"Light, is a gift given in the spirit. Breathe in the dawn to the Universe. Breathe out a prayer to yourself. Will you ever begin to understand the meaning of the very soil beneath your feet? From a grain of sand, to a great mountain, all is sacred. Yesterday and tomorrow, eternally exists in this sacred place." - Augustine Ramos, Raramuri Shaman.
In October, I was truly honored to receive a heartfelt invitation from Race Director, Mickey Mahaffey, to attend a weekend of traditional, Raramuri racing, nestled deep within the remote and beautiful pueblos of Huisuchi and Sorachaqui, in Las Barrancas Del Cobre of Mexico. Everyone would celebrate the feasts of the heart, in a spirit of sharing, gratitude, and community, among all cultures. This event was also experienced by Mickey's daughter, Stephanie Mahaffey, Doctors Daniel Lieberman, and Aaron Baggish, our friends from Arizona with Native Seeds, Board Member, Flint Bourdeau, and Mas Loco, Athlete, Patrick Sweeney,
Throughout this past year, Norawas de Raramuri, has been blessed by generous, heartfelt donations from runners world wide. In a Grass Roots campaign, with gifts of cash, coats, blankets, running apparel, the message of Hope returned from our friends in California, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Washington, Texas, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Montreal, Canada, France, Australia, the U.K., and beyond. Norawas was honored to provide the winning team members of the event, with Vales (food vouchers), which are redeemable for necessary staples as rice, beans, corn, flour, and non GMO seed corn for their families.
We arrived at nightfall in Huisuchi in cold darkness, to a humble home of warmth and beauty. Filled by a shared dream of honor, respect, and peace, our generous hosts, prepared delicious hand-patted, blue corn tortillas, and savory, garden vegetable soup to every guest. Afterwards, we encircled a glowing campfire as we shared stories of our adventurous trip, and reunited with many friends who have shared years of laughter and running with Micah True, El Caballo Blanco. We camped with the Raramuri runners from Team Urique. The girl's Mentor/Coach, Ultra Marathon Champion, Beatriz Adriana Mendez, from Chihuahua City, is inspired and devoted in supporting both the running, emotional and educational needs of such deserving ladies. The following day, Beatriz ran the entire Marathon course with her girls. They giggled in delight, as they received new running shoes, blankets, vales and running apparel for their victorious efforts.
This long-distance running event is more than a diversion for the Running People of La Sierra Madre. They are extremely important for maintaining social cohesion between the families who live miles from one another. Audience participation is high, with hundreds of family members and friends running alongside, offering encouragement. The race also serves as an economic purpose, for much betting goes on during the event. In the discussion over stakes, nothing is ignored, from pesos, tools, sheep, goats, cattle, and hand-stitched garments. In spite of the betting and deep intensity of the runners, the western concept of competition is virtually absent. Except for the purpose of collecting bets, no greed, or negativity exists among the runners. They simply follow the blessing of their team's Shaman, and smile as the they finish with a post race curing ceremony.
The men's traditional sport of the Canyons, is called a Rarajipare,which is a racing competition that combines kickball and ultra distance trail running. Two teams race while kicking a wooden ball along a grueling course throughout the mountainous terrain. The women's version of racing, is called an Ariweta, as they use a hand-crafted stick and hoop. The scoreboard contains a set of rocks lined up in a row at the starting line. Each rock represented a 4K loop throughout the pueblo. As a team completes a loop, the scorekeeper shifts that team's marker, another rock, along the row, showing the completed laps. When the winning team circles around for the finish, their marker is moved to the last rock in the row. As the race continues into the evening, the runners run into the darkness, with flaming, mesquite Ocote-pine branches lighting the sky. Rattles from bells made by gourds, reeds, cocoons, deer hooves, and rasping sticks, bring a primal awareness to this magical celebration.
Ultra Marathon Champion, and Batopilas Canyon's Team Captain, Arnulfo Quimare, and his wife Suzanna, greeted all runners with freshly made Pozole soup, and warm, corn tortillas. It was touching to notice at the entrance to Arnulfo's front door, photos of Arnulfo and legendary Ultra Marathon Champion, Scott Jurek, El Venado from their racing memories of 2006 and 2007, a humbling example of lasting friendship and mutual respect among all cultures. Later that afternoon and into the evening, I had an opportunity to run, side by side with Arnulfo. I have never experienced such sheer, complete joy in my life. We smiled. We laughed. I whooped and cheered. Manuel Luna, Herbalisto, Silvino, Horacio, and Florenzio, all ran with true freedom.
The Raramuri people share a devout, spiritual connection with their ancestors. They believe since birth, that when people walk on the land, they leave their breath wherever they go. So, wherever they run, the Mother Earth, always remembers. And, when they return, they know that the people who once lived there, are in some way, still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit.
As the Rarajipare came to a completion, with Arnulfo's team racing to victory, carrying their flaming torches, the men finish their final loop, quietly await a final blessing, savor a final drink of toasted, ground Pinole, and return to their family and friends to graciously celebrate. As I graciously thanked Mickey and Arnulfo for opening their hearts and homes to my friends, Mickey simply smiled, acknowledging the work which lay ahead for the Running People. Arnulfo said, "We are here. We are here with strength. We are here with pride."
And, I am here to say we are happy to walk in beauty, with our life long friends.