It’s the kind of news story that leaves one feeling terribly sad and depressed. In this week’s issue of Newsweek, though you can read the article here on Daily Beast, reporter Aram Roston sheds disturbing light on a most unfortunate casualty of Mexico’s intractable drug war: the Tarahumara. Their remarkable ability to run far and long is now being put to criminal uses.
“According to defense lawyers, law-enforcement sources, and some Tarahumara Indians,” states the article, “drug traffickers are now exploiting the very Tarahumara trait—endurance—that has been crucial to their survival. Cartel operatives enlist impoverished Tarahumara Indians to make a grueling odyssey running drugs by foot across the border to the U.S.
“American defense lawyers on the southwest border say Tarahumara drug runners are a growing segment of their court-assigned clientele. Ken Del Valle, a defense attorney in El Paso, Texas, says he’s represented more than a dozen of the Indians since 2007, all in similar ‘backpacking’cases. Statistics are impossible to come by since law enforcement agencies don’t differentiate between Indians and other Mexicans, but Del Valle says it is precisely the Tarahumaras’ aptitude for endurance running that makes them so heavily recruited: the cartels ‘can put them in the desert and just say, ‘Go!’”
No longer do the forbidding Sierra Madre mountains and mile-deep canyons offer a safe haven for the reclusive Tarahumara. Along with, ranchers, miners, and loggers, “the narcos have moved ever closer into traditional Tarahumara enclaves.”
Chris McDougall is also quoted in the article: “You get a guy who can go 50 miles with almost no water … they’ve been indirectly training for [cross-border smuggling] for 10,000 years. It’s just tragic and disgraceful. This is a culture that has tried its best to stay out of this mess, all of these messes—the messes of the world—and now the messes have come and found them.”