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The Tarahumara
Brief thoughts on meeting Tarahumara, respect for their customs and privacy.

The Tarahumara

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By Carl Franz
Posted Monday, November 19, 2001

Although this country is very sparsely inhabited, you'll occasionally encounter the Tarahumara, especially while hiking. It is important to understand that many Tarahumara are so shy that they prefer not to talk to strangers. When meeting on the trail, for example, it is not unusual for Tarahumara women and children to slip away or to firmly turn their backs and refuse to speak. Never impose by taking photographs or approaching occupied dwelling caves and cabins without invitation.

This is very important -- don't expect the Tarahumara to sell or barter food, and never, ever pick fruit or vegetables without permission, no matter how distant the nearest rancho may be. The Tarahumara need every calorie they can get.

In places where tourists are more common, Tarahumara women may offer beautifully woven baskets, dolls, drums and other small handicrafts for purchase. I encourage you to buy from them, as it provides their families with a small but very important cash income. By the way, haggling is not a Tarahumara custom, but they will sometimes exchange items as barter.


Nothing unsettles a tourist like the outstretched hand of a beggar. Unfortunately, where begging was virtually unknown, tourists now encourage children and even adults to beg by distributing treats, money and small novelties. This problem is growing in Creel, Cusárare, and Divisadero. (Begging should not be confused with the Tarahumara custom of "korima", neighborly sharing with those in need.)

If you'd like to help people, donations left with the Jesuit Mission Store, next to the bank in Creel, help support Tarahumara schools and health clinics in the region. Money, medicines and basic school supplies are especially useful. (Don't bring clothing; the Tarahumara are swamped with castoffs.) Donations are always appreciated by the Tarahumara girls boarding school in Sisoguichic.

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