Saturday, April 22, 2006

A friend of mine recently went on a tour of Copper Canyon where the elusive Tarahumara Indians make their home. The tour organizer arranged for a dialogue between two Tarahumara women and the American tourists. They exchanged questions. The Tarahumara women wanted to know what American women plant in their gardens and what animals they tend to. They also wanted to know how American women deliver their babies.

One of the Tarahumara women had a baby with her which led one of the American women to ask: what is your hope for your daughter? The Spanish translator tried to translate the word "hope" several times but he couldn't make the Tarahumara women understand the question.

Does this mean that the Tarahumara women don't have hope for their children? I don't think so. I think it's because "hope" is an abstract concept that may or may not translate into the language of the Tarahumara.

My friend and I agreed that when Americans articulate their "hope" for their children, they are referencing cultural norms that point to notions of ambition and success based on material wealth as indicator of quality of life: a college education, a house in the suburb, a nuclear family, salaried employment. Then my friend said that the Tarahumara leave very small ecological footprints by their sustainable way of life but she also said that with the money they make from the baskets sold to tourists, many are buying radios and batteries for their radios -- a sign, perhaps, of the beginning of the end of their way of life.

What do I hope for my grandson? Is there any way of changing the cultural referents of this hope? And if I could, what would these be?

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