THE TARAHUMARA by John G. Kennedy


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Written by an anthropologist who has lived among--as well as written scholarly books about--these residents of Mexico's western Sierra Madre, an excellent addition to the uneven ""Indians of North America"" series. Though not untouched by European influences, the Tarahumara are unusual in the extent to which they have retained their cultural identity. Having survived the depredations of disease, brutal Jesuit attempts to Convert them, slavery in the silvermines, and their own 17th-century rebellions, they retreated into an inhospitable, deeply canyoned area where they have evolved a unique culture. Selectively adopting Spanish customs, they now raise livestock (chiefly as a source of fertilizer) and have grafted Christian ritual onto their own religious beliefs. Kennedy describes them as peaceful, stoical, independent, respectful of others' rights (even children's), with a social structure dependent on cooperative efforts and given to boisterous beer parties that are in striking contrast to their usual behavior. Drawing on his own experience, Kennedy includes a great deal of specific detail on Tarahumara legal structure, customs, etc. His concluding pages suggest that the 80's were a time of accelerated change as ""Mestizo"" pressures to integrate increased; if so, his book is a fascinating portrait of these exceptional Native Americans in the recent past. Good b&w photos plus a color section; bibliography; glossary: index.

Pub Date: July 27th, 1990
Page count: 111pp
Publisher: Chelsea House