After Victory in Brazil, Tarahumara Runners Call on Government for Safety and Food Justice

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Just a few days ago, the news that Tarahumara (or Rarámuri) runners had won medals in the first World Indigenous Games made headlines. Despite great adversity, these natural born athletes were able to succeed, and they were met with celebration and moral support from some newspapers and many people around the web. But unfortunately, unlike Hollywood movies where the big win means the end of the movie and a happily-ever-after ending, the Tarahumara people have to go back to a harsh reality that most of us can’t really imagine.

Mateo González was the “Tarahumaran revelation” of the competition. He took second place in the 8km 400 meter race, beating Silvino Cubesare by a few seconds, a fellow Tarahumara who has succeeded in some international tournaments. For González, it’s the first time he participates in a competition of this level, but despite the victory, this will most likely not be a game changer for him.

“It’s an honor to represent my Rarámuri people,” he said in an interview with Proceso upon his arrival at the Chihuahua airport. He also denounced the government neglect faced by the Tarahumara, asking authorities to help the Tarahumara people by promoting and funding more sports activities aimed at developing talent in the community. “More resources are also necessary to eat [and] so there’s not so much violence,” he added.

Mateo works in construction for low hourly wages. To make matters worse, he’s from a small town called Savarechi, which forms part of Carichí, a region suffering from drought and struggling with feudal-style caciques that have prevented the recognition of Tarahumaran land.

To evince just how out of touch the Mexican government is with the Tarahumara, turn to its total financial negligence of these natural-born athletes. The government gives few monetary resources and little infrastructural support for the indigenous group, who, despite being ignored by politicians, uplifts the Mexican people around the world.

Despite rampant corruption in Mexico, the government actually designates quite a bit of money to amateur sports. Since Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has reduced the budget by half since 2013 (it was $464 million dollars), it’s obvious that some of the money being spent could be delegated for this community. But this just goes to show the extent of the government’s apathy. The irony is that we all know how quickly Peña Nieto or some other politician would pose for a photo with a successful Tarahumara athlete in order to improve their image.

But like they say, talk is cheap. So unless there’s a drastic change, these legendary runners will continue to endure the harsh conditions of the world they were born in.