Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Tarahumara are Native Americans who live in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico and who speak a Uto-Aztecan language. The Tarahumara economy is based on the cultivation of maize, beans, and squash, supplemented by the sale of some crops, items for tourists, and wage labor. At the end of the twentieth century they mostly lived in small hamlets and dispersed homesteads near their fields.


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Middle America and the Caribbean --Northern Mexico



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in this eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Tarahumara file consists of eleven documents all in English and nearly all written by professional anthropologists, whose collective fieldwork experience among the Tarahumara ranges in time from 1891 to 1989. Probably one of the most comprehensive studies in the file on traditional Tarahumara ethnography is that done by Bennett and Zingg (see Bennett 1935, no. 1). Although the field work for this study was done in the 1930s, this work, nevertheless, provides an excellent introduction to the study of traditional Tarahumara society. It should be noted, however that this monograph has been criticized by later ethnologist for factual errors in the data. Additional works by Fried (Fried 1951, no. 10), Pennington (Pennington 1963, no. 12), Champion (Champion 1963, no. 13), Merrill (Merrill 1988, no. 14), and Kennedy (Kennedy 1978, no. 16), contribute much to filling in gaps in the ethnographic coverage in this file. Some of the major topics discussed in the above works are: culture history, material culture, socio-cultural change, social organization, ideal and practical norms of behavior, and the ecological relationship between the Tarahumara and their environment. In addition, several other documents in the file provide additional data on sorcery, residential mobility, kinship, ceremonial behavior, curing, religion, social conformity, and lying in relation to informant/author relationships.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article, "Tarahumara," by William L. Merrill in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol.8. 1995. James W. Dow and Robert Van Kemper, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were prepared by John Beierle, August 1996.

Overview by

John Beierle

ALAKANTE (ALCALDE) -- mayor of the PUEBLO who advises the governor -- category 624

ALAWASI -- sheriffs -- category 693

ARIWA (IWIGA) -- soul, breath -- category 774

CHABOCHI -- non-Indians -- categories 571, 609

CHAPIO -- individuals in charge of the MATACHINE dancers -- category 794

EJIDO -- a communal economic unit established in many areas of Mexico as part of the agrarian reform program of the Mexican Revolution -- categories 423, 474

GENTILES -- heathens, pagans -- category 571

KAPITANE -- "captains"; the police and messengers of the PUEBLO -- categories 624, 625, 203

MAYOLI -- officials who arrange and perform marriages in the community and resolve conflicts -- category 624

MESTRO -- men who clean the church and perform ritual duties -- category 794

PIONIKE -- a form of peonage -- categories 566, 571

PUEBLO -- a village -- category 621

section president -- category 632

SIRIAME (GOBERNADOR) -- governor; the head of the PUEBLO -- category 622

SUKURUAME -- sorcerers -- category 754

TENANCHE -- women who clean the church and perform ritual duties -- category 794

TENIENTE -- lieutenant governor of the PUEBLO who advises the governor

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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