The ancestors of the Tarahumara most likely migrated
from Asia using the Bering Strait somewhere around fifteen to twenty
thousand years ago. These ancestors were hunters and gatherers who
greatly advanced and developed throughout the years as agricultural
development entered their culture. As time went on, most of them
probably descended with the Aztecs further south.
However, no real written history is found of this
Indian tribe before the Spaniards came in the sixteenth century.
Coronado’s expedition was perhaps their first contact with the
Europeans. Later on, in 1607 a Jesuit missionary known as Father Juan
Fonte created the first Jesuit mission in their area. This
establishment significantly affected the lives of the Tarahumara.
The Jesuits built almost thirty missions throughout the
following hundred and fifty years. While they did introduce the
Tarahumara to Catholicism, domestic animals, and much more, they
advantage of their culture. They tried to force the
Indians to live in more domestic, church-centered villages. They also
made the Indians their slaves, having them work in the mines and on
Spanish haciendas. In addition, the Spaniards were intruding on their
land and attempting to take control as well. This, of course, caused
rebellious outbreaks amongst the Tarahumara. Because of their strong
will and knowledge of the land, they were finally able to break free
from the Spaniards and Jesuits.
Today, there are still about 50,000 Tarahumara Indians
living in Mexico today. They remain in the Sierra Madre Occidental in
an area called Copper Canyon. They continue to live very isolated
lives, unmixed with any other tribes. They are the most primitive of
all the Indian tribes and the least influenced by modern society.