This is the second trip for the Amigos de Korima group, headed to the foothills of the Mexican Sierra Madre south of Ciudad Chihuahua. We are helping out a boarding school for children of the indigenous Tarahumara. Built by the federal government in the 1960s, the school has been largely forgotten and has no maintenance budget. The kids were sleeping many to a mattress on the concrete floors of their dorm rooms, often in heaps to avoid the numerous leaks in the roofs, with head lice a chronic problem... but after our first two visits the dorms have new roofs, they've got good shampoo and lice combs, and now there are bunk beds... it's a pretty awesome transformation. Many more things are on the wish list to help improve the conditions (like a hygienic cafeteria, improved nutrition, and heating for both dorms and classrooms) but certainly the kids are better able to learn now that their basic needs are more fully met.
Beyond the physical work, it's awesome for us to be able to visit and glimpse a bit of this rural part of Mexico and the different culture that exists there. Everyone is super friendly, welcoming, and generous. It feels like a privilege to get to go and do this work. Especially because we get to stay in cabanas near some thermal pools which is an area tourist attraction. Here are some photos of our visit this year.
The countryside on the way
And below, the village of Bacabureachi in the far distance, the school in the middle ground, and the cabanas and thermal pools obscured by the trees at the bottom right
Amazing river canyon up from where we stay at the cabanas/warm pools
Native corn that will be milled (well, only the yellow ones, they were in a different bag... blue is for other things)as part of a community/school project to make Pinole... The local superfood... Corn toasted milled then fine ground by hand into a sort of crunchy flour... Added to water to make a sort of porridge that keeps you/them going and going on their infamous runs...
And a few of the school and kids themselves. We were there just in time for the start of the rainy season...
Kids let loose with iPod...
Pretty fun. Check out our website for lots more photos and information:
Korima is a Tarahumara concept that is about giving/sharing without any strings attached. That's what this is all about for us. The project is ongoing, we will become a US/Mexican non-profit soon and we're getting press coverage in Mexico that may well encourage charitable groups to donate as well as embarrass some governmental agencies to pick up their slack.
A couple of bonuses for me... I collected some plants too (of course!)
There was some tourist time too, on our way down a couple of us spent time in and around the town of Carichic, with its church dating from the late 1600s that has massive pillars made of trunks of pine trees... one tree per pillar... don't see 'em like that in the forests anymore...
And web also made a visit to a ranch/property (owned by a friend of our group leader Pilar) up in the "big tree" forest as I think of it... Huge pines and oaks, pretty awesome.
And then after our time at Bacabureachi a few of us went on to check out some other parts of the area, a little closer to the Copper Canyon area proper, higher up in the mountains with more big oaks and pine trees, true big forest instead of the oak-pinyon pine grass-woodlands we had been in at Bacabureachi.
We went through Creel to a small village called Cusárare, where there was a church dating from the 1800s as the etched bronze bell attests
but rehabbed in the 1970s... stunning interior design.
Hand carved/hatcheted/shaped roof beams.
We (no, I wasn't the only one!) bought several examples of the local crafts including baskets woven from sotol, yucca, and pine needles.
I love the pine needle ones... They smell like the forest! Also some pottery (resting inside miniature panniers for mule packing). Neat designs.
Then we retired to a hotel, previously known to the insiders of our group... hidden away off the road... an absolute dream and totally incongruous with the subsistence nature of the surrounding area.
Here we are relaxing by the fire our first night.
The guy who built the place fell in love with the region and its people, the Tarahumara. He's a gringo but moved down there and lived with his family in a cave just as the Tarahumara did. At this hotel he has several families living on the property care taking the hotel, in that way he is helping the locals gain an income via the tourism, though the visitation has been slim for many years owing to increased instability from drug violence. It seems to be better now with different political policies and they're hoping they will see more tourists in the future. Stunning place. Great walks too, an awesome river canyon to a waterfall
and a walk to some caves with petroglyphs...
And that's the end if my photos! We drove back the next day, stayed in the sweet town of Santa Isabel but got in late so no pics. A lovely spot to go back to though, out in the grassy plains before dropping back into the Chihuahuan desert basin proper.
Great trip, super successful on all counts. Hope to return in the fall/winter for the next round of projects, maybe a new kitchen, roofs for the remaining undone buildings and who knows what else.
Hope you enjoyed this wee visit south of the border!