How to relate to the Tarahumara in Copper Canyon?
Here are some pointers on how to interact with the indigenous people of Copper Canyon. As you travel the famed Copper Canyon train, you will see them and cross paths with them. Their culture is changing as the world around them does. Yet they retain their ways. These are social courtesies and travel tips to enrich your experiences with these retiring people:
1. Their word is Raramuri. They are referred to as Tarahumara, but they call themselves, “Raramuri.” This means “running people.” There is some discussion about whether Tarahumara is offensive to them. It doesn’t seem to be, but then, nothing seems to be offensive to them. Just so you know, their word for you gringos and all other non-Raramuri is “chabochi,” which means “spider faced.” This was how they referred to the Spanish who had hair on their faces.
2. No hugs. when you meet a Mexican, you often give a hug and a cheek kiss. Not so with these folks. Stay your distance. I often make this mistake with the barefoot runners who are like family to me.
3. The secret handshake. When you do meet a Raramuri, the way to shake hands is with a wisp of the fingertips….very brief. And don’t expect much conversation or eye contact. Certainly they vary in personality, but they are generally reserved
4. Stay back. When you approach one of their homes, don’t go up and knock on the door. Wait away from the house about 10-20 meters and if they appear at the door (and they usually do), then go to the door slowly. Generally, they are very hospitable–just not quick at it.
5. Eat. Be ready to be fed and expect it to be delicious. We have often enjoyed fresh tortillas from the woodstove or goat broth when we have dropped in.
6. Pay the price. There are some cool crafts that the Raramuri sell around the hotels and train stops (Creel, Divisadero, Posada, and San Rafael). Theses are the amazing baskets made of sotol leaves and pine needles as well as cloth products, beaded things, etc. I suggest you not barter. They are so cheap any way (like a basket that takes hours to make will go for $2-3 US dollars) just pay them. Have pesos ready in small bills.
7. Run, run, run. If you are any level of runner, I highly recommend a jog with one of the barefoot runners. They glide, they are quiet, they are powerful, they are playful. Join one of our “Copper Canyon Running Tour” running trips and you will have the running experience of your life.