“Mexico’s Tarahumara — Running Out of Time,” a screening and talk by Richard and Dud Hendrick, will be presented Wednesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. The evening is part of a monthly series sponsored by the Peace and Justice Group of Waldo County.

High on the plateaus and deep in the Canyons of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental live a group of indigenous people as unassimilated as any in the Americas. The Rarámuri are known more widely as the Tarahumara (likely a Spanish misapprehension of their name) and as the people who inspired a shoe fad because they can run great distances barefoot.

The Rarámuri have lived in what is now the state of Chihuahua for at least 2,000 years.  They once inhabited a much wider area but fled to the hills to escape slavery in the mines and slavery of the mind at the hands of Conquistadores and missionaries. As with many indigenous people, some Rarámuri have migrated to the city but the majority, perhaps 50,000 or more (enough so the area where they are concentrated is known as the Sierra Tarahumara), still live lives substantially indistinguishable from pre-Hispanic times. They reside in rudimentary stone and wood shelters and sometimes in caves, tending subsistence fields of corn, beans and squash; raising cows, chickens and goats; and hunting small game and fish. Most speak only Rarámuri.

Their religious beliefs have been colored, not overwhelmed, by Christian teachings. Their culture is notably egalitarian and peaceful but under severe pressure, not just from the sometimes cruel vicissitudes (and now threatening backlash) of climate but also from the Chobochis, their name for non-Rarámuri.  Illegal loggers are destroying their resource base as well as the unequaled biodiversity of the Sierra Madre; where loggers have clear-cut, Narco cartels bribe or force the Rarámuri to join the drug trade, growing marijuana and poppy — those who resist are threatened and often killed.

Filmmaker Richard Hendrick’s project began eight years ago when the most revered Owirúame or shaman in the extremely remote community of Choréachi felt he was ready to die and wanted to record his final words. Don Agustín Ramos was said to be more than 100 years old. Hendrick videotaped him, mostly in dialogue with his grown grandson, Prudencio, over a period of several days. Don Agustín died shortly after he was recorded. The film was finally translated, edited and presented to the Rarámuri community.

Hendrick and his brother, a local peace activist, will speak about these remarkable people and this special project. Their presentation will include both photographs and video material. A discussion will follow the film. There is no cost, but donations will be accepted. For more information, call 348-2511.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.