Entertainment

Netflix Doc Profiles The Daily Life Of Rarámuri Ultramarathon Runner Lorena Ramirez

Netflix has just released a short documentary that gives us an insight into the daily life of famous ultramarathon runner Lorena Ramirez, the indigenous woman who wins races wearing traditional dresses and huaraches. “Lorena, la de pies ligeros,” premiered on Netflix on Nov. 20, and we can’t get enough of it. While we are used to admiring Lorena at the finish line, for the first time ever, we get to meet her family, and see what her life is like at home, deep in the Sierra Madre mountains. Lorena is arguably the most famous member of the Rarámuri, a Mexican indigenous group lauded for their incredible long-distance running abilities. Directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo, the 28-minute documentary is complete with panoramic views of the Sierra Madre mountains, interviews with Lorena and her relatives, and spots of Lorena competing in international races with a delicate song in the background in her own tongue, whispering about the light of fireflies.

For all the lights and photographs a race brings Lorena, her home life is like any other traditional Rarámuri.

CREDIT: NETFLIX

The very word rarámuri means “light-footed,” and the Rarámuri have been calling themselves “light-footed” for centuries. The Rarámuri used to populate nearly all of Chihuahua, but many retreated to the high sierras and canyons once the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 16th century. Many were captured and used as slaves, but the Rarámuri fought back. The Spanish executed many leaders of the Rarámuri, but their resistance proved too much for the Spanish and their Jesuit missionaries, who abandoned their posts. 

Today, Lorena lives with her family in the Sierra Madre, and continues to practice indigenous customs, many of which include a lot of walking. “We’re always walking,” Lorena says. “We walk to La Ciénaga in Norogachi for groceries. It’s like three or four hours walking slowly. I’ve never used public transport to go buy groceries.” All that walking has made her one of the most famous ultramarathoners in the world. An ultramarathon is any race that exceeds 26.2 miles.

Lorena’s father, an ultramarathoner, brought her to her first race.

CREDIT: NETFLIX

According to her father, “One day, we realized our feet were good for running, and that we had this talent for running.” “The first time my father took me to Guachochi was to run a seven-mile race. I never thought I’d be a good runner, or that I’d win,” Lorena tells the documentary crew with a chuckle. “But yes, I won,” she says seriously.

“There’s no need for pressure,” her father says about her wins. “She doesn’t have to win every time. Sometimes it’s hard on the feet. It’s very painful.”

While some indigenous customs have made her an elite athlete, we learn that she’s tired of taking care of the animals.

“It was hard for me to go to school. It was a five-hour walk,” her brother says. “The girls were forced to stay home and take care of the animals.” As much as he wishes Lorena and his sisters could go to school, “it wasn’t possible.” So the family sends the boys to school, and the girls stay home to do domestic work. Now, when Lorena’s father asks her if she likes taking care of the goats, she says she’s usually so tired now, passing on the chore to her little sister, Juana.

Sometimes she runs with shorts, but she wears them under her skirt because, as she puts it, “I wouldn’t be Lorena without the skirt.”

CREDIT: NETFLIX

Winning ultramarathons is a source of income for Lorena and her family. “I always push myself to make the goal,” she says in the documentary. “It’s no game. I say to myself ‘Nearly there. It’s not much longer to the finish line.'” As often as her father says she likes to run for fun, Lorena tells us that she takes the races seriously. 

Running shoes just “don’t feel right” to Lorena.

CREDIT: NETFLIX

Lorena prefers her huaraches, what else can she say? As she opens up boxes of brand new top-of-the-line running shoes, she says with a smile, “I don’t think I’ll use them. The people that wear these shoes are always running behind me.” That said, she admits that her huaraches caused her problems during an ultramarathon that was impacted by flash flooding and cold temperatures. After running through several feet of water to the finish line, she tells us that her huaraches stiffened up in the cold and were bothering her. She still won.

“I’ll keep running for as long as I can, for as long as I have the strength,” Lorena says.

READ: This Mexican Woman Ran A 50 Km Race In Sandals And Beat The Odds

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

Things That Matter

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

ChilangoMX / Instagram

Like most countries that depend heavily on coal energy and on manufacturing to keep its productive wheels running, Mexico is deeply affected by the environmental damage that many industries cause. Added to local production, Mexico has also been the site of maquilas, factories set up by foreign investors who are lured by cheaper labour and by lax tax regimes, as well as by looser rules when it comes to environmental impact. Both industry and public opinion need to be better informed of the toxic hot spots in the country.

Mexico sits at an strategic political and commercial position, and industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Canada, whose companies have set shop in the other member of NAFTA, by far the most disadvantaged. 

The toxi-tour caravan will travel the country for ten days in total, December 2-11.

Participants include environmentalists and scientists from both Mexico and overseas. The objective is to raise awareness and to denounce the companies that cause most damage. Perhaps shaming is the first step towards change. Besides Mexicans, there are representatives from the United States, Europe and other Latin American Countries. 

The journey began in El Salto, Jalisco, where a polluted river has led to cancer and death.

Credit: Regeneración radio

In this site industrial pollution of the Santiago river has caused the death of more than a thousand people due to cancer and kidney failure. People from cities in the United States affected by pollution in places like Flint, Michigan, can surely relate. A river is generally a propeller for economic development and productive activity, as well as a source of an increasingly scarce commodity: water. However, this river is basically poisonous now and has brought death to those who live nearby. 

