Raramuri community is a community in which the Western world has no place, because it is the 'outside world'.