Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Chihuahua, Mexico

The Deep Mexico of the Barrancas del Cobre

Raramuri woman
Rarámuri artisan creates new pieces in a pine forest near the Dª Catalina cave house.
ravines on ravines
Geological features of the vast Barrancas del Cobre.
Rarámuri cubs play with dog cubs.
Raramuri family
geological crest
More geological cutouts, shaped by strong erosion.
Mother and daughter
Two generations of Rarámuri artisans, next to the deepest station of the Barrancas del Cobre cable car.
the cable car
Cable car cabin goes up to the top of Barranca del Cobre.
Mountain bike
Off-road bike against the vastness of pine forest, at the top of Barranca del Cobre.
Bush on the Piedra Volada
Thorny bush resists, in balance, clinging to the famous Piedra Volada.
zip rider
An adventurer takes the Zip Rider, the long zip line from Barranca del Cobre.
Sunset over the Barrancas
The sun sets in the West and paints the top of the Barrancas de Cobre with warmer tones.
Busy Raramuri
Rarámuri guide, dressed to the nines, crosses the Hotel del Mirador.
Without warning, the Chihuahua highlands give way to endless ravines. Sixty million geological years have furrowed them and made them inhospitable. The Rarámuri indigenous people continue to call them home.

“This is nothing!” Pedro Palma assures us. “You come here in July or August and almost roast.

They reach 40º up here, at 2400 meters of altitude. Just imagine down there, at 400 meters where the Urique runs, squeezed by the ravines.”

Peter knew what he was talking about. He had already led expeditions of many days along this river. Along the edges and, when necessary, floating in its warm waters.

In the guide's case, the connection with the Barrancas del Cobre was a temporary adventure.

Barrancas del Cobre: ​​the Immense Canyon of the Sierra de Tarahumara and the Rarámuri People

As extreme and rugged as it turned out, that 65.000 km domain2 -  is much wider than the neighbor Arizona Grand Canyon and that the Fish River Canyon from the extreme south of Namibia.

Six rivers and at least 60 million years of volcanism, with less drastic tectonic activity and erosion, was inhabited for a long time.

When the Spanish conquerors and settlers arrived in these parts, in the XNUMXth century, they came across Rarámuri indigenous peoples spread throughout the lands of the current state of Chihuahua.

Barrancas del Cobre, ChihuahuaThey called them Tarahumara, after the term the natives used to define their men.

Years later, just as they wished, they discovered silver. As they subdued the Indians, they forced them to mine for their benefit. Attempts to free the natives came up against the military superiority of the Europeans.

As a result, the Tarahumara retreated to remote and inaccessible areas.

The Barrancas del Cobre, a challenging refuge but close to being sowed, continue to welcome them.

The Craft that Sustains the Life of the Rarámuri

Similar to what happens in Creel, the main tourist hub in the region, in other towns and even in Chihuahua, the Rarámuri women above all sell to outsiders the colorful handicrafts they have learned to produce.

We see them at the entrance to the adventure park, above the Piedra Volada viewpoint.

We find them, in their bright blouses and puffed skirts, at Mesa de Bacajipare, the deepest station of the resident cable car, with a breathtaking view over the confluence of three of the ravines, del Cobre, Tararecua and Urique.

Some lucky Rarámuri women are entitled to wooden benches that legitimize them and protect them from the sun. Others install mobile blinds in the shade of trees or even on polished rocks.

They have the company of child daughters who, fed up with the punishment of having to be there, indulge in alienated contemplations of the landscape.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, mother and daughter Rarámuri

Zipline, Via Ferrata and others: the World of Adventures in Barranca del Cobre

At the top of the cliff, successive volunteers launch themselves on the local zipline, one of the longest in the world, with 2.545 m of cable, a three-minute journey in which the heaviest travelers reach 130km/h.

The Zip Rider, as it was named, generates screams as hysterical as they are long-lasting.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, Zip Rider

We hear them almost to the point of disappearance of those who chant them in the depths of the ravine, a Mesoamerican entrails of the Earth that the dry season and the mid-morning heat clouded and made strangers.

At spaces, much quieter, the cable car cabins cross the cannon again. 3km down, another 3km up.

Since 2010, when they were inaugurated, the Rarámuri have the right to use them.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, cable car

Such usufruct spares them the atrocious daily walks, the intense exercise to which the natives all their lives have been forced and which they made prodigious cases of physical and athletic endurance.

