Unfortunately, the trail was so good that the Mexican government eventually decided to slick itwith asphalt and turn it into a road. Trucks began showing up in Yerbabuena, and in them, foodsthe Tarahumara had rarely eaten—soda, chocolate, rice, sugar, butter, flour. The people ofYerbabuena developed a taste for starch and treats, but they needed money to buy them, so insteadof working their own fields, they began hitching rides to Guachochi, where they worked asdishwashers and day laborers, or selling junk crafts at the train station in Divisadero.
“That was twenty years ago,” ángel said. “Now, there are no runners in Yerbabuena.”
The Yerbabuena story really scares ángel, because now there’s talk that the government has founda way to run a road along the canyon floor and right into this settlement. Why they would put aroad in here, ángel doesn’t have a clue; the Tarahumara don’t want it, and they’re the only oneswho live here. Only drug lords and illegal loggers benefit from Copper Canyon roads, whichmakes the Mexican government’s obsession with backcountry road-building rather bewildering—or, considering how many soldiers and politicians are linked to the drug trade, rather not.
“That’s exactly what Lumholtz was afraid would happen,” I thought to myself. A century ago, thefarseeing explorer was already warning that the Tarahumara were in danger of disappearing.
“Future generations will not find any other record of the Tarahumares than what scientists of thepresent age can elicit from the lips of the people and from the study of their implements andcustoms,” he predicted. “They stand out to-day as an interesting relic of a time long gone by; as arepresentative of one of the most important stages in the development of the human race; as one ofthose wonderful the founders and makers of the history of mankind.”
“There Rarámuri who don’t respect our traditions as much as Caballo Blanco,” ángellamented. “(are) El Caballo sabe—the Horse gets it.”
I slumped against the wall of ángel’s schoolhouse, my legs twitching and head pounding fromexhaustion. It had been grueling enough to get this far, and now it looked like the hunt had justbegun.
Chapter 6
“WHAT A CON JOB.”

Salvador and I set off the next morning, racing the sun to the rim of the canyon. Salvador set abrutal pace, often ignoring switchbacks and using his hands to scrabble straight up the cliff facelike a convict scaling a prison wall. I did my best to keep up, despite my growing certainty thatwe’d just been tricked.