“Everything in Mexico is changeable...” says The California Native literature. So, on my first trip as a guide in Copper Canyon, I should have been more prepared, that Christmas Eve, for the unexpected foot of snow that fell just before we arrived at the Paraiso del Oso Lodge, nestled in a small valley not far from the village of Cerocahui.
The owner, Doug “Diego” Rhodes, greeted us then rushed off
to join the State Police on a mission to rescue an isolated Tarahumara
family, returning just before “margarita” time with four
little boys, their older sister, and a 2-year-old in tow, all wearing
the traditional rubber-tire-soled sandals. Doug explained that their
mother had died that summer and their father had just returned from several
months in the hospital.
Every Christmas, we let our group-members know about the party that Doug
hosts for the local Tarahumara children and the need for warm clothes
and gifts, and this evening, bags of donated items filled the lodge’s
Doug’s wife, Ana Maria, and her staff bathed and dressed the children
who came down to supper a little dazed, but sparkling clean and warmly
dressed. Then we all sang Christmas carols in English and Spanish and
had a truly festive Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, we were scheduled to visit the town of Urique, at the
bottom of the canyon, but the snow and ice made the dirt roads impassible,
so instead, we spent the day celebrating the holiday at the Paraiso del
Oso. We stuffed piñatas with candy for the 20 children now at
the ranch. The Tarahumara boys and girls all took turns whacking piñatas.
As candy poured out, the children grabbed it up with glee. Afterwards,
they lined up to pick a gift from under the tree. Felipe, a quadriplegic
Tarahumara who was staying at the ranch for Christmas with his children,
watched from the sofa, snapping his young daughter’s photo as she
ran to show him her prized toy.
Although our group missed the views of the Urique Canyon, we more than
made up for it by spending Christmas the way the holiday is meant to
be celebrated—surrounded by happy children, good food and celebration.
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