Natividad Urias Delgado, better known as Doņa Nati, lives in Huicorachi[i], just a few hundred feet from ruins of the stone house she was born in roughly 60 years ago as of this writing (2003). Like many elderly people in this region, her memory serves as the only record of her birth and she has mixed blood, her father being Mestizo and her mother Tarahumara. Although very bright, schooling was not an option in her life and she remains unable to read or write.
Shortly after her birth, Doņa Natis parents returned to goat herding and she lived in a series of caves to be near the herds. One of the latter caves she lived in is on a bluff, high above Arroyo Hondo. It has some recent cave art and some that appears to be much older. A cherry tomato plant continues to grow there after 15-20 years. When she was about 4 years old, her family was living in a small cave under a large boulder, just above where the swinging bridge has recently been built in Arroyo Hondo. She recalls climbing up a huge cliff but, as is often the case with childhood memories, the drop was only a few feet high when she returned for a visit as an adult.
During her youth, she frequently visited her Grandparents, Inez Urias and his wife Emilia, who lived in the ranch house on the hill in front of the Hotel Paraiso del Oso. About this same time, her Tarahumara Uncle Rosario Delgado was using a bow to hunt deer. She recalls that the arrows were made out of ocote (fatwood), had no separate point, and were heavy.
When she was 15, this same Uncle taught her how to deliver babies and she helped her cousin when she gave birth. Considered a partera (midwife), Doņa Nati has now attended to 10 births. Her Uncle taught her that the first and most important thing in birthing is to make certain the face is clean with the mouth unobstructed and the baby breathing. Next is to measure four finger widths from the babys abdomen and tie off the umbilical cord with a piece of cloth from a headscarf. Tie another piece around the cord on the mothers side and cut the cord with a knife or scissors. Doņa Nati recalls that there was no concept of sanitation and blades were often dirty and rusty.
Her Uncle also taught her how to take care of goats and when to tumbar (literally to fall or cut) oak trees. So that they last many years without rotting or becoming worm-infested, they should be felled in January or February, preferably when the moon is full. Wood cut in June or July quickly rots.
Eventually Doņa Nati married[ii] and lived with her husband many years at Manzano, a small ranch on a Cuiteco arroyo (stream) ford above Cave of the Dragons. They built the ranch buildings that still stand. As frequently happens, her husband took up with a younger woman and Doņa Nati returned to Huicorachi on 8 September 1971. The following year, her son, Mauricio was born on the first of March
Shortly thereafter Doņa Nati went to work at the Cabaņas de Urique in La Mesa de Arturo. It was here and working in kitchens in Creel where she learned the cleanliness that sets her apart from many other ranch women. She worked five years in La Mesa and was responsible for all the rooms at the hotel. She remembers how hard the work was, especially washing the bedding by hand and ironing the sheets with a sad iron or plancha de leņa[iii] . She recalls earning 30 pesos daily while other workers only earned 15.
Today Doņa Nati earns most of her money sewing for other people on a machine she bought while working at La Mesa. It is an old hand-cranked International brand that she bought for 30 centavos. The seller was a man known as Gordo (Fat man) who was originally from Oaxaca and brought many similar machines to the mountains to sell.
Tragedy struck Doņa Natis life in 1986 when a group of undisciplined soldiers raped her daughter leaving her pregnant and mentally scarred for life. About this same time soldiers were sexually assaulting Tarahumara women throughout the region, sometimes tying their husbands to posts and making them watch. According to Doņa Nati, this abuse prompted the formation of human rights programs that are now protecting people throughout Mexico.
In 1993 (?) Tom Scharman, an American health promoter living in Urique, arranged for Doņa Nati to travel to New Mexico where she participated in several crafts shows and seminars. A health promoter, she spent some time with a bilingual doctor who further trained her in health care and first aid.
Doņa Nati lives with her granddaughter in her adobe house behind the Huicorachi elementary school. She continues to sew for a living and is also in charge of the local health clinic, which is visited by the brigada[iv] on a monthly basis. Doņa Nati welcomes visitors into her home and is a wealth of information on the region and on oral history, the small fee (50 pesos per tent) for camping on her property is well worth it.
[i] According to Doņa Nati, Huicorachi means the same as Los Terreros, a place where earth was removed, in many cases for the making of adobe blocks.
[ii] Marriage is frequently not a formal affair in the mountains. Simply moving in with another person qualifies as marriage.
[iii] Plancha de llena or sad iron in English is a heavy iron heated on a wood stove, these irons are still being sold and are used in remote ranchitos where there is no electricity. Until recently we still used them in our home--Doug
[iv]The brigada consists of a doctor and one or two assistants, they drive 4WD Pickups equipped with medical supplies and visit remote villages which would otherwise have no medical care.
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