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Benefit to help clothe freezing Tarahumara

The Tarahumara Project, that longtime resident Libby Townsend thought would be a one time trip to aid the poverty stricken indigenous people residing on the northern rim of the Copper Canyon is now in it’s eighth year.

Townsend will soon be making her twelfth trip to the outer reaches of Chihuahua with blankets and warm clothing to help some of the 80,000 people residing in the area survive the cold that keeps coming from the North in wave after wave of sub freezing temperatures. She will also be taking cash and supplies to the Santa Teresita Clinic in Creel that treats hundreds of the Tarahumara for free every year.

Recently unearthed artifacts suggest that the Tarahumara, or Raramuri as they call themselves, have been in the area for thousands of years. At one time they had full use of the canyons, moving up or down as the weather dictated, retreating to the bottom of the canyons when it was cold, and planting crops to be harvested at different times of year depending on where they were. Many made their living as runners, carrying goods to and from the ports and cities, covering a hundred miles at a stretch. As roads and trains encroached upon their livelihood, and the government sold off the land to ranchers, and others who grow illicit crops, they have been forced to live, many of them, under rock outcroppings on the canyons’ sides. Many suffer from malnutrition, exposure, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

The traditional Tarahumara receive little help from the government or the church. The government can’t find you to help you if you aren’t a registered voter, and you can’t register to vote without a birth certificate and an address. When goods do trickle in distribution is problematical as they tend to live in small familial groups. Their code of honor requires that they not keep anything extra for themselves for later — hoarding is a sin. When someone receives more than their family can consume that day they give the rest away.

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