Photo Essay – Tarahumara

A media team visited a Pioneers team who serve in Northern Mexico to document their ministry among the Tarahumara by capturing video and stories. Here’s what they found.

Meet the Tarahumara

Tarahumara - Sierra Madre Canyon

After the Spanish conquest of the 1500s, the Tarahumara scattered throughout the Sierra Madre mountains of Northern Mexico. Outsiders access their communities only via a spiderweb of treacherous dirt roads and isolated airstrips.

Tarahumara women and child

With a population of approximately 120,000, the Tarahumara share a language and customs. They are geographically and culturally isolated from the Mexican majority.

Tarahumara woman with two small children

Initially, the Tarahumara cultivated the verdant plains of Northern Mexico. After the Spanish displaced them, though, they adapted to subsistence farming in the dry, rocky soil of the Sierra Madre.

Tarahumara Church

Although introduced to Roman Catholicism by the Spanish, the local Christian faith is virtually unrecognizable beneath layers of animistic tribal traditions. Most Tarahumara have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel.

Ministry and Medicine

Tarahumara mother and child

With a lack of adequate healthcare and limited food resources, the Tarahumara face high rates of infant mortality and malnutrition. They also suffer from treatable diseases such as tuberculosis and skin conditions.

Tarahumary ministry team

A Pioneers team composed of Mexican nationals, Germans and Americans serves the Tarahumara with healthcare and literacy. Their goal? To see an indigenous church emerge.

Tarahumara people waiting outside clinic

The team established two clinics in the mountains. These provide free healthcare, medicine and also lodging for families when members need to stay for treatment.

Tarahumara - small boy holds hand of his sister

The team also works in cities where Tarahumara seek employment and social services.

Clinic staff seeing a patient

Team members Luis (a physician) and Damaris (a nurse) examine a baby brought to the clinic.

Prayer and Scripture

Ministry team prays together

The team gathers daily for a time of prayer before the clinic opens to treat for patients.

Ministry team member helps a Tarahumara woman learning to read.

Alongside caring for the physical needs of the Tarahumara, the team is dedicated to sharing the gospel through chronological Bible stories. They also offer a literacy-based curriculum using biblical stories to teach reading.

Daily Life among the Tarahumara

Tarahumara woman making tortillas

Corn (ground for tortillas and pinole), beans and, rarely, the addition of meat form the typical diet in this area.

sewing clothes

Whether in the cities or on the rugged hillside, you can recognize Tarahumara by the bright colors of the women’s traditional, hand-sewn clothing.

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