The Tarahumara: A People Apart (National Geographic)

By Cynthia Gorney

The Tarahumara: A People Apart (National Geographic)

The Tarahumara of Mexico evaded Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century. But can they survive the onslaught of modernity?

Each star in the night sky is a Tarahumara Indian whose souls—men have three and women have four, as they are the producers of new life—have all, finally, been extinguished. These are things anthropologists and resident priests tell you about the beliefs of the Tarahumara people, who call themselves the Rarámuri, and who live in and above the canyons of northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental, where they retreated five centuries ago from invading Spaniards. The Spaniards had not only firearms and horses but also disturbing beard hair; from their presence came the Rarámuri word chabochi, which to this day means anyone who is not Tarahumara. Chabochi is not an insult, exactly, just a way of dividing the world. Its literal translation, which goes a long way toward evoking the current relationship between the Tarahumara and the rest of 21st-century Mexico, is “person with spiderwebbing across the face.”

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Riding the Rails Through Copper Canyon (NYT)

Riding the Rails Through Copper Canyon (NYT)

The Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico travels through the dizzying depths and heights of Copper Canyon, one of the world’s largest canyon systems, located in northwestern Mexico. More than 400 miles of train tracks traverse this rugged landscape that is, in places, deeper than the Grand Canyon.

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History of the Railroad

History of the Railroad

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The Chihuahua al Pacífico —«El Chepe»— railroad is the only railroad that has been international in its vision since its inception. This engineering marvel took almost 90 years and 90 million dollars to complete.

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Discovery in Copper Canyon

Discovery in Copper Canyon

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Mexico’s Barranca del Cobre — Copper Canyon — is indeed North America’s most massive. It lies in the Sierra Madre southwest of Chihuahua. One great way to experience this awesome cut is by train, leaving Los Mochis early in the morning. You will pass through 73 tunnels and over 28 major bridges, attain an altitude of 2300 meters, and marvel at a feat of engineering that took more than a century between start and finish.

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Treasure of Sierra Madre

Only the drums told us we were not alone

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Our small party had been hiking for hours through Mexico’s Barranca del Cobre – the Copper Canyon — without seeing a trace of any other human being. Now, in the heart of a canyon even deeper than the Grand Canyon, we heard the echoes of Tarahumara drums.

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The Most Dramatic Train Ride

The most dramatic train ride…

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Past towering peaks and over dizzying gorges, you roll across the backbone of the continent — surrounded by the treasures of Mexico’s Sierra Madre.

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In a Canyon, a Different Mexico

In a Canyon, a Different Mexico

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The view from a cozy car on the Copper Canyon Railroad in Mexico is dazzling: mossy, emerald hills and slate-blue lakes slowly give way to red canyon walls that rise below and above the train tracks to dizzying depths and heights. Go stand between cars, where you can lean out of an open-windowed vestibule, and the experience gets even better — sweet mountain winds rushing over your face like water, the air warm and cool, fresh and dusty all at once.

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The Glories of Copper Canyon

The Glories of Copper Canyon

Mystery and Majesty in the Mountains of Mexico

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The raven-haired little beauty barely whispered the price of the doll I was considering. She shyly looked down, but her smile was worthy of Da Vinci. I asked her age, but she just shrugged her shoulders. To the Tarahumara Indians, age is an unknown and unimportant concept. Bedecked in a colorful carnival of flounced skirts, the young girl, perhaps eight years old, had her wares spread out mere steps from a 6,000 foot cliff. Behind her, an incredibly vast panorama stretched into infinity.

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Mexico’s Copper Canyon by Hummer

Mexico’s Copper Canyon by Hummer

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The Aztec yellow Hummer plunged into the river torrent with the confidence of a Bradley tank, dislodging rocks and small boulders in the process. We hardly noticed the water rushing past the doors, or the holes underwater big enough to swallow a Jeep, as we indulged in Mexican pastries and strong Chiapas coffee thoughtfully provided by the Mirador hotel’s concierge. Let nature dare get in the way of this Eco-expedition.

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