The Sacred Fire Foundation grant provided logistical support, food for the Tarahumara during the planning and conducting of two regional harvest ceremonies which are part of a larger vision and program to strengthen Tarahumara resilience. Busuréliame (Inner Awakening) is the Tarahumara concept for education, but it also implies the strengthening of the traditional governance of the pueblos of the region by awakening the inner spirit of the people.
These ceremonies do not exist in isolation, and they do not only benefit the people directly involved. We are all interconnected. The Earth feeds every one of us, wherever we are and whatever our beliefs might be. We are all in daily need of water, of fire, of connection. And every sacred ceremony which honors the Earth, no matter where it takes place or among which people, is a ceremony for all of humanity. A ceremony that touches every one of us and heals our relationship with the Earth. In this photo essay, Makawi, the director of the program and a traditional leader, shares insights from one of these ceremonies.
“The moon welcome us to Rawíwarachi Pawchique, where various communities of the Tarahumara Sierra come together for a cultural ceremony.” –Makawi
“We start the ceremony, with the greeting of the sun, and we do this before the sun rises, so that we can take in the rays that give strength to our being.” –Makawi
We also begin with Grandfather Fire, for the memory of the ancestors who have preserved this vital ceremony for our culture. We also do it so the youth who come to this event can witness the importance of the Sacred Fire. We need Fire not only for warmth and cooking, but it is a spirit and it is Sacred in the Indigenous world. That is why it is so valuable to do this ceremony as part of the opening of the Yumari ceremony. –Makawi
The ceremony itself began with a meeting of the governors and community delegations, then proceeded with Yumari, the sound of the sonajas (rattles) and a chant which invited the spirits of the ancestors to guide the communities in their ritual of gratitude for the harvest, for the Earth which enables all life, and for the path which allows us all to be one with the healing Spirit.
“In this cultural gathering, we listen to the rattles and the voice of the singer to connect with the spirit of our Mother Earth and of the Gods we have believed in since ancient times. We are guided by the spirits of our ancestors in gratitude for our life this year and for the harvests of our daily sustenance. The ancestors know that the new generations have forgotten to be thankful for all that the earth gives.” –Makawi
Once the spirits of the ancestors were invited, the first of three cows were sacrificed for the preparation of Tonari,. This was followed by a traditional race, rarajípari, between the Alta and Baja Tarahumara.Rarajípari is a spiritual gathering of Raramuri, whose purpose is to offer thanks to Nature for the vitality of Life, and to establish harmony with Nature, especially wildlife. It is an ultra-marathon that goes on day and night, while the cheers of the people celebrated the vitality of the runners. Nobody sleeps. The communities come together to celebrate and be thankful for life, and their cheers become one common voice. As night falls, the communities call upon the animals of the dark to guide the runners, bringing everyone into harmony with the night, the light of the moon and the stars. Guided by that light, the animals of the night become guardians of the people.
“The race is part of the ceremony and we have high-resistance racers who are that way because of our blood, which is a legacy from our ancestors; that is why we are identified as ‘light-footed.’ The race is part of the ceremony because we support the runners with our cheers and, at the same time, we give strength to the Mother so she will continue to feed and heal us.” –Makawi
“The Raramuri do not dance just for the sake of dancing. We dance for the benefit of the Earth and so the Spirit will guide us along the good path of life. We dance to communicate with our ancestors, to exchange the powerful energy of well-being.” –Makawi
The ceremony continued with all night chanting Yumari, and often simultaneous dancing Pascola, and Matachin. The ceremony closed with the final offerings and blessings of Tonari and consumption of the sacred stew.
Makawi is the leader (governor general of governors) of the Directorate of the Four Ethnic Groups of Chihuahua, and director of the Busureliame Program of Tierra Nativa. His role may one day enable the Tarahumara to have greater voice, even control over, the education of their children, based upon the principles and practices of Busuréliame and in respect for the values stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous Pueblos.