Monday Inspiration: Norawas De Raramuri
Known to the outside world as the Tarahumara, the Raramuri Indians of Mexico are an ancient tribe who left the violence and suffering of the mainland, at the time of the Spanish conquest, to make a new home at the bottom of Las Barrancas del Cobre, or Copper Canyons, an immense region in the Sierra Madre that borders two states, Chihuahua and Sinaloa. Sheltered in this unique, remote system of cliff walls and low valleys thousands of feet deep, they maintain a lifestyle today that is very similar to the one they had centuries ago.
Depending on whom you ask, Raramuri means “The running people” or “The light-footed ones”. Raramuri is not only a People, it is also a language and a culture at the centre of which running takes a prominent role. The Raramuri were discovered by the running world in the mid-1990’s at an event called The Leadville 100, and the whole world learned about them for the first time as the “hidden tribe of superathletes” in Christopher McDougall’s best-seller Born to Run in 2009.
The lifestyle of the Running People of the Sierra Madre is composed of micro-agriculture and some small-scale herding. The rugged terrain and dry climate they inhabit make these activities harder and highly dependent on the availability of water, which comes mostly during the rainy season.
Up until 2012, there was a severe drought in the Copper Canyons that killed a lot of the crops and made farming very difficult. The rains were more abundant this year, but water is still a scarce resource and a cause for worry, as it is the main challenge to life in the region.
Although the Raramuri are mostly very healthy and resilient, there is a high mortality rate among infants due to a mix of challenges, from the harsh environment to the availability of food and sanitary standards.
Norawas de Raramuri
Norawas de Raramuri, or friends of the Raramuri, is a non-profit organization that celebrates the lifestyle of the Running People and seeks to help it thrive by funding local projects that revolve around the Raramuri culture. One of its main contributions is providing the yearly funds for the purchase of the food vouchers awarded to Raramuri runners who participate in the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon, locally known as the Ultra Maraton Caballo Blanco.
Thanks to Norawas de Raramuri, hundreds of tons of basic staple foods such as corn and beans are distributed directly to the families of the Barrancas every year, through an event that celebrates and reinforces one of the pillars of the local culture, the simple and joyful act of running.
The vision of Norawas is to interact with the Raramuri, not interfere. It is to participate as equals in a cultural exchange of Running Peoples from all over the world. The organization is operated by volunteers only and managed by a board of runners known as Mas Locos, the nickname given by Caballo Blanco to foreign runners who have traveled down to the Copper Canyons to partake in the ultra marathon with the Raramuri.
How does it all work?
Norawas de Raramuri gathers donations on a yearly basis and manages them at almost no cost thanks to its 100% volunteer structure. Aside from direct donations, Norawas also receives funds from various running events called Poco Loco Runs, organized by Mas Locos around the world to raise awareness for the Raramuri and to offer runners unable or unwilling to travel to the Copper Canyons for an ultra event the possibility of expressing kinship and contributing to Norawas’ actions.Please visit www.norawas.org to find out more about helping the Norawas de Raramuri cause. In Raramuri culture, it is not customary to give thanks when someone gives what they have, because it is assumed as the principle of Korima, or “circle of sharing”. But on behalf of the Raramuri families of the Copper Canyons, we humbly say Matetera Ba, thank you.
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