Written in the Late 1990’s…..
In 1984, Mark Brady, a businessman, from Flower Hill in Navan,
was on holidays in the United States. He decided to take a
train south into Mexico. On that journey he saw for the first
time, from the train, a group of people who were to become
very important in his life – the Tarahumara Indians. Little
did Mark realise, at that time. that he would eventually end
up living among these people for six months every year or
that each year he would return to Navan to raise funds for
In the beginning, Mark returned to the Sierra Madre Mountains
on holidays each year. He learned more and more about these
simplistic people and began to understand their culture and
traditions. But the poverty and lack of development in the
area soon made him realise that he could, perhaps, do something
to help them. After a few years Mark began to help the people
and in the last ten years he decided to raise funds for the
Tarahumara, spending half the year raising money and the other
half working with the Indians.
WHERE DO THE TARAHUMARA LIVE
The Sierra Madre are the main mountain range of Mexico. They
are fold mountains, formed, when the Pacific Plate and the
American plates collided. They rise to a height of 5,700 metres
(13,000 feet) and have many volcanoes, the most important
of which is Popocateptl, which last erupted in 1920.
In the north west of these mountains lies the state of Chihuhua,
the largest state of Mexico. It is in this area that Mark
lives and works among the Tarahumara Indians. The mountains
are high and generally inaccessible, apart from the railway
line running through, bringing tourists who want to see the
magnificent scenery. The environment is harsh and rocky. The
summers are hot, too hot for people used to air conditioning.
Temperatures on the mountain reach 100 degrees fahrenheit
and in the valleys, 120 degrees is common.
This is during the summer. In Winter, despite the fact that
the region is just north of the Tropic of Cancer, temperatures
plummet, minus 25 degrees is common during the night hours.
Life in these harsh conditions would be
very difficult for most of us, even with air conditioning in
summer and central heating in winter. But the Tarahumara have
no such luxuries. They live in caves or in shacks made from
trees or adobe blocks, which are exposed to the elements. In
fact, it is the cave dwellers who have a more comfortable existence!
if you can call it that. The caves are natural, not man made
and temperatures inside remain constant throughout the year.
They are an agricultural people, farming the land. They live
at a subsistence level, it is difficult if not impossible to
make a living from the poor barren soil. For the last five years
drought has hit the region. The rains, which should come in
July each year, have failed. The rivers have dried up. Water,
essential for growing crops is in short supply. Mark provides
many of the people in the area with basic food supplies, like
beans and maize, their staple diet. He also provides sugar and
salt and many other necessities. Without this help, many would
They are a forgotten people, living in isolation from the rest
of the world. Most have never seen the outside world; they know
little about it anyway. They have no electricity or running
water; television, which would make them more aware of other
cultures is unknown to them. Mark is the only “white man”
they know. It is almost forgotten by the government; It has
no riches, so it is almost ignored.
Some 80,000 Tarahumara live in an area the size of Ireland.
Mark cannot help them all, but he helps those he can. In an
area where the birth rate is high, so too is infant mortality.
Many children die before the age of five. For those who survive,
Mark is building school classrooms, hoping that an education
may make life easier for some children. Most children in the
area receive no education; even if schools were available, many
would be kept at home to help in the fields. In 1999, Mark began
a sports programme and hopes to hold his 5th annual sports project
in October 2003. Sports come naturally to these children. The
tribe are known as ‘fleet footed Indians’ – they are capable
of running very long distances very quickly.
One of the main things Mark brings back to Mexico every year
is medicines. There are no local hospitals or clinics – sometimes
the survival of a child can Depend on the simple medicines Mark
brings back from Navan. He has established what almost amounts
to a local industry, in the form of making sandals -sandals
so the children can walk comfortably to school. Old tyres are
collected and used to make these shoes. If you see Mark down
in Navan Shopping Centre look at his feet; the sandals he wears
are made from these old tyres.
Money collected in Navan also goes towards basic essentials
for the people. Things like soap and blankets to keep them clean
and warm, essential especially for babies and young children.
With no running water, it is people to observe even the basics
of hygiene, which would prolong their lives. But even in this
area Mark is making a difference. With the money he raises,
he has employed engineers to bring a water supply down from
the mountains. Pipes are run from the mountains, where water
is available, three or four miles away, down to the valley,
where a pump is available for people to make use of.