Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to uphold the Dignity of the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) -- and all of us?

10-22-09 Update: there is a newly created site here to help support the Rarámuri.
We, and far more critically our brothers and sisters the Rarámuri, live at a cross roads. Why would I so arrogantly place myself, living rather comfortably far from the Copper Canyons, among those effected by the crossroads the Rarámuri face? Perhaps I'm out of place, but I do so because what effects one of us effects us all. That's the notion of solidarity. We are in this together. Even when it looks like we aren't. Solidarity is one of the four permanent principles of Catholic social teaching. It offers every one of us a starting place for asking the question, how do we uphold the dignity of the Tarahumara?

To learn of the Tarahumara, I highly recommend reading two things. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and this article in NatGeo.

To learn of the four permanent principles of Catholic social teaching, I recommend reading this post. If you really want to dive in, take a look at the Model of Catholic Social Teaching. (I wrote it and it's a bit of wandering egghead, but it will get you through the ideas and principles needed here). While the concepts are explicitly Catholic, they are universal (the meaning of catholic), and speak to the natural law we all share and are bound by.

The Tarahumara face the centuries old challenge of what happens when one culture collides with another. The typical pattern is some form of slavery, impoverishment, and loss of self reliance. It appears that is much the way things are headed for the Tarahumara now, with numerious pressures, legal and illegal, pressing in on them. But it doesn't have to be that way.

There is an answer. It's one we may have heard and perhaps discarded. Or the idea that follows that one. Or it's one yet to be thought. But in the end, it will be an idea that meets the rigorous tests of upholding the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity and thus upholding human dignity -- the dignity of all involved. Find that answer and we achieve something far more human than what is happening now.

The current proposal of tourism development clearly undermines human dignity, violating the principles of the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity (the encroaching roads can be argued to have done the same.

A proposal:

The first and most obvious idea is that the Mexican government declare the Copper Canyon a national treasure and the ancestral lands of the Rarámuri, giving it to them to manage, as they have done for centuries already. If they want tourism, let them do it their way. But it's not a reservation -- it's like a free and independent state. Government aid would have to be very carefully considered, as experience in the US shows us it creates a cycle of dependance that also undermines human dignity (see most if not all current reservations to see this cycle in action -- no people receive more government aid).

I'm guessing based on the very limited info I have on the Tarahumara, but their economy is based on korima: the trading of favors. Could that not happen on a societal level?

How does this proposal pass the tests?

It appears to pass the tests of upholding the Common Good.

Subsidiarity. We have to know what the Rarámuri think. If they approve the idea then we can continue in examine if it passes Subsidiarity (it appears to, as Governments role is limited only to protecting the fundamental rights of the Rarámuri).

Solidarity. This proposal appears to pass the test of Solidarity.

It seems to me we need a dialogue between and amongst the Tarahumara, the people surrounding them, including the Jesuit priests serving them, and others to learn more fully the situation and what is needed. The internet seems a perfect tool for such a fool-hearty endeavor.

What needs to happen to both refine and implement this proposal? Or is it as ill considered as the current, tourism proposal? Should it be tossed aside and we enter and facilitate dialogue with the people directly impacted? Input and action from you is needed. Please leave any ideas in the comments box.

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