The caravan will visit sites were more than three million people have seen their health diminished by pollution.

Credit: Notimex

The rest of the Toxi-tour stops include Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato; Apaxco, México state; Atonilco de Tula, Hidalgo; Tlaxcala; Puebla; and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The journey will conclude in Mexico City on December 11. As you may lmow, Mexico City is deeply affected by high levels of pollution. Its high altitude and the fact that it is nested in a valley make it prone to elevated pollution levels that have damaged the upper respiratory tract in millions of its inhabitants.

In the photo we can see the cement manufacturing plant of Apaxco, which releases fine particles that have caused upper respiratory tract issues for both the workers and the people living near the factory. Imagine breathing grainy, minuscule cement dust day in, day out. Another big issue is the unlawful disposal of waste in landfills which end up pumping chemicals into the soil and rendering it sterile. 

The organizers have a pretty clear idea of who is to blame for the environmental crisis in these places.

As Mexico Daily News reports: “The Toxi-Tour will “denounce United States, Canadian, German, French, Spanish and Mexican companies” that cause environmental damage, said Andrés Barreda, a representative of the National Assembly of Environmental Victims, which organized the caravan.”

Yes, Mexican companies share the blame, but the fact that Global North companies have caused physical damage to the land and people of a previously colonized nation brings back memories of colonial times and trauma. So for these companies the lives of Global South countries are less valuable? It would appear that is the case. This is afforded of course, by corrupt authorities. The caravan will also get political and will engage local community leaders and people that have been affected or displaced by industry.

As Mexico News Daily reports: “In Tlaxcala on Friday, caravan members will learn about the community proposal to clean up the Atoyac–Zahuapan river basin, while on Saturday they will visit contaminated areas of Puebla city and speak with locals who have been dispossessed of their communal lands.”

Mexican history is a history of dispossession, and environmental violence is another way in which those in power have decimated the productive capabilities and future survival of communities that live and die by a deep attachment to the land and nature. 

Schools In Mexico’s Yucatan Have Made Mayan Language Classes A Requirement And Here’s Why That Matters

Culture

Schools In Mexico’s Yucatan Have Made Mayan Language Classes A Requirement And Here’s Why That Matters

Child-Aid.org

Sometimes there are big, big steps towards inclusivity in Latin America, a region that is still defined by colonial structures in which the indigenous is frowned upon and often looked down at. Indigenous languages, for example, are always at a clear and present danger of becoming extinct due to the imposition of Spanish (or Castillian, as people who speak other languages in then  Iberian Peninsula call it) as the main language and often the only way to be part of the productive force. However, the southern state of Yucatan is taking a big step towards acknowledgement of the original owners of a land that was never ceded. 

Schools in Yucatan have taken an important step towards real cultural inclusion and diversity.

The State Congress of Yucatan has just made it mandatory to have Mayan language instruction in primary and secondary schools. This is a great step towards true inclusivity in a state that has long benefited from Mayan culture when it comes to tourism and areas such as culinary tradition and art. According to census data, more than 570,000 people in Yucatan speak Mayan, so areas of the state are actually fully bilingual.

The census authority in Mexico has pointed out that the prevalence of Spanish has affected the numbers of people speaking Mayan. “Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the percentage of people that speak Mayan in the state has been decreasing constantly and drastically in recent years,” the agency INEGI warned, as reported by Mexico Daily News.

Change will not come quick, however, as reported by the same outlet: “One reason for going slowly might be a shortage of teachers. Education authorities said in September there was a shortage of bilingual — Spanish and Mayan — teachers. The state said it would attempt to remedy the situation by introducing a “seed group” of 20 primary-level bilingual teachers who would pass their skills on to at least another 40 teachers in a process that would fan out and prepare more teachers to help meet Mayan instruction goals”. 

Mestizo Mexicans have a contradictory relationship to the country’s rich indigenous past.

There is no denying that there is a systematic and everyday racism in Mexican society. From government programs that inadvertently look down on indigenous Mexicans to the actual word of “indio” being used as an insult in everyday vernacular, there are manifestations of this type of discrimination on a constant basis and oftentimes people are not often aware.

This is no doubt part of the colonial heritage in Mexico, particularly when we consider that there was actually a caste system in place with Europeans at the top and indigenous people at the bottom. This discrimination is alive and well, and can be seen in different facets of Mexican society.

At the same time, however, institutionally ancient civilizations, particularly the Maya and the Aztec, are seen as the foundation of the country and a source of pride. The history of these groups is taught in schools and when Mexicans travel abroad usually the first thing they brag about is the glorious indigenous past and how the Spanish destroyed it all. There is a sense of nationalism emanating from the past glory of these civilizations. Sadly, this doesn’t always translate into how indigenous communities are treated. That is why including Maya in the curriculum is a BFD! 

The Maya were amazing scientists, poets and overall a very advanced civilizations compared to their European counterparts at the time.

The Maya civilization was not only advanced in the material aspects of life such as irrigation and construction, but they also reached a very sophisticated level of conceptualization. For example, their number system included the zero, a feat that might seem very simple and almost banal, but that requires a high level of abstraction and a very high level of mathematical intelligence. They also had a deep understanding of astronomy and the ways in which the stars and the Earth’s rotation affect crops and daily life. Hey, maybe we can learn something from them in these times of climate change crisis.