Mexican Drug War’s Next Victims: Tarahumara Indian Runners – The Daily Beast

* Note: This is infuriating.
Camilo Villegas-Cruz is wistful when he talks about happier times, running in the shadowy depths of Sinforosa Canyon, in Mexico’s lawless Sierra Madre. A member of the Tarahumara Indian tribe, renowned for their agility and running endurance, Villegas-Cruz grew up competing in traditional rarajipari races, in which contestants kick a wooden ball along a rocky trail. But by the time he was 18 years old, he was running an entirely different kind of race—hauling a 50-pound backpack of marijuana across the border into the New Mexico desert.

Today, Villegas-Cruz is 21 and languishing in a U.S. federal prison near the Mojave Desert in Adelanto, Calif.

Villegas-Cruz’s unlikely journey from young athlete to drug mule shows how a little-known tribe, having been catapulted into the limelight by a runaway bestseller, is being ground down by forces out of its control, including Mexico’s all-consuming drug war, a disastrous economy, and an unrelenting drought.

In their native language, Villegas-Cruz’s people call themselves the Rarámuri—the light-footed ones. Their unique physical abilities were largely unknown to the outside world until 2009, when the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen made them famous. “When it comes to ultradistances,” author Christopher McDougall wrote, “nothing can beat a Tarahumara runner—not a racehorse, not a cheetah, not an Olympic marathoner.” Among the characters in the book was a Tarahumara champion who once ran 435 miles, and another who won a 100-mile ultramarathon in Leadville, Colo., with almost casual ease. McDougall described the reclusive Tarahumara as “the kindest, happiest people on the planet,” and “benign as Bodhisattvas.”

The central message—that nature intended human beings to run—struck a chord in the United States, where Born to Run had a staggering impact on the amateur-running world (and on the $2.3 billion per year running-shoe business). The book triggered the barefoot running rage, including popular “foot gloves” that are as close as you can get to not wearing shoes at all.

But there’s a painful twist to this otherwise uplifting tale. According to defense lawyers, law-enforcement sources, and some Tarahumara Indians, 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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: Mexican Drug War’s Next Victims: Tarahumara Indian Runners – The Daily Beast.

About Kurly Tlapoyawa (1010 Articles)

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