Rarámuri People Revive Their Culture

Written by Marco Cerqueira, Programs Officer for Vista Hermosa Foundation

Located in the state of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico, Choréachi is one of the most traditional and vulnerable Indigenous communities in North America. Choréachi is home to the Rarámuri or Tarahumara native peoples, and many participate in the Busuréliame Program supported by Tierra Nativa. Vista Hermosa Foundation has partnered with Tierra Nativa since 2017 to support the Rarámuri’s preservation of their spiritual and cultural traditions.

Busuréliame, “Awakening the Inner Self” is the Rarámuri concept of learning. The program aims to strengthen the cultural identity, academic participation and performance, and behavior of Tarahumara children with support of their parents and community as they strive to walk in harmony guided by the wisdom of their ancestors yet skilled in navigating the outside world.   

Since 2021, two Rarámuri language teachers have been documenting their work and life in Choréachi and the Sierra Tarahumara. They conduct Busuréliame classes once or twice a month in different villages, where children, parents and teenagers sit under oak trees, listening, practicing writing, and absorbing the teachings of Prudencio and Mariano, the two teachers.  

Prudencio and Mariano travelled with a group of children to Bajichi to the home of Ramiro Ramos, the elder wise man of the community. Ramiro taught them how to care for the corn they planted and prepare a ceremony so that the milpa (cornfield) is cured and the corn tassels emerge to pollinate the ears and produce good fruit. “Each year we conduct this ceremony to ask the Mother and Father Gods to give us the strength to be well, without sadness. Children, you must value our knowledge and realize how important it is to plant corn,” said Don Ramiro. They also grow beans, potatoes, and squash. 

Don Ramiro also taught that long ago, there were other beings, the Tubares (mythical monsters who are enemies of the Rarámuri in their history of creation), who harmed the Rarámuri. One day, Grandfather God became aware that these beings were kidnapping and eating their children at night. “The rivers rose and washed the Tubares, who lived by the riverside, away, ending the terror caused by these cannibals,” said Don Ramiro. 

Lucinda Cruz Aguirre, from the rancho Buenavista, also shared ancient messages with the children, telling them that “it is important to learn this ancient wisdom because before, there was more snow and rain, and the crops produced well. There was never hunger. She explained that long ago, the Tubares attempted to mix their corn with the Rarámuri corn, but their corn was different. It was a trap for the Rarámuri, but the people rejected the corn offered by the Tubares. In this way, the children learned the importance of their very own corn”, said Doña Lucinda. 

After months of learning the basics of writing in Rarámuri, the children began teaching their parents. One boy, Ermilo, is happy to be learning Busuréliame and wants to be a Busuréliame teacher one day. A girl, Juanita, is teaching her mother to write. Another girl expressed “how can we learn to write better?” “We must go little by little, searching where this path of Busuréliame leads,” responded Prudencio. 

As part of the Tarahumara culture, children compete in 10K footraces (Ariweta hoop race for the girls, and Rarajipari, a kick-a-wooden-ball race for the boys). The Rarámuri, or “light feet,” are renowned long-distance runners

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