The Barranca del Cobre – Copper Canyon
State of Chihuahua, Mexico 2007
30 “ length x 1” height, ground maize, 13 Raramuri dolls

One hundred million years ago a huge plateau arose in an area that is now part of northern Mexico. Seventy million years passed before volcanoes erupted and flooded the plateau with molten rock. Rivers then sliced this lava-covered plateau into deep twisting canyons - the largest area of canyons in North America.

At the interface between the volcanic layers and the old plateau are rich mineral deposits. The depth of the canyons exposes this interface creating veins of gold, silver, and an abundance of copper ore form which it derives it name.

The Barranca del Cobre or the Copper Canyon is actually a series of 20 rugged canyons of a deep copper color spanning over 25,000 square kilometers whose depth goes from 7000 ft to 1000 ft. It is a dramatic and forbidding landscape of ups and downs, rock and cliff sides and brought to life by the Raramuri people also called the Tarahumara.

The vast ruggedness of the countryside has kept the Raramuri, and the wild canyons themselves insulated from the influences of modern society. Today the Raramuri are known as the last free living people of North America. They migrate throughout the canyons living in caves throughout the winter and moving into communal communities living in cabins to grow crops in the summer. They believe everything belongs to everyone, private property does not exist and all food and housing is shared.

Catholicism has only slightly teased the Raramuri who happen to like some of the Catholic rituals particularly the concept of the resurrection ... a freedom of sorts that they relate to. They continue to practice there own traditional religion which is characterized by a belief that the afterlife is a mirror image of the mortal life and that good deeds be performed not for spiritual reward but for the improvement of life on earth.

Raramuri means light of foot for they are known to be amazing runners; some say they can run for up to 250 km at a stint. They are especially sure footed in the canyons which are constantly changing land forms due to rain that can soften cliff edges and create new ones. The Raramuri are truly the real wealth that runs through the veins of this great territory.

The Raramuri do not like to be photographed and also hold a great respect for the canyon. Due to this notion and the ecological fragility of the canyons we chose to find materials that directly connect to the Raramuri and eco-friendly. We saw the dolls that they create as vessels of identity which today is also used as an economical commodity for their survival. The dolls are primarily a one inch stick with slight features of face and feet carved which are wrapped in the colorful fabrics woven by the Raramuri. Choice of site was a vein that ran along one of the copper cliffs about 6500 ft into one of the canyon walls. We lined the vein with ground Maize, an important sustenance of the Raramuri. Thirteen dolls traversed the vein. History of the tribe suggests that it was their escape into the canyons that made for their survival and why they are relatively unchanged even today by outside influence.

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