By Carlos Cedillo, Project Manager
In a struggle for survival, in the 1500’s, the Tarahumara Indians escaped the Spanish Conquistadors by fleeing to the nearly inaccessible canyons of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Northern Mexico. Today, centuries later, there are over 250,000 Tarahumaras living in caves, under cliffs and in small wood and stone cabins in remote areas, largely undisturbed by modern civilization.
On February 3rd of this year, the well-known Universal Newspaper of Mexico City published an article entitled: "Tarahumaras—On the Edge of Survival." This report explains how several years of drought have caused severe food shortages for the Tarahumaras. As well, recent winters have become increasingly colder, leaving many children dead for lack of proper shelter, clothing and food.
On our first trip to the Tarahumara region, we spent four weeks visiting several of the most remote of the Indian communities and assessing their needs. Those living in the valleys have received a measure of supplies from government agencies and charitable organizations, but still lack such basics as medical and food supplies, blankets and warm clothing. As we traveled into the high mountains, we found many small one-family caves and hovels. These mountain dwellers were, by far, the most needy of all we visited. Many suffered from an acute shortage of food, surviving only on Pinole, a flour they grind from corn and drink with water. The children are malnourished and susceptible to many diseases.
We have made several subsequent trips to the Sierra Tarahumara. The Tarahumaras were dubbed such by the Spaniards, but are also known as the Raramuris. Since these hardy mountain people have suffered the bitter cold of recent winters that have claimed many lives, Project HELP’s mission was to deliver 1½ tons of warm winter clothes along with a message of the love of God.
Our first phase of the trip brings us to the cabin of Chemo & Margarita, some Tarahumara friends. Here in the valley village of Cusarare we leave behind our vans to climb the rocky terrain. The mountains sport incredible rock formations which seem to defy gravity. Upwards we hike, in and around the mountain crevices, visiting and talking with mountain folk who we encounter.
On the second day of our expedition, this time by vehicle, we start off at 6am to meet with the wife of the municipal president, who would lead our team 4 hours deep into Tarahumara country to a secluded needy area called Hogasachi (500 kilometers south of Juarez) on the way to Carichi. We travel over rough dirt terrain, glad for the new heavy-duty shock obsorbers installed for this trip. In a wide valley we arrive at the village of Hogasachi and discover that this day most of the surrounding Tarahumara women and children were gathering at the village school for a special celebration. We set up our vans at the entrance of the school and we spend hours distributing warm winter clothes to the Indian women, children and some men that come by.
On our descent we pause to enjoy a beautiful waterfall one hour from the Cusarare village. Some of the hardier volunteers venture about 300 meters to the base of the falls to swim in the cold mountain waters.
We continue to raise support and gather supplies for on-going missions to help these needy, neglected people. We need your help.