2022-08-01 MEXICO

Marist mission and vocation among the indigenous people of Tarahumara

Following the teachings of Marcellin Champagnat, to “educate and love”, the Marists of the Mexico Occidental Province promote the mission among the indigenous children and youth of the Tarahumara community, in Chihuahua, Mexico. The Marist brothers arrived in the Sierra Tarahumara in 1961 to take charge of a boarding school for native primary school children. And since then, they have promoted education and support for the ‘local children and youth,’ through their presence, volunteering and the work of lay Marists, such as María Marcelina Bustillos Romero, a Tarahumara teacher, who is in charge of the Marist boarding school. Next, we present a part of her testimony, which tells us about her Marist vocation.

Marcelino has accompanied my life

I got to know the Marist Brothers, thanks to my maternal grandfather who was called Juan Bautista Romero, who said that “he had met new friends in 1976”. At first, when the Brothers arrived in Norogachi, they were not accepted or well received by the Rarámuri, because previously they did not want the mestizos. At that time my grandfather was Siríame (traditional indigenous Governor of the community). They appeared together with the authorities and they shared the work they wanted to do, talk about God, help the sick, teach people to read and write. Therefore, my grandfather began to give them the opportunity to do their activities, and he asked the Rarámuri people to let them work and see how they did it.

I was a student of the religious of Norogachi when I was little girl. I remember Brother Agustín Navarro, who was my teacher in fifth grade and Brother Joaquín Barba in sixth grade, from both of them I learned more about Marcelino, especially the ‘service’, and it is about this that his first Marist friends spoke to my grandfather. And then I understood the origin of my name (Marcelina), in honor of the first Marists who gave their lives serving in Tarahumara and with the help of my grandfather they served the community.

In 2010 I was elected Indigenous Governor, the highest authority that we call Siríame, one of those responsible was Brother Carlos Preciado, he always told me “It would be nice if you served and helped your community like Siríame when you grow up.” He always gave me advice and encouraged me to do things in the best way, and I was the first woman in Tarahumara to hold the position.

With the passage of time, it was Brother Carlos himself who invited me to help and accompany the young people when I handed over the position of Indigenous Governor, I was not prepared to help the young people, I had studied nursing, but not education, however Seeing the need of my people moved me to accept and I started working with the Marists, as head of the boarding school.

This is something of how Marcellin has accompanied my life, but for me the most important thing is that the Brothers continue to have experiences like Marcellin’s in order to be close to young people, to be able to accompany them because they need them, especially with the boarding school and the schools that help a lot with education in the Sierra. For me it is very important to rescue all the value and work that Marcelino did, because although he was not a Rarámuri, his life and heart are very similar, he was poor like us, he served his people in the field and had faith in God and a great love for Mary Our Good Mother, which inspired him to guide the young.

Today more than ever, we must continue sowing and fighting as Marists for a Sierra without violence, in peace and with great hope that it can be achieved through education.

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