The Tarahumara are an indigenous community in Chihuahua, Mexico, who are known for their long-distance running abilities. Many first learned about this indigenous group after reading Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book "Born to Run," which explores their running habits and daily life in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains. Subsequently, there have been documentaries profiling the indigenous group, who call themselves "Rarámuri," which means “light feet” or “runners on foot." In a 2019 documentary, Netflix highlights Lorena Ramirez, an incredibly impressive long-distance runner.
My grandfather Arsenio Jacquez has a rare close bond with the Tarahumara people in his region. For decades, he was an interpreter for them in his town Carichi, Chihuahua and the surrounding areas. If they needed a translator at the hospital or city hall, they called him, because he spoke both Spanish and Rarámuri, the Tarahumara language, fluently.
So glad this is being looked at on a deeper level. My family has a close connection to the Rarámuri due to my grandfather who for decades was an interpreter for them. pic.twitter.com/mhYlq31LC4— Yahaira Jacquez (@YJacquez_) December 2, 2020
This was very rare. Many people in the state of Chihuahua (Chihuahuenses), know some words in Rarámuri but were not exposed to the indigenous community enough to learn beyond the basics.
My grandfather, however, began interacting with the community at a very young age. Growing up, he would accompany his father to the depths of the Sierra canyons where the Tarahumara live to trade and do business with them. While my great-grandfather inspected the goats and cattle he intended to buy from the Tarahumara, my grandfather Arsenio played with the children. My grandfather says they exchanged words and ran around. Then, when he got older and became proficient in the language, my grandpa took on a bigger role in executing the transactions. This would eventually become a part of his life as a rancher.
I witnessed this bond up close. Growing up, I would visit my grandparents on their farm in Mexico each summer and I remember the many visits he received from Tarahumaras, who were passing through town or were there for work.
Often, they would bring him pinole as a gift. This food is a staple in their diet. It’s made out of maize (or corn, as most people know it). The dried maize is ground and mixed with spices, such as cinnamon. Sometimes chia seeds or sweeteners, such a piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar) are added. It is absolutely delicious!
My grandfather also took us to visit them. I remember riding in the back of his 1977 Ford F-150, along with all my cousins, and going deep into the canyons to visit one of his old friends. The family lived in an adobe home with cement floors. They offered us freshly-made pinole with milk and for my grandfather, tesgüino (a homemade corn beer).
I will treasure memories like these forever. I will also treasure my grandfather, who chose to embrace, without reservation, a different culture and made the effort to learn a new language that opened his eyes to a new world.
Our Pinole Chia Oatmeal will be on sale this January 2021. While you're waiting anxiously for it, check out our Tiktok video on my grandfather and his close relationship with the Tarahumara. And while you're at it, give us a follow!