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The Tarahumaras of Copper Canyon

Carl Lumholtz, On the Tarahumaras:

Tarahumara GirlsThe majority speak their own language, and in the central and most mountainous parts, they are of pure bread. Here the women object to unions with outsiders, and until very recently light-coloured children were not liked. Mothers may even yet anoint their little ones and leave them in the sun, that they may get dark. The consensus of opinion among the tribe is that half-casts turn out to be bad people and "some day will be fighting at the drinking-feasts." A few instances are known in which women have left their half-caste babies in the woods to parish, and such babies are often given away to be adapted by the Mexicans. In the border, however, the Indians have become much Mexicanised and intermarry freely with the whites.

Be it said to the credit of those in authority in Mexico, they do all in their power to protect the Indians. But the Government is practically powerless to control the scattered population in the remote districts. Besides, the Indians most preyed upon by the sharpers cannot make themselves understood in the official language, and therefore consider it hopeless to approach the authorities. In accordance with the liberal constitution of Mexico, all natives are citizens, but the Indians do not know how to take advantage of their rights, although sometimes large bodies have banded together and travelled down to Chihuahua to make their complaints, and have always been helped out -- for the time being. The efforts of the Government to enlighten the Indians by establishing schools are baffled by the difficulty in finding honest and intelligent teachers with a knowledge of the Indian language.

Where the Indians have had little or nothing to do with the whites, they are obliging, law-abiding, and trustworthy. Profit is no inducement to them, as they believe that their Gods would be angry with them for charging an undue price. As a matter of fact, they sell corn all year round, whether it be scarce or plentiful, though the Mexican's charge them very different prices. The almighty dollar has no devotees among these Indians. They have no need of aught that money can buy, and are swayed by persuasion and kind and just treatment more than by gold. If they have a few coins, they place them in a jar and bury them in some remote cave, taking from the horde only a little when they have to buy some necessity of life.

An excerpt from "Unknown Mexico: Explorations in the Sierra Madre and Other Regions, 1890 - 1898", volume I, by Carl Lumholtz.


Read the Canyon Journal.

Some dates in Mexican history:
1828 Slavery abolished
1955 Women given voting rights


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