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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Creel

Enrique C. Creel was the son of the US-American consul in Chihuahua at the end of the 19th Century. As a vice-president of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad he supervised the building of the railroad from Chihuahua into the Sierra Madre. The town, up to were the tracks reached in 1907, was named in his honor, Creel.

Situated in the heart of the Sierra Madre Occidental, this train stop, with the exception of a short stop in San Juanito, is the highest point of the CHEPE line, at 2,340 meters. Surrounded by the endless pine forest of the Sierra, Creel was formerly a lumber economic center. This role changed greatly in the last years, due to tourism’s ever growing importance. A stroll along the streets of this town shows a multicolored mixture of people from locals to Rarámuri Indians to visitors of various nationalities. Accommodations, restaurants, stores of any color, construction, furniture and souvenir shops shoot up like mushrooms. There is opportunity for various activities: one can check-out a mountain bike, riding on a choice of day trips or begin tours of several days. Creel is considered the gateway to the Copper Canyons. From here you have access to Divisadero, Cerocahui and Batopilas, a town in the Canyon of the same name. The fortunes in silver, which were gained from over 200 mines, made Batopilas over the centuries “El Dorado“ for adventurers and Entrepreneurs.

Creel is often associated today with the name of the Jesuit Priest Luis Verplancken, who dedicated his life’s work to the Rarámuri Indians. He worried for decades about