February 3, 2014

What is Korima?

I hesitated before posting this, as it is a very personal experience. Then, I remembered my promise.

Mas Loco runners and travelers to the Copper Canyons are all aware of Korima, or Circle of Sharing, which is a cornerstone principle of Raramuri society. It has been explained many times, and its beauty lies in its simplicity; what I have, you have, too.

In our Westerner eyes, this is a beautiful, poetic tradition which highlights the unimaginably privileged life we happened into and reminds us that opening our hearts and sharing with others is not a compromise but a duty of social justice, humility and decency.

I was served a lesson in true Korima, a couple weeks ago. I got a call from my friend Cecy, who asked if I still had some donated clothing at hand. She was with a Raramuri lady who walked into town, desperate to find food for the 9 children she left at her village. Eight of those children are hers, and she adopted another orphaned child whose mother had died recently. Some of the children had no clothes to wear; another one, no more than two years old, was standing shily away, barefoot, dirty and starved from a long trip.

I did a quick inventory of the materials we had left and gathered the warmest pieces of clothing I could find. I was, again, so thankful to our friends from the Ponce family who made beautiful, very warm blankets; there were two left and couldn't be put to better use. I crammed everything into a bag, and took off to town.

On the way, I stopped at the abarrote, one Urique's little grocery shops. I bought a bag of blue corn flour, three bags of beans and as many cans of tuna as I could fit in the bag. About a week's worth of food, hopefully. I hurried to meet Cecy and bring her the goods, not necessarily wanting to present them myself. I am already shy around the Raramuri, and I'm not sure yet how it is perceived when a chabochi, an outsider, addresses a woman directly. But Cecy just waved for me to join, and we met the woman by the stairs.

She showed her the clothes, the blankets and the food, and made sure she could carry everything back. The woman turned to me and offered thanks, but I answered in my broken Spanish that no thanks were needed, that these were not gifts – simply Korima. It was only normal that the food and clothes I had be shared with a sister and her family, without an expectation for thanks. She nodded. Then she turned back to Cecy and exchanged a few words, which I didn't completely understand.

«She asked where you live», said Cecy, «because on her next trip she wants to bring you a bag of pinole and a small craft».

«Thank you kindly, but that's not necessary», I quickly replied.

«It's not a gift», quietly said the woman.

«It's Korima.»

The non-profit I work with, Norawas de Raramuri, is currently running a funding campaign and seeks your help. If you can spare a few dollars, please support us today.

Le Korima, ce n'est pas qu'un joli principe, poétique et idéaliste, qui veut que tout ce que je possède, tu le possèdes aussi. C'est un mécanisme de justice sociale puissant et un rappel de notre devoir à l'humilité. C'est l'une des plus grandes leçons que j'ai apprises des Raramuris.


  1. Good article. Great concepts. People are mainly good, once we are personalized. When we anonymous (driving...) it is too easy to take advantage.

  2. Flint, I dig and love the freedom (a risky kind) with which you seem to approach life. In fact, this perhaps is the truest kind of living. Keep it going. It's truly inspiring.