February 9, 2015

Why Raramuri Trails Matter, And How YOU Can Help

I first became aware of Norawas de Raramuri through Caballo Blanco himself. He told me that a group of people and him had created a non-profit organization that gathered funds to help with the purchase of food vouchers for the runners of the Ultra, but that, eventually, maybe they would do something more.

“Like what?” I asked.

His answer struck me. He told me never to forget that the Raramuri had survived – and thrived – on their own for hundreds of years, pretty much without outside intervention. He warned that we should always consider the actions we take to make sure they are genuine Korima and not the result of good-intentioned but ill-planned, culturally-intrusive projects.

So when we had to do without him, both in our lives and in the work of Norawas, we tried to always remember and consider what he said. We had lengthy conversations about how we could broaden the actions of Norawas in the Canyons and, for a while, we agreed only that the ideal first step would be to have a project that came from our friends themselves, a local idea that stemmed from the very people this organization celebrates.

And it happened.

One day, a group of us ran up to Los Alisos, to pay a visit to our friend Prospero Torres. As he was telling us the story of his friendship with Micah and how, together, they had set in motion the first plan for a race in the Barrancas, he told us he had an idea he wanted to share.

He explained that as the first sponsor of the Ultra Marathon, he had offered food and comfort to the runners on their way to Batopilas. He had also helped Micah figure out the way to use through the complex network of footpaths the Raramuri use in their everyday life. Later on, when the race became bigger, Prospero was put in charge of maintaining a segment of those trails that spanned from the bridge at La Laja up to his ranch.

He noticed that, after the race, local Raramuris would use the trail in greater numbers. The footpath was smooth and wide, safe for the people and for pack animals, and therefore a better travel option than before.

He told us he wanted to do the same with more trails. He asked if we could help him fund a local team that would restore and maintain a much longer way. He wanted to revive the whole length of the original Caballo Blanco Trail which had been used for the very first race. We answered that it would be an honor. What an awesome idea ; giving work to local Raramuris reinvigorating the traditional footpaths that serve as foundation to their culture.

So quietly, we gathered the initial funds to begin the work on the trail, last year.

When I traveled back, in early 2014, Prospero had a big surprise waiting; he told me to meet him up the trail and get together with the work team. When I asked how I was supposed to find my way, he answered, all smiles : “From Los Alisos, just look up. You can’t miss that trail now!”.

He was right.

A couple steps from the gate of Los Alisos, I discovered a beautiful, smooth, freshly-worked trail that climbed and twisted and took me to ever-more beautiful sights, ever higher up the Canyon walls… until I reached this point :


That in itself was a delightful surprise. But what struck me straight at the heart, confirming the whole purpose of Norawas and the projects we sustain, was when I reached the point where the local team was working. They raised their heads up one by one. Manuel, Silvino, Isidro… all from the original, very first group of 7 Raramuri runners who ran with Caballo Blanco in 2004… and started it all :) They had all come to lend a hand. They had all come to show support.

With 2015 rolling in, now you can also show support. Not by doing anything flashy or over-the-top. We offer you to do it Raramuri-style, humble and quiet. We offer you to sponsor a mile marker on the trail with the message of your choice. Basically, we offer you to buy a rock, and to adorn it with a word, a symbol, a drawing, a totem animal.

I am proud to announce that one of these first rocks will be sponsored by a group of people I love, namely Martin Coulombe, Dominic Melançon, JF Boucher and the Pandora 24 Ultra team. I will be honored to take Pandora’s totem creature to Las Barrancas in a couple days.

If you have a minute, read the Caballo Blanco Trail Project description on Norawas’ blog. Better yet, make a donation specific to getting a mile marker and make a true difference, quietly, supporting a beautiful running culture we all celebrate.

Kuira Ba!

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