front cover of In a Village Far from Home
In a Village Far from Home
My Years among the Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre
Catherine Palmer Finerty
University of Arizona Press, 2000

What do most career women do after a successful run on Madison Avenue? Catherine Finerty watched her friends settle into the country-club life. She opted instead for Mexico.

When the 60-year-old widow loaded up her car and headed south, what she found at the end of the road was far from what she expected. Finerty settled into a comfortable house just outside of Guadalajara and, although not a Catholic, she soon immersed herself in Franciscan volunteer work. It wasn't long before she found herself visiting small settlements hidden in the tropical mountains of western Mexico, and it was in Jesús María—so isolated that one could only get there by mule or small plane—that she found her new calling: the village nurse.

With its bugs and heat, no phones or running water, the tiny town was hardly a place to enjoy one's retirement years, but Finerty was quickly charmed by the community of Cora Indians and mestizos. Armed with modest supplies, a couple of textbooks, and common sense, she found herself delivering first aid, advising on public health, and administering injections. And in a place where people still believed in the power of shamans, providing health care sometimes required giving in to the magical belief that a hypodermic needle could cure anything.

Finerty's account of her eight years in Jesús María is both a compelling story of nursing under adverse conditions and a loving portrait of a people and their ways. She shares the joys and sorrows of this isolated world: religious festivals and rites of passage; the tragedy of illness and death in a place where people still rely on one another as much as medicine; a flash flood that causes such havoc that even less-than-pious village men attend Mass daily. And she introduces a cast of characters not unlike those in a novel: Padre Domingo and his airborne medical practice; the local bishop, who frowns on Finerty's slacks; Chela, a mestiza from whom she rents her modest two-room house (complete with scorpions); and the young Cora Indian woman Chuy, from whom she gains insight into her new neighbors.

Blending memoir and travel writing, In a Village Far from Home takes readers deep into the Sierra Madre to reveal its true treasure: the soul of a people.


front cover of In the Sierra Madre
In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Biggers
University of Illinois Press, 2006

A stunning history of legendary treasure seekers and enigmatic natives in Mexico's Copper Canyon

Based on his one-year sojourn in Copper Canyon among the Raramuri/Tarahumara, award-winning journalist Jeff Biggers offers a rare look into the ways of the most resilient indigenous culture in the Americas, the exploits of Mexican mountaineers, and the fascinating parade of argonauts and accidental travelers who have journeyed into the Sierra Madre over centuries. From African explorers, Bohemian friars, Confederate and Irish war deserters, French poets, Boer and Russian commandos, Apache and Mennonite communities, bewildered archaeologists, addled writers, and legendary characters including Antonin Artaud, Henry Flipper, B. Traven, Sergei Eisenstein, George Patton, Geronimo, and Pancho Villa, Biggers uncovers the remarkable treasures of the Sierra Madre.

front cover of The Silver of the Sierra Madre
The Silver of the Sierra Madre
John Robinson, Boss Shepherd, and the People of the Canyons
John Mason Hart
University of Arizona Press, 2008
In the great barranca known today as Copper Canyon, the small mining town of Batopilas once experienced a silver bonanza among the largest ever known. American investors, believing that Mexico offered an unexploited cornucopia, began purchasing mines in the Sierra Madre, seeking to expand their hold on natural resources outside U.S. borders. From 1861 until the Revolution of 1910, the men of the Batopilas Mining Company ruled the region using their wealth, armed might, and extensive connections. The technology, industrialism, and politics their interests brought to this remote community tied the Tarahumara, Yaqui, Mayo, and other peoples of the barrancas directly to the economies of the United States and China. Local society was revolutionized, and a dramatic tapestry of human interactions was created. Based on many volumes of mining company records, The Silver of the Sierra Madre exposes the mentality and methods of mine owners John Robinson and Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, vividly detailing their exploitation of the people and the natural resources of Chihuahua. Hart aptly demonstrates the human and financial losses resulting from President Porfirio Díaz’s development programs, which relied on foreign investors, foreign managers, and foreign technology. This unprecedented work also provides a highly interesting ethnographic and social description of one of the least-known areas of Mexico. It is a tale of power and desperation, respect and arrogance, adventure and tragedy, and, ultimately, triumph and survival.

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