Tarahumara - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The basic unit of social organization is the household. Neighboring households cooperate in the performance of rituals and in work projects such as planting and harvesting maize. Sponsoring households usually serve maize beer in conjunction with such activities. Households also share an affiliation with a pueblo, an organizational unit established by Catholic missionaries in the Spanish colonial period. Tarahumara society is egalitarian. There are variations in the amount of land and livestock individuals own, but wealth does not translate into political power, and redistributive mechanisms preclude the development of class divisions. Men and women are regarded as complementary equals.

Political Organization. At Spanish contact, local elders directed the political affairs of their communities but apparently exercised little real power. Today, a hierarchical political organization introduced by the Spanish is found in each Tarahumara pueblo, but no overarching tribal organization links the different pueblos. All officials are men, who choose their successors subject to the approval of the other men of the pueblo. The Tarahumara also participate with their non-Indian neighbors in the local political organizations of the ejido and the Mexican government.

Social Control. Social control is achieved informally through shunning, gossip, and scolding. The pueblo's political officials, sometimes joined by local ejido and Mexican-government authorities, hold formai trials in cases of assault, theft, failure to pay debts, and spouse desertion, punishing offenders by scolding, fining, or jailing them. People who commit more serious crimes (e.g., murder) are turned over to government officials for trial and punishment.

Conflict. Overt violence occurs almost exclusively in drinking contexts, most frequently between spouses. Such conflicts are often forgotten, but if they persist the pueblo political officials sometimes intervene. Although tensions exist between the Tarahumara and their non-Indian neighbors, few violent confrontations have occurred in the twentieth century.


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