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Friday, 03 July 2009

The Proud Tarahumara: Mexico's most Authentic Indigenous People - Page 2

Written by Habeeb Salloum
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The railway station at Divisadero, one of Copper Canyon's most popular stopovers in the southwest region of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, was a riot of activity. It was a shopper's delight and gave us a chance to buy Tarahumara handicrafts and gain a brief glimpse of Tarahumara women weaving baskets, indifferent to the clamor around them.


In Tarahumara culture, healing has a magical-religious touch. A great variety of curative plants are used to take care of their medical needs. Peyote, a powerful herb which has a narcotic affect, is considered to have supernatural qualities and is only used by medicine men.


In religion, the Tarahumaras practice a kind of Catholicism mixed with their original beliefs. They think of themselves as the sons of God and believe that to sin is not to dance enough. Social gatherings are held in churches. Their two special events are the Semana Santa (Easter Week) and the Fiesta Guadalpana.


In their complex celebrations Tarahumaras sacrifice animals as offerings to God while dancing to the musical rhythm of their traditional instruments. These consist of a flute made from bamboo, drums made from rawhide and violins inherited from the Spaniards. Today, Tarahumara men hand-carve and cement the violin pieces together with glue made from the bulbs of certain lily plants and wild orchids. For outsiders, there is not a more haunting feeling than to listen to these drums, which have a religious significance, reverberating across the canyons.


The Proud Tarahumara: Mexico's most Authentic Indigenous People, Divisadero, Copper Canyon, Mexican state of Chihuahua, Creel, Tarahumara Indians, Semana Santa, Fiesta Guadalpana, Habeeb Salloum Tarahumara customs and dress give an essential touch to these celebrations - colorful costumes contrasting with dark skins, or, in the dancers' case, painted skins. During these mystic-religious ceremonies, they drink tesgüino - an alcoholic drink made out of fermented corn and grasses - good for only a few days after it has been brewed. It is drunk in great quantities - many times until the drinker has passed out.


Besides religion, the Tarahumaras have other special customs and beliefs. During the dry season, they burn their fields and parts of nearby forests, believing that the smoke will make clouds that produce rain. The women, calm and discreet, give birth alone in a squat position or holding their body from a tree with their belts until the baby is born.


Above all, the Tarahumaras are known for their running ability and endurance, often competing successfully in long distance races. Their excellent physical condition - some being able to run for over 20 hours - is a result of their adaptation to the most extreme situations in their natural environment.


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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