REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's Tarahumara Indians, legendary for their endurance in long-distance running, are reeling from a devastating food shortage caused by a record freeze and long drought, officials say.
The Mexican Red Cross and regional and federal government agencies mobilized Monday to send emergency supplies to the mountains in the northern state of Chihuahua, where the Tarahumara live, usually in rudimentary conditions.
Part of the outpouring of help came after reports circulated of the mass suicide of 50 or more members of the community, desperate and despondent over not being able to feed their families. The reports of suicide were quickly denied by state government officials (link in Spanish).
But the hunger is real.
Even in the best of times, the Tarahumara live on the sustenance farming of corn and beans. Parts of Chihuahua, however, have endured for months the most severe drought in 70 years and, more recently, a hard freeze.
The Red Cross said it was delivering 220 tons of food and aid, plus 10,000 pieces of heavy clothing. The national government through its social development agency and the office of the mayor of Mexico City were sending money, blankets and thousands of food packages, many donated by citizens (links in Spanish).
Six people from the Tarahumara community have died of malnutrition in recent weeks, the peasant organization El Barzon told La Jornada newspaper (link in Spanish).
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Tarahumara Indians peddle goods along the railway that connects Los Mochis to Chihuahua, Mexico, on Nov. 9. Credit: Lisa J. Adams / Associated Press