The Tarahumara Indians are indigenous to Mexico's scenic Copper Canyon region, located in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. Known locally as the Sierra Tarahumara, the region covers about 20,000 square miles and is home to an estimated 60,000 Tarahumara.
The region has experienced increased tourism since the completion of the Chihuahua al Pacífico Railroad in 1961. However, the benefits of tourism to the widely dispersed native population are few. Many still live in caves, with no electricity or running water, and subsist on corn, beans and their livestock. Those who live in proximity to the train line supplement their incomes by making baskets of local materials, such as pine needles and the leaves of the sotol plant, and other handicrafts to sell to the international tourists who pass their way.
The Tarahumara speak Rarámuri, which means "foot runners" or "fleet of foot". From the time they learn to walk, the Tarahumara learn to run, as it is the most efficient means of transportation in this remote mountain area.
Surprisingly little has changed in the Tarahumara lifestyle over the centuries, and life isn't getting any easier: The average lifespan is 45 years. The infant mortality rate is over 50%, attributable to such causes as contaminated drinking water, malnutrition and related - preventable - diseases. It has been estimated that upwards of 80% of the children suffer from malnutrition.
The Tewecado Mission Schools focus their efforts on this vulnerable population, providing Tarahumara children a way out of the cycle of poverty.