Jan 21 - With rumours of spiralling Tarahumara suicides, emergency aid arrives for the isolated Mexican group struggling for food due to drought and a harsh winter. Marie-Claire Fennessy reports.
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS MATERIAL CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL High up here in Mexico's majestic Sierra Tarahumara many are going hungry. A devastating drought and unusually cold temperatures have ravaged crops leaving the Tarahumara indigenous people unable to feed themselves. (SOUNDBITE) TARAHUMARA, MAURO AGUIRRE SAYING(Spanish): "All crops have been lost because it doesn't rain. We expected it in August and September but it didn't rain." There are unconfirmed reports that as many as 50 have been driven to suicide, throwing themselves off the mountain tops. The government has sent emergency aid to the indigenous group, who were driven into the mountains by the Spanish 500 years ago. They live a largely isolated existence. In recent years, lumber, mining and tourist industries have forced them even deeper into the mountains. Mexico's Amnesty International head said their voices need to be heard. (SOUNDBITE) HEAD OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MEXICO, ALBERTO HERRERA SAYING(Spanish): "Indigenous communities need to have a particular voice that is heard in decisions regarding their own future. This is not resolved with donations or the aid that is required at this moment, I don't want to take away from the importance of this, but the problem is structural and that is resolved with the correct legislation, good public politics that listens to communities and justice that serves these communities." The Tarahumara are famous for being able walk incredible distances in one day. But this drought could be the greatest challenge yet for the people known nationally as a symbol of strength and endurance. Marie-Claire Fennessy, Reuters