Aid is being rushed to the Tarahumara indigenous tribes in northern Mexico, after serious food shortages in the region prompted one official to falsely report that men and women had committed suicide out of desperation.
The Tarahumara, who call themselves the raramuris, have been hit by severe drought and freezing temperatures, BBC News reported.
The indigenous tribe is a famous inspiration for marathoners: the Tarahumara are known for their abilities to run long distances through the rugged northern mountains, and have been a longstanding symbol of pride and self-reliance in Mexico, the Associated Press reported.
The Tarahumara community is also one of Mexico's poorest, and news of their plight became known to Mexicans over the weekend.
"We cannot leave them adrift like that," said Mexico City resident Samuel Lopez, who dropped off rice, beans, crackers and canned tuna at a donation center. "They are our brothers."
Last year, the Red Cross made two expeditions into the mountains to bring food to the Tarahumara. They will make three expeditions this year, the AP reported. The latest delivery included 270 metric tons of food and 5,000 blankets. The government says it has also sent millions of dollars in aid.
"We consider this a food emergency," Rafael Gonzalez, spokesman for the Mexican Red Cross, told the AP.
Carichi council secretary Ramon Gardea announced in a video over the weekend that 50 Tarahumara men and women had committed suicide after their crops failed, according to the BBC.
"The Indian women get sad after four or five days when they can't feed their children," Gardea said in Spanish on the video. "They are so despairing that up through December, 50 men and women went to the mountain valleys ... and threw themselves into valleys. Others hung themselves."
Gardea, who works in Carichi, a town in the Tarahumara Mountains, said later that he did not have first-hand information about the suicides, BBC News reported.
Many Mexicans donated food and blankets at aid collection drop-off centers. However, activists voiced concerns that the problem of food shortages in the country's indigenous communities was an ongoing one.
"We're interested in tackling the causes, not the effects," human rights activist Javier Avila told El Informador newspaper, BBC reported. "Because every year food and blankets are sent, but... every year the indigenous people suffer hunger."
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