The 49th Annual Dinner Dance for the Benefit of the Tarahumara Children´s Hospital took place last night, October 24th, at The Penna´s of Sterling Restaurant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
As for the last 49 years, the event represents the Tarahumara Children´s Hospital of Michigan major annual fundraiser, and last night’s event was a great success with an attendance of almost 400 people. Attendance to this fundraiser has gradually changed from a majority of U.S. citizens to mostly Mexican professionals and their spouses (many of them from Chihuahua) living and working in Michigan for corporations such as Ford, TRW, Kostal, Real Estate One, Lakeside Neurology, MES Consulting Services, and others.
The Tarahumara Children´s Hospital Fund also receives sponsorship from individuals and other organizations such as El Charro Mexican Restaurant, Villa Penna´s of Sterling Heights, and other companies like Bernco, Inc. Wasik Funeral Homes, Bretti Financial Services, Lucido Fine Jewelry, and Starlite Entertainment.
But who are the Rarámuri or Tarahumara Indians?
A study of the Tarahumara Indians by Zuzana Gabrielová, of the Department of Philosophy of the Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, provides a good explanation.
The Rarámuri people — as the Tarahumaras call themselves — is an indigenous group from the Western Sierra Madre mountain range (covering approximately 21,748 sq. miles) in the Northern State of Chihuahua, Mexico. In 2000, the Rarámuri population consisted of almost 122,000 people, and 72 per cent of them spoke Spanish. This ethnic group lives in a mountainous area under extreme weather conditions that can range from 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the last few years, the Sierra Tarahumara and its impressive Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) have become a tourist attraction for locals and foreigners alike. The Copper Canyon includes Urique Canyon, the deepest in all of North America, and has been home to a Tarahumara settlement since the late 17tht Century. The Chihuahua al Pacífico Railway is rated with almost five stars in Trip Advisor and it has been called “One of the world´s greatest rain rides”.
The Rarámuris are basically known for two things: their amazing speed and stamina to run, and their abject poverty. This lack of funds affects the survival of their children into adulthood, as they suffer from malnutrition and intestinal diseases, which claim the life of many of them.
There are groups of benefactors for the Tarahumara Indians in Michigan, Louisiana, and Oregon, who contribute to buy medical equipment for the 75-bed children’s hospital located in the City of Creel in the State of Chihuahua. Donations have helped Rarámuri children eat healthy, they have helped provide clean drinking water to many people in the community, and have made it possible to build a new rehabilitative playground. This year´s event aimed to raise funds to renovate the hospital´s guest house to allow parents or other relatives to stay close by while their children receive treatment or undergo surgery at the hospital. This parent guest house will now be renamed “The Michigan House” in recognition to the invaluable help that has been received every year by Michigan residents.
“Last month, for example… we finally received the official license to operate the new X-Rays machine that all of you helped us purchase”, said Fr. Guillermo, the Director of the Stain Theresa Complex, last night.
The Tarahumara Indians are proud people, and what they ask for is not charity, but “córima” in Ráramuri language. ¨Córima” means “You give me now and I will give back to you when you visit my home”.
As said before, besides being poor, the Rarámuris are known for being incredibly fast runners. As children, they play ball kicking it all over the place between the rocks in the mountains, and this gives them an uncanny agility and speed. Martía Salomé, a Tarahumara woman, won the 2012 OXXO half marathon, without the help of special clothing or expensive tennis shoes, and in 2014, Silvino Cubésare, another Rarámuri Indian, won first place in the Senior Category and Second in every category of the ultramarathon in the hills of Alcaraz and Segura in Albacete, Spain.
The term “Rarámuri” actually means “light feet”.
We had an opportunity to speak to Fr. David Ungerleider, who for the past 12 years has been the link between all the benefactor organizations in the United States and the Tarahumara Indians in Chihuahua. Fr. David has spent most of his adult life in Mexico and speaks flawless Spanish. He is a member of the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus and has an MBA in Social Anthropology.
2016 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Tarahumara Children´s Hospital Annual Dinner Dance in Michigan. The event will take place once again in the month of October, and the organization will need all the help it can get.
For more information about the Tarahumara Chldren´s Hospital, go to: http://www.tchforegon.org/about