The Tarahumara Indians
Cabeza de Vaca met the Tarahumara Indians in 1535 in what is now the area of Chihuahua, Mexico. He was immediately impressed with them. Today the Tarahumara are the second largest surviving native Indian group, with a population of between 50,000 to 70,000 people.
Just as then, the Tarahumara Indians live in naturally cool caves under cliffs, and in small stone or wood cabins in isolated areas of Copper Canyon in northwest Mexico. They are known to be quiet and helpful people, as well as very clean. Cabeza de Vaca described how the women used a special root to lather their clothes daily.
When the Spanish arrived and found mineral wealth in the area, the Tarahumara decided to leave the mountains and go further back into the canyons. Since then, missionaries, miners, and more recently, lumber companies and tourists, have encroached on their lands, and the people have retreated further.
The Tarahumara are noted for their fast running. The name Tarahumara means "foot runners." They say, "Our children run before they walk; it is more natural in the sierra because of the great distances." Also, the Tarahumara are very religious and private and believe in the morality of "walking straight, correctly," fully aware of the responsibilities of what they do. For them, people who go to the city and become part of the modern world are "the mistaken ones."