The film “Colorful Mexico,” to be shown on November 28 and 29, showcases some of the most exciting attractions Mexico has to offer, including riding the famous Copper Canyon train from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, visiting with the Tarahumara people, touring Taxco and other towns built by silver mining, enjoying Mexico's west coast beaches, and even petting 40-ton gray whales.
But of all these enticing attractions, the one I’m most interested in is the Tarahumara people. The Tarahumara are one of the largest indigenous groups in North America—by the most recent government count, 106,000 of them live in Mexico alone. The majority still live in relative isolation in the area Mexico calls Copper Canyon. An illuminating article in National Geographic describes one facet of the Tarahumara:
“The Tarahumara are reticent and private people who live long distances from each other, in small adobe or wood houses, or caves, or homes partway under outcroppings so that the rock itself provides the roofing. They brew an alcoholic beverage from corn, which they grow in small fields they plow by hand, and on celebratory occasions they gather to pass the drink from person to person, taking swigs from a hollowed half gourd, until they become voluble or dreamy or belligerent and lie down on the ground to sleep it off. They are extraordinary endurance runners, having lived for generations amid a transportation network of narrow footpaths through the canyons; Rarámuri means "foot-runner" or "he who walks well," and they've been known to irritate American ultramarathoners by beating them while wearing huarache sandals and stopping now and then for a smoke.”
Yet times for the Tarahumara are changing. National Geographic also describes how native customs are changing. Women, for example, once only wore the traditional multicolored head scarves and long skirts of flowery prints, deep-hued pleats, or billowy pastels. But some now wear blue jeans too. Added to the native diet of corn, beans, and squash is the chatarra, the Mexican word for junk food.
The Tarahumara offer us a fascinating opportunity to see the effects of modernization on an indigenous people, who often haven’t seen much change in their way of life for hundreds of years. Come witness the experience for yourself on November 28th and 29th at the Wisconsin Union Theater.