Tarahumara Facing Drought and Hunger

The rough heart of Tarahumara Country: Copper Canyon
in northern Mexico.
Photo courtesy of sierraclub.org
by douglas reeser on January 22, 2012
The Tarahumara, an indigenous group of northern Mexico who gained widespread attention from the barefoot running craze (check out our post from February 2011 here), have been experiencing a drought that has lasted for over 15 months. The dry conditions have destroyed crops and brough hunger and food shortages to their communities in and around the unforgiving Copper Canyon region. The Tarahumara number over 120,000, and have maintained their distinct culture through the colonial and capitalist eras, but these new environmental events (drought and unusual cold) have made it so that today, they can not feed themselves. The Mexican government has brought in some food supplies, but it appears that more will be needed. The Tarahumara, known for their incredible endurance and strength are now facing another great challenge, this time brought on by the forces of nature that are outside of their control.

Check out this short video from Al Jazeera for more on the developing story:

And for another short video and story, visit NTD Television here >>> 
Print Friendly and PDF


  1. "...To which the priests reply: Jobs cleaning hotel rooms, with pretty paintings of Tarahumara on the lobby walls, are no advancement at all. "Don't pretend these are projects to help the Tarahumara," de Velasco said crisply. "They're to attract tourists and increase private profits. A 'Tarahumara village' is an absurdity—a lie, really. A gondola over the canyon would be a desecration. And this is an area without water; one new hotel will use more in a day than what a Tarahumara family consumes in a year. With what the government is preparing to invest for hotels, they could bring potable water to all the Tarahumara, which would be much more useful to them than creating a fake village where they can sell things."... " (from the natgeo article)

    so true... sometimes i think, lot of things could be done to protect the culture, to keep the color, without spoiling -by a complete different look at "being"- that different cultural environment. the governments could ask some anthropologists like you guys how to integrate some facilities (which are the works of other professions like architects etc.) without changing the main texture. not necessarily the government every time. sometimes the private business owners too. i'm just dreaming :> but two kind of people are to be consulted the least. 1 being anthropologists and the second ecologists. tourism, which is also very good; for learning, experiencing new things, or even for having that authentic color on your souvenir nacklace lets say, should definitely be provided, but in a gentle way. and to have good profit, looking from the investors' point, you should make it all stable from the start and accept the fact that you should provide some better life and money (or whatever's needed) on those peoples lives, which will bring you more money eventually and for long times... and that local people will certainly understand and accept you on better grounds if they sense what you bring will do them good...

  2. No Tarahumara Village. That is the worst idea for helping out a group of people struggling because of climate changes. Help them ride it out and then let them be.

  3. dooglas2:57 PM

    zo & tender - thanks for your comments!
    This question of development for tourism is a difficult one to figure out. I tend to think the ideas must come from the communities, but the problem is usually in the implementation. Building trust between the resources that can help in these types of endeavors (anthropologists, scientists, governments) and local communities hasn't really been all that successful. I think this due to a lack of understanding about what it is that each side wants from each other, what they want for/from themselves, and what the implications for such projects might be.
    In the end, there is a ton of work to do in the world, but too few resources to draw from. And development has only created the idea that help must come from the outside world. It's tough all around.


Having trouble leaving a comment? Some browsers require acceptance of 3rd party cookies. If you leave an anonymous comment, it may need to be approved.