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The Copper Canyon Missions

The Copper Canyon Missions

The first recorded expedition was Francisco de Ibarra in 1565. The first Jesuit Catalan Joan de Fost in 1604, entered the hills to the Rio Papigochi valley, but was killed in an Indian rebellion in 1616. In 1622 Italian Father Pier Gian Custani, made the first baptisms. In 1640 another rebellion closed the missions for 40 years. Most of the existing mission churches were built in the 1700’s.

The forced imposition of western culture brought resistance, and many rebellions in the 16th and 17th centuries. Later, in the 19th century, it was the Apaches who raided the missions. More recently, the Jesuits were expelled for political reasons. Mission occupation by Europeans was spotty, and records of the dozens of sierra missions is incomplete or lost. Meantime, the Tarahumara added some catholic beliefs to their cosmology, and adapted some rituals. For centuries, they’ve used the missions as their own to commune with tata díos in their own way. The modern Jesuits attend these remote missions where possible, and deeply respect and support Tarahumara culture.

Sierra Exif JPEG

Poke around these missions but be careful…these are un-restored ruins!

A couple of years ago at the church in Batopilas, across from the Riverside Lodge, a cow went up the front steps, down the aisle, behind the altar to the secretary’s office. By morning the cow had eaten two centuries of baptismal records.