“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers – it makes them siblings and gives them mutuality. Sisterhood and brotherhood are conditions people have to work at.”
“Rigid plans work best if you’re building a skyscraper; with something as mysteriously human as giving birth, it’s best, both literally and figuratively, to keep your knees bent.”
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
~Harry S Truman
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”
A bumpy truck ride, hitchhiking through the hills outside of Urique, I made my way out to a location called Guadalupe Coronado. Along gravel roads and through some terrifying curves rests a small Mission-style Church and a cluster of makeshift houses. One could scarcely believe anybody would live in this remote location, and it’s hard to image how a church of this size was built here.
Sipping a thick, creamy-looking sludge from plastic one-gallon milk jugs, another hitchhiker in the bed of the pickup handed me his beverage and insisted I take a sip. It smelled like a freshly-opened can of corn, and I was told that this is a special drink made for Semana Santa (holy week) in the Copper Canyon Region. Called Tesgüino, this is a fermented corn beer made by the Tarahumara Indians of Sierra Madre. The Tarahumara people regard the beer as sacred, forming a significant part of their society. It’s estimated that the average family spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with the growing and manufacture of tesgüino, and Semana Santa is an event where a majority of their stock is consumed.
It didn’t taste very good, but I was honored that I was invited to imbibe with a group of strangers.
Outside the church, a group of men and boys are painted in black and white to serve as symbolic demons who want to attack the church. They whoop and holler and dance around, and rush into the church. Another group of young men, holding spears, then chase the demons out of the church. This is the beginning of holy week, and the tableaux goes on for several hours, until nightfall, when a candle-lit procession begins, and the whole community walks a specific route in and around the church until sunrise.
I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
This is one of the only traditional Rarámuri men I saw during this entire trip. Not wearing modern clothing, he instead wears hand-made clothing that designates him as a traditional Tarahumara runner. If you look closely, you’ll see his hand-made sandals, constructed out of used truck tire rubber.
Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, the Rarámuri fled into the high sierras and canyons of the Copper Canyon region upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century. As a result, the Rarámuri were never conquered, converted, or forcefully integrated; they maintain their own spiritual beliefs, lifestyle, and language (belonging to the Uto-Aztecan family). The area of the Sierra Madre Occidental which they now inhabit is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of their presence.
It’s estimated that there are between 50,000 and 70,000 Rarámuri (Tarahumara) in existence. Most still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone. Staple crops are corn and beans, although many of the Rarámuri still practice transhumance, raising cattle, sheep, and goats.
Holy Week is an experience in the small towns dotted throughout the state of Chihuahua. A curious blend of native traditions and codified Catholicism are at play. Surrounding the chapel at Guadalupe Coronado, a procession of worshipers carry candles and walk in an organized line through the church, out the back, and around to the front again.
They do this for a complete twenty-four-hour cycle, without sleep, or food, or water.
This photograph was taken around two o’clock in the morning.