"Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre" Opens March 31

Long Distance Runners of Mexico Are the Subject of a New Photography Exhibition
Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre
March 31 through September 30, 2012 at the Penn Museum

Run!PHILADELPHIA, PA—Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre, a new exhibition of 30 contemporary color photographs by Diana Molina, opens at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia March 31 through September 30, 2012.

Photo by Diana Molina

In conjunction with the exhibition, Christopher McDougall, author of the national best-selling book and epic adventure, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (2009), offers a public talk and book-signing at the Museum’s Annual Petersen Lecture onWednesday, April 11 at 6:00 pm. ($5 admission; free for Penn Museum members.)

Considered to be the world’s greatest long-distance runners, the Tarahumara people live in a remote region of Chihuahua, Mexico.  They call themselves “Rarámuri,” the Uto-Aztecan word for “foot runner,” and for them, running is not a hobby, but a way of life. Living within the deep canyons of the Sierra Madre mountain range, the simplest mode of transportation is by foot, and running competitions are rooted in tradition. Races are often day-long events that can exceed 100 miles.

Although known as barefoot runners, the Rarámuri run today in homemade sandals made of tires that protect the soles of their feet. Their running style of striking with their toe, as opposed to the heel, is natural for barefoot runners.

Today, a host of pressures, including environmental issues, displacement, and drug wars, face the Rarámuri people. In 2001, the Copper Canyon Ultra-marathon, set in the heartland of the Sierra Madre mountain range, was founded by Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco) to celebrate and help protect the endangered Rarámuri way of life. In 2011, 230 Rarámuri and 40 international runners participated in the grueling race, covering 47 miles of remote, mountainous terrain.

Texas-born photo-journalist Diana Molina has documented the Sierra Madre and its people for almost two decades; more than half the photographs in the new exhibition were taken at an Ultra-Marathon there in March 2011, and many of the remaining images were taken in the 1990s. She has lived among the Rarámuri people in northern Mexico documenting customs, community, and politics. Her photographs have appeared in exhibitions nationally and internationally, including at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Texas; the Albuquerque Museum of Natural History and Science, New Mexico; and the World Museum of Art in Rotterdam, Holland. "Rarámuri, the Footrunners of the Sierra Madre," her original exhibition about the Rarámuri, is currently showing at the Centennial Museum, University of Texas, El Paso, through May 5, 2012.

Photo by Diana Molina, March 2011.In addition to the contemporary photographs, the exhibition features nine 120-year-old Rarámuri artifacts, including racing equipment and traditional garments, from Penn Museum’s renowned American Collections.   Dr. Carl Lumholtz, a Norwegian ethnologist, explored the uncharted territories of the Sierra Madre from 1890-1910 to make collections for the American Museum of Natural History.  Lumholtz lived among the Rarámuri for over a year and donated the exhibited objects to Penn Museum in 1893.  His book, Unknown Mexico (1902), described the indigenous peoples of the region and the Rarámuri way of life. 

Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre is supported in part by Lynne and Harold Honickman, in honor of the memory of Elaine Garfinkel; The Diane von Schlegell Levy and Robert M. Levy Exhibitions Fund; and The Mexican Society of Philadelphia. Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania April 26-28, 2012 (www.ThePennRelays.com) and the Philadelphia Runner (www.philadelphiarunner.com), with stores in University City, Center City, and Glen Eagle Square, are exhibition partners.

Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology), celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2012, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 12, 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Wednesday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered select Wednesdays. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $12 for adults; $10 for senior citizens (65 and above); $8 for U.S. Military; $8 for children (6 to 17) and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger; "pay-what-you-want" the last hour before closing. Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop and Pyramid Shop for Children offer a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call (215) 898-4000. For group tour information call (215) 746-8183.

Photographs by Diana Molina.

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