The Incredible Athletic Fitness of the Rarámuri People

With organisms adapted to altitude, dryness and the excruciating cold of winter, oxygenated by an air filtered by the countless pine trees of the Serra de Tarahumara, energized by natural and nutritious foods and used to climbing 500 meter slopes with loads of 15 or 20 kg, the Rarámuri have always been natural runners.

More than runners, marathon runners comparable to kalenjin ou Kenya Masai, although with different faces and with less success and international notoriety.

The Rarámuris share a saying that sums up their millenary stamina: “Quien can't take it, in the valley!". Long before they participated in marathons and ultramarathons, they were already putting it into practice in traditional competitions of their own.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, busy RarámuriRarajípari, for example, is played between male teams from different villages, as a rule, after meetings in which the natives shared tejuino, corn beer.

During a Rarajípari, each team of runners jumame, kicks forward a kamakali, a ball 7 or 8 cm in diameter made from the root of oak, arbutus or another tree, the task.

Participants run after the ball. Get her. They kick it again, frequently, down ravines, in a progress in which they must prevent the ball from immobilizing, which emulates the incessant movement of the sun.

In events of greater rivalry, a Rarajípari can extend for 50 or 60 km. The team that runs the combined distance first is the winner.

Women, on the other hand, face each other in the pomegranates, ou ariweta races, in which they move a ring composed of branches, with a diameter between 5 and 15 cm.

From Races in Serra Tarahumara to World Competitions

Shaped by this geographical and sociological context, some Rarámuri gained a peculiar fame. Since the Olympic Games in Amsterdam (1928), his men have participated in renowned competitions.

They triumphed several times in Mexican and even international marathons, running as they used to do in the Serra de Tarahumara: barefoot or on top Huaraches, shoes with tire soles and leather straps.

Netflix recently released the documentary by Juan Carlos Rulfo “Lorraine, la de Pies Ligeros”. dedicated to Lorena Ramirez. At first glance, Lorena is just a Rarámuri woman.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, Rarámuri woman

Lorraine: the Flying Rarámuri

As the documentary evolves, she reveals how, at age 21, without any regular training or concern for her shape, wearing a long skirt and huaraches, Lorena finished the 100km Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon in second place.

And how, just a year later, he triumphed in the 50km UltraTrail Cerro Rojo and the 100km Ultramarathon in Los Cañones, results that have earned him invitations to renowned international competitions, such as the Tenerife Blue Trail.

But, let's go back to the everyday life of the Rarámuri and to the “intermediate” fund of the Mesa de Bacajipare. There, while the sellers suggested their handicraft to visitors, little by little, the sun stopped showing in the depths of the Urique River.

It only focused on the succession of crests and on which the homonymous gully was cut, far from representing a significant relief from the furnace.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, Crest

Hotel El Mirador, Panoramic Balconies

We take the cable car back to the starting point. From the top, we covered 3.5km to the Hotel Mirador where we would spend the night. Installed in the room, we realized how much of a Mirador the hostel had.

Both the terrace adjoining the dining room and the balcony in our room were situated on the hotel's eastern threshold and over the ravine. They provided sweeping, dramatic views of the ravine from a different angle from the scenic vantage points of the adventure park.

What was left of the afternoon, we dedicated him to a walk, first along the edge of the ravine, passing more makeshift stalls of Rarámuri vendors, followed by a group of dogs with different looks and sizes that spent all their time fighting and nibbling the pretend.

From the top, the trail submits to a curved slope, hidden among pine trees.

It takes us to the foot of the cliff, to a colony of verdant cacti.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, Cacti

And to another one, Rarámuri, with makeshift homes against the rock wall, in an updated version of the caves and crevices that the natives have inhabited over the millennia.

The Cliff Homes of the Rarámuri

In one of them, an elderly woman was taking care of three children.

Having established contact, the kids reveal to us newborn puppies, exposed like the fluffy and big-headed toys they were used for, all accompanied by a vigorous but tender babble in Rarámuri dialect.

After leaving the community at the bottom of the cliff behind, we climbed the “esses” on the ramp that led back to the Mirador hotel. Without the pulmonary attributes of the indigenous people, with burning thighs and panting to match.

We climbed them, in an anxious hurry, because we realized that the sunset was unfolding, in a way of a children's book, of coloring, which revived the Barrancas.

When we reached the bedroom balcony, the sky was on fire.

The furrows of that Mexican land wore the most coppery hue we had ever seen it.

Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, sunset

Where to stay in Barrancas del Cobre

Phone: +52 (668) 812 1613

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