I boarded the El Chepe (Chihuahua-Pacific Railway) train prepared for a life-changing experience. I was inspired by my Mexican compadre’s stories and it was finally my turn to encounter Mexico’s Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon).
The Copper Canyon is an isolated territory of the independent Tarahumara (or Rarámuri) Indios, reputably the world’s fastest runners. Despite numerous attempts to overcome the Tarahumara’s over the past several centuries, they have managed to maintain their culture and customs, believed to be the oldest surviving on the North American content.
El Chepe passes through 89 ‘dark’ tunnels and crosses 39 bridges perched precariously above towering cliffs through a group of 6 canyons carved into the magnificent Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range – notably larger, and some expanses deeper, than Arizona’s famed Grand Canyon.
My attention focused on a local miner’s expression of awe and respect – similar to the tourists aboard the train. It was as if he was contemplating the majestic vista for the first time. I found out the miners make 4 times the average local salary working for a Canadian mining company but will never lay their hands on a ‘pepite d’oro’ – gold nugget.
At the place where an inspirational mountain setting effortlessly transforms into a picturesque conifer-studded meadow intersected by a river, I hitch a ride to Cerocahui. Cerocahui is a small village, well off-the-beaten-track where residents carry out daily rituals on foot or astride horseback.
In spite of being captivated by the village’s natural beauty, I discovered that the children begin doing laundry and preparing meals at age 6. They are rewarded with a basic education from the ‘religious ones’ to help their family climb the ‘social ladder’.
After a stop at the remote Urique Canyon I head off to Copper Canyon – an unforgettable sight. Next stop Creel. Several formations of straight rocks, some of them being nearly 80’ high, create Creel’s strange landscape. In Creel I acquaint myself with the Valley of the Monks, also known as the Valley of the Mushrooms.
The Copper Canyon is diverse and fascinating. Incredibly, it occasionally snows at high elevations during January and February, but due to the Pacific’s sub-tropical climate you can expect to dine on fresh seafood.
All Photographs Are © Julien Leveau
Julien Leveau Photographer Bio
Julien Leveau is an international photo-journalist / wedding photographer with a passion for native cultures. His world travels led him to Puerto Vallarta – a place where he arrived and has never left. His work is exhibited in numerous fine art galleries in France and Mexico and several of Julien’s architectural photos are in the collections of luxury resorts all over the Mexican Republic. Julien captures the true essence of all subjects and situations he comes in contact with, and has a particular fascination with lightning storms.
Blog / Website: Arcenciel Studio