Members of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indian tribe are known for their running endurance, agility, and kind nature. Many of the men still dress traditionally in handmade sandals, loincloths, and colorful tunics. They live in the challenging terrain of the Sierra Madre mountains, which has recently been plagued by the worst drought in 70 years—causing an impoverished people to struggle even more.
The combination of their unique running ability and their economic challenges makes them a prime target for drug lords searching for mules to smuggle narcotics into the United States. A Tarahumara willing to make the harsh trek across the border into the New Mexico desert with a 50-pound pack of marijuana on his back could be promised several hundred dollars—sometimes more than a year’s wages. In addition to enticing them with potential income, some drug barons have forcibly occupied Tarahumara land for their own uses.
Sinforosa Canyon (pictured here), near the town of Guachochi, is used by drug traffickers to grow opium and marijuana. Jason Florio, on assignment for Newsweek, photographed the Tarahumara.