The Tarahumara call themselves rarámuri, which means « foot ligt runners »; it comes from the roots: rare (foot) and muri (run). For them it is synonymous with people or humans.
Members of the Raramuri community are known to run long distances, up to 320 km in two days, wearing only gaucho sandals that they make themselves.
The Tarahumara may have arrived from Asia (Mongolia), crossing the Bering Strait some thirty thousand years ago, but the oldest human remains found in the Sierra known as Clovis (weapons typical of Pleistocene megafauna hunters) with a length of about 15,000 years, so that to date the presence of the first inhabitants of Sierra Tarahumara is believed.
The Sierra Tarahumara territory is rugged, which makes cultivation in general difficult. The excessive felling of the forests of the mountains has caused the loss of the flora and fauna of the region, which has caused famine and exacerbated 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 the Sierra Tarahumara, due to its presence.
This area of the Western Siera Madre, crosses the state of Chihuahua and the southwest of Durango and Sonora. The Tarahumara mountain range is formed by high mountains that reach 2,000 to 3,000 m and deep ravines. It has been geographically divided into Alta and Baja Tarahumara. This group lives dispersedly in rancherías and towns in 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 had a nomadic life. They went side by side in the Sierra living. Until with the arrival of evangelization by the Jesuits, which the Raramuris strongly opposed, there were even some struggles against this forced evangelization, then New Spain showed great oppression to calm these insurrections, for which many fled and they entered the ravines of what is now the state of Chihuahua. The expulsion decision framework for the Spanish empire meant the return to Tarahumara of the nomadic half of their life. On the other hand, this event left them completely isolated in Sierra Nevada. It helped them preserve their culture and develop a unique religious syncretism that still exists and is unique in Mexico for its mix 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 be indicative that speakers of these languages have occupied the territory for thousands of years. In Raramuri philosophy respect between men prevails, therefore the other inhabitants, tourists and foreigners must be respectful of them and their traditions.
A very big problem in the community is the drug trafficking that has caused illegal displacements to use its lands with crops, in addition to violence in the population.
Regarding health, the Tarahumara consider that the human being is made up of a body and one or more souls. The body is made up of sapá (fleshy parts or muscles), ochi (bones) and lá (blood), animated by one or more souls. The most serious diseases are those that can cause the permanent loss of souls and that are usually caused by a sorcerer or by the ingestion of jícuri or bakánowi plants.
The Rarámuri physician is respected and even feared as he can use his power to deal 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 inhabit ranches; his house consists of a house-room, a barn and a wooden corral. The houses are built with wood, adobe, quarry or stone, depending on the material in the region. The most common is to find houses made of pine trunks arranged horizontally, one on top of the other, with a canoe roof or gabled roof; the logs are assembled at the corners and the slits are covered with a mixture of mud.
As for handicrafts, the Raramuris make objects first, to satisfy the needs of the family, both for everyday use and for ceremonies and rituals; after what is left, it is marketed in the markets of neighboring cities.
The main items that are made are: women make clay pots, bowls, plates, glasses, cups and jugs; In some places they also use palm and palmilla to weave baskets of various sizes. Men make violins, balls, bows and drums, rafts, spoons, and carve figures out of wood. Both of them weave blankets and girdles of wool with geometric figures.
The Tarahumara are very superstitious; for example, they think that if an animal fears its proximity, like a quail that suddenly flies towards the feet, the soul can be lost. They believe that the rainbow steals children and marries some women, with the result that they cannot have children. For them, the eddies are evil spirits. Also that small goblins live under the ground looking for the possibility of damaging 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 transform into birds. According to them, it is necessary to do many things to obtain the service of God. You have to dance, sacrifice animals and drink tesgüino, which is an alcoholic beverage.
For the Tarahumara the main activity for their subsistence is the cultivation of maize (corn), around it also the daily and ceremonial life is erected.
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 made up of elements prior to Jesuit evangelization as well as those taken 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 raramuris is closely related to the agricultural cycle. Some festivals that are celebrated are:
This traditional festival is celebrated during Easter. The streets are full of music and dance for three days. On the last day, the dancers decorate their bodies, 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 (celebrates the miracle of life) and tesgüino (drink based on corn and alcohol) and food are offered to Onóruame, which is shared with those attending the celebration. 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 derogatory and is generally performed at night, especially during the harvest season. They dance all night and, at dawn, eat the offerings they placed at the foot of the growths.
The Raramuri community believes that the soul rises a series of heavens, is reincarnated after each death, and after three lives becomes a butterfly on earth, representing the soul’s ultimate existence. When the moth dies, the soul dies completely. However, that extreme is not considered 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, since it is the “outside world” and until now they have not allowed it to dominate their community.