The livelihood of the Raramuri is threatened by a terrible dry season that has brought misery to these remote communities. The deforestation of their territory is the number one cause of the crisis, since the wholesale cutting of timber has caused a loss in plant and animal species and arable land, soil erosion and poor soil quality, drought, flash-flooding and crop failure.

Located in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, the forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental are one of Mexico’s most biologically diverse areas and contain around two thirds of the country’s standing timber. However, the forests are subjected to both legal and illegal forestry practices; while the Mexican government controls some of the cutting, thousands of acres are illegally harvested by poachers who forcefully eject the Raramuri Indians and harm the natural ecology on which their Indigenous way of life depends. Drug growers burn thousands of acres before planting marijuana plants and opium poppies. If the Raramuri refuse to work, they are shot. Once processed, the drugs are sent to the streets of the United States, where they are sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mineral extraction has also had adverse effects on the Raramuri’s natural habitat. The Sierra Madre is located on one of the world’s most prolific gold and silver mining belts. With metal prices rising and the federal government encouraging foreign investment in the sector, mining activities have increased over the past decade. An increase in tourism to the area has also given rise to plans to build an airport and hotels in the canyons, forcing the Raramuri to retreat further into the mountains if they wish to continue their traditional existence. All of these factors increase the misery of the Tarahumara farming communities in their struggle for survival.
Feb 5, 2016
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