The Tarahumara are an indigenous people group of northern Mexico. In the 16th century they began to retreat to the Sierra Madre mountain range, especially what is known as the Copper Canyon region, as Spanish conquistadors and Jesuit priests entered what is now the large state of Chihuahua. Their culture absorbed and mixed aspects of Catholicism with their traditional animistic beliefs.

Tarahumaras are famous ultra long distance runners, considered some of the best in the world. The Copper Canyon is huge, much larger than the Grand Canyon, and they have for centuries run through the canyon, ascending and descending the more than mile vertical elevation change. Even traditional wooden ball and hoop games include multiple days of running. Another core of their culture is tesgüino, a traditional beer brewed from corn. Tesgüino is drank frequently, especially during holidays and celebrations.

In the last few generations, more than half of the Tarahumara have left their remote villages in the Sierra Madre mountains and have moved to nearby towns. They’ve left the mountains for a variety of reasons: Drought has greatly pressured their seminomadic lifestyle, drug cartels have exerted violence or forced labor in the fields, and like everywhere in the world, ubiquitous mass media and cheap cell phones along with inexpensive calories in Coca-Cola and junk food at convenience stores has proven an irresistible draw to the cities.

The nearest large city is Chihuahua City, the capital of Chihuahua state. It’s a large city with a population of approximately one million. Chihuahua City is about 4 hours south of the El Paso border and is the capital of Chihuahua State, the largest state in Mexico. Many Tarahumaras have migrated to Chihuahua city. In the city, Tarahumaras typically group together in small colonias or communities scattered throughout the city.

LightShine is called to reach the Tarahumara in their colonias that live in and around Chihuahua City. The colonias are typically very poor and may consist of just a handful of families or many hundreds. There are approximately a dozen larger Tarahumara colonias of greater than 500 Tarahumaras within Chihuahua City.

Each Tarahumara Colonia is unique, with a unique sub-culture. Some colonias more fully retain their culture such as the women’s traditional beautiful dresses, and the Rarámuri language. Some colonias within the city are very urban, and others on the outskirts are very rural. All the colonias struggle with poverty, drugs, alcohol, abuse, and marginalization within the broader Mexican culture.