|Tarahumara Folk Art and Culture
The Tarahumara Indians, or Raramuri, have a long tradition of beautiful folk art. Before we
discuss the traditional folk arts of the Tarahumara, let’s explore a little of the history and culture
of this unique indigenous group from northern Mexico.
History and Culture of the Tarahumara
Due to their isolation in the remote Sierra Madre mountain range of northern Mexico, the
Tarahumara have managed to hang on to much of their traditional culture. It is likely that the
modern Tarahumara are related to the ancient indigenous groups that populated the Copper
Canyon region of Mexico long before the arrival of the Spanish.
During the conquest, the Spanish really had very limited contact with the Tarahumara.
Additionally, the armies of the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic empires had limited contact with
the region populated by the Tarahumara, and thus didn’t influence traditional Tarahumara
culture. These circumstances probably contribute to the Tarahumara’s strong sense of
independence and autonomy.
The Tarahumara are famous for being long distance endurance runners. This tradition was
probably born out of the necessity to communicate between the isolated populations scattered
along the Sierra Madre. Additionally, running has played a role as a popular sport for the
Tarahumara, with running competitions still taking place.
Tarahumara religion is also a unique part of their culture. They practice a number of ritual
dances and focus their worship on nature-based deities. However, as with most of the
indigenous cultures in Mexico, Tarahumara religion is now more of a mix of Christianity and
traditional indigenous practices.
A unique part of Tarahumara culture and religion is a moral code that is deeply ingrained into
every facet of their society. It prevents the Tarahumara from lying or deceiving strangers and
other Tarahumara. This unusual aspect of their culture is the source of continuing research
Folk Art Traditions of the Tarahumara
While the Tarahumara aren’t known for the impressive textiles of southern and central Mexico,
they do commonly use their traditional dress, which includes colorful skirts, wraps, and blouses
for the women, and wool waist wraps and a loin cloth for the men. Both men and women in
Tarahumara culture typically use a head band.
Today, many Tarahumara rely of the sale of folk art to survive. They are famous for their intricate
baskets, and also make traditional weavings. Additionally, they also perform limited amounts of
wood working, raw hide paintings, and pottery. Their woodworking includes drums, rattles and
fetish-like objects. Their drums are said to be of excellent quality. Most of the materials the
Tarahumara use to make their folk art come from natural sources that are found within the
Sierra Madre. Their folk art is truly a celebration of nature and of their culture.
For more information about the Tarahumara (Raramuri) please see these websites: