Three hundred years ago, when Explorers from Spain found their way to the plains of what is now the state of Chihuahua, they encountered a vast population of indigenous people called the Raramuri. These people, now called the Tarahumara first resisted the Spanish but were quickly overwhelmed by their military might. This is when the Tarahumara first retreated deep into the mountains of the Sierra Madre.
Over time, the tarahumara were seemingly converted by the Spanish to Catholicism, but most Tarahumara believe in a mix between Catholic theology and their traditional religion. They believe that they alone are the children of Jesus, God's favorite son and that all non-Tarahumara or "Chabochi" are children of Satan, God's other son. As children of Jesus, the Tarahumara are destined to a life of poverty but enjoy the benefit of being God's chosen people. The Chabochi are considered to be deceitful and dishonest and are not to be trusted. This belief makes it very hard for missionaries to reach the Tarahumara for the Gospel.
Tarahumara villages are spread widely throughout the region so they developed skills as long distance runners to facilitate communication between these communities. They often kick a wooden ball as they run along trails in the mountains.
Central to Tarahumara religion and custom is tesguino, a beer made from corn. This beer is consumed at their religious festivals or Tesguinaras. It is their belief that God mandates that they have these festivals on a regular basis. Tarahumara people live their day to day lives in a very stoic and conservative manner, yet during a tesguinara, they release all inhibitions and engage reckless and harmfull behavior. Tesguinaras can be very violent, women and young girls are often raped and beaten, homosexual activity is common and people have been murdered.
Tarahumara women are reluctant to deliver babies in a hospital environment. Customarily, a Tarahumara woman will fashion a nest from grass underneath a tree to catch her baby after delivery. She then hangs on a branch to give birth. Statistically one mother in ten dies in childbirth and half of all babies die in the first years of life. Malnutrition, hunger, alcoholism, disease and unsanitary water also take their toll, especially on babies and children.
There are many Christian organizations currently working with the Tarahumara. These groups provide many services such as children's residential centers, feeding programs, medical centers, public health and education. All this is used as an inroad to reach the Tarahumara for the Gospel.