Monday, January 23, 2012


This is Copper Canyon.

As you know from my last post, there are nine canyons that make up the Copper Canyon system.  But this is the canyon that lent its name to the entire system.

In this canyon’s depths, the ore-obsessed Spanish thought they had discovered the very navel of copper deposits.  But they had merely discovered lichen-covered cliffs.  And lots of very rugged -- and beautiful country.

But that is how today’s journey ends  I need to get us back to the top of the day.

It started in the little mountain village of Cerocahui with a tour of a boarding school for Tarahumara girls.  A charitable Catholic school that also serves village boys and girls.

I must confess that I am rather sensitive to these tours.  Where tourists traipse through operating institutions flashing cameras in children’s faces.  But that may simply be my dislike of having cameras pointed at me -- and watching tourist activity at the Indian school in Pinal Villa.

Our guide, Francisco, who is well-versed in Mexican history and anthropology, presented a very thorough lecture on the history of the Tarahumara people.  How they were once a town-dwelling people before the Apache chased them into the canyons.  Where most of them now live in isolated houses in the mountains and carry on their unique mixture of tradition and Christianity.

I should mention that our night in the Hotel Mision in Cerocahui was pleasant, but cold.  But, with a fire in the room, it could have been a comfortable 40 degrees outside.

A quick van drive to the train station and we were off on a short two-hour ride to Divisadero -- with a quick stop to a little on-train shopping.

In Divisadero, we booked into the 5-star Posada Barrancas Mirador.  The photograph at the top of the post is from my hotel room.  Every room has a similar view.

And I suppose the hotel thinks that visitors should be looking at the view rather than the internet.  That may explain why internet service costs $100 (Mx) an hour and is available only in the lobby.

After we got settled in, we walked down a cliff trail behind the hotel to a small Tarahumara settlement that looked like the Indian equivalent of Jamestown.  Created culture for tourists interested in souvenirs.

The hotel runs an incredible zipline.  I was prepared to sign up to test my left ankle’s fortitude, but we will not have enough time tomorrow to fit it into the schedule.  Too bad.  It would be fun to slip on the line once more.

For those in our tour group who are not neurotic bloggers, the evening was spent socializing, dining, and listening to an adequate guitarist.  But what else does one do when the sun goes down on the scenery?

Today is the end of the train and canyons.  But there are still three days of adventure ahead: Creel, Mennonite Camps, and Chihuahua.

And I hope more ubiquitous and available internet.


brenda said...

There has been a lot on the news here the past few days about how the Tarahumara are suffering this winter.  They are normally very poor; but this winter they are in worse shape because of the worst drought in 70 years and the harsher winter this year.  They are being helped by regional and federal governments and the Mexican Red Cross who are  giving them food and warm clothing, etc. to try and help them through the winter.
Their existence is very meager normally; but this winter is harder on them than usual.

Nita said...

I hope you have enjoyed Copper Canyon as much as I did. I would love to return. As for the souvenirs, I bought a basket which I use daily to hold a silk tree. I wanted to get a doll, but saw none. Have a great time!

Steve Cotton said...

We saw a distribution center today. Times up here are very hard.

Steve Cotton said...

So far, it has been great.

Karen McGivney said...

What do the people do to make a living? Are the tourists just travelling through or do people help? This place reminds me of some villages up in the Peruvian mountains where our church goes on mission. I haven't been because it's 80% O2 and I'd probably get asthma, or die of fright when the jeeps go careening around skinny cliffs that are barely wide enough for one.

Kathe said...

In Creel, in a tiny little restaurant, next to the tracks and just toward town from the train station, is one of my all time favorite places to eat birria...I can't remember the name. Try it, you'll like it.

Steve Cotton said...

I will take a look.

Steve Cotton said...

Most of the mountain dwellers survive through subsistence farming -- juart as they have since the Apache drove them off and the Spanish kept them pinned down. It is a meager living. Especially during a drought.

Local businessmen keep the school running through contributions. It is too bad there was not a fundraising appeal at the end of our little tour.

Babs said...

When in Creel, hire a guide for the six hour drive down to Batopilas.  It is fascinating.  You can see where the silve mines are and I was told it was the first place in Mexico to have electric street lights.  The man who had the mines and developed the town was a former mayor of Washington DC!  If you're afraid of narrow roads, don't go down to Batopilas.  But you will see Tarahumaras in their loincloths and living their true existence on your way down and in Batopilas.  Worth the trip.

Steve Cotton said...

Our guide told us about Batopilas.  Unfortunately, we will not have time to get over there -- even though it sounds like a great place to visit.  I didn't even get time to zipline on this trip.

Don Cuevas said...

Could that have been Sra. Graciela's place, back in the early 90s?

See my lengthier comment on Steve's next blog post.

Saludos,Don Cuevas