Creel, Chihuahua – The nimbly marihuana farmers

One of the most obstinate indigenous nations is the Tarahumara. 400 years ago they retreated into the mountains of Sierra Madre Occidental to escape the unpleasant missionaries’ ideas. Still today they live their traditions, although in the meantime under the guise of the Catholic Church. But they don’t let themselves be persuaded to give up their rites and polygamous lifestyle – two wives per man are standard. Despite the harsh living conditions in the mountains, where the winters are snow-covered and ice cold, the springs are hot and dry, and only late summer and autumn offer a short growth period during the rainy season, the men act reservedly with regard to work. They preferably leave this to the women and devote themselves to beer and tequila. Officially potatoes, corn and beans are cultivated. It is left unsaid that marihuana and opium poppy are grown on secret fields in inaccessible valleys.

The Tarahumara call themselves Rarámuri what means the nimbly people. Their lifestyle forces them into long hikes in high elevation what helps them achieving an extraordinary physical fitness. Playing the traditional national sport Rarájipari two opposing teams run around an improvised mountain course kicking a wooden ball – barefoot or in sandals. The match can last several days.

The women in the village of San Ignacio de Arareko wear colourful valance skirts, pleated blouses and even more colourful headscarves. They carry their babies in big fichus. The girls help their mothers at the stands where they sell woodcarvings, wickerwork and woven goods, the boys are sent with a small variety to actively sell souvenirs or, in case of non-success, obtain money by begging. The cutest snotty-nose brats naturally have the highest success rates. Men are not seen however.

The rustic stone church San Ignacio in Arareko makes a gathering place for the Tarahumara where they can perform their traditional dances. There are only a few benches around the walls for the audience or tired dancers – although a Father comes from Creel on Sundays to say mass. Our excursion to the Rarámuri brings us to one of their cave dwellings with open fireplace and integrated chicken coop and goat barn, and to the beautiful waterfall Cascada Cusarare although there is not much water now. We get to see a museum with sacral paintings from the colonial era and the horseshoe-shaped lake Lago Arareco with its original rock formations.

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