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Who are the Tarahumara?

For at least 2,000 years the Tarahumara have lived in the mountains of northern Mexico, resisting outside intrusion by retreating, when necessary, to ever more inaccessible territory. In this way the Tarahumara have been better able to retain their traditions than many native peoples in North America.

The past 12 years have witnessed the worst drought conditions on record. The Tarahumara are expected to face another poor harvest this year.

The Sierra Tarahumara, is an immense and diverse region spanning the south and west areas of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is home to North America's tallest waterfall, Basaseachi, and also its deepest gorge, Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon), which is visited by tourists who ride the Chihuahua-Pacifico train.

Many Raramuri (as they are known in their own tongue) speak Spanish but their native tongue is Raramuri which has a variety of dialects in the region.

The Tarahumara are a native group inhabiting the rugged terrain of the Sierra Madre mountains in north central Mexico. Their original home was on the fertile plains, but they were forced to leave that area for their own survival, and to maintain their culture, several hundred years ago.

The Tarahumara continue to live much as they have for centuries because of their separation and the difficulties in reaching them. They are a people rich in culture, dedicated to their families and extended families, who live in widely scattered collections of small adobe houses or caves.

Their numbers are not well known. It is estimated that there may be up to 130,000 Tarahumara living in over 6,000 communities throughout the Sierra Madre range. Europeans called the tribe the Tarahumara, but the Tarahumara refer to themselves as the Raramuri.

Recent years have been difficult ones for the Raraumuri as a persistent drought has caused repeated crop failures which, in turn, has weakened the population and caused outright starvation in many places.

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