WITH THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER CANYON
November 22nd, 2019
Words by the Editors
Photos by Dorian Lopez
The Rarámuri are an indigenous people who inhabit the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountainous region in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Etymologically, Rarámuri means “running plant”, or more broadly, “those with light feet” in their language–Rarámuri men are popularly known for their tradition of long-distance running in a bare style of huarache (according to legend, up to 100s of miles). Rarámuri women are known for their vibrantly colored and richly patterned dress
, which clearly demarcates them from the predominantly mixed-race populations of most Mexican cities.
In the 1500s when the Spanish first invaded Mexico, the Rarámuri fled to the mountains in an attempt to preserve their way of life removed from the catastrophic force of the European onslaught. Today their communities face different, but nonetheless insidious forces of encroachment–many Rarámuri have been pushed out of the mountains into cities as their land has been occupied by drug cartels or devastated by years of drought caused by climate change. Displaced in urban centers, many Rarámuri face difficulties finding work in professional environments that can be antagonistic to their plight and tradition way of dressing. Defying the societal pressure to shed their indigenous garments to mime the image of “modernity”, Rarámuri woman have fiercy clung to their dresses as a means of resistance, noncompliance, and pride.
In her NYT piece Traditional Dresses as Resistance
, Victoria Blanco visited a group of Rarámuri women living in a compound called Oasis in the city of Chihuahua. Of the indigenous women preserving this style of dress–often in vocational settings that demand a uniform–she writes,
“While Rarámuri men discard their traditional shirt, cloth and sandals upon arrival to the city in order to obtain jobs in construction, Rarámuri women rarely trade their dresses for the uniforms required by employers. ‘I only wear Rarámuri dresses,’ Ms. Holguin said, echoing the thousands of Rarámuri women who strive to keep not only their dress, but their people’s ways of caring for the natural world and one another. To supplement the men’s income, Rarámuri women sell crafts and ask people on the street for ‘korima’ — their word for reciprocity — at busy intersections throughout Chihuahua. But they earn little money this way, and expose themselves and their children to heavy traffic, insults and threats.”
Blanco also outlines how these women have monetized their tradition of dressmaking, selling illustrious hand sewn garments, tortilla warmers, aprons, dishcloths, and other domestic items. Upon reading this article, our founder Humberto Leon reached out to Blanco and a group of anthropologists and liaisons to coordinate the production of a collection of Rarámuri dresses to sell at Opening Ceremony, the proceeds of which will go toward this community of artisans in Chihuahua.
As the ancestral homelands of indigenous peoples worldwide are threatened by militarized occupations, deforestation, or more generally, the shadow of modernism, the importance of supporting traditional craft industries cannot be understated. A selection handmade garments are on sale at our flagship location and will soon be available on OC’s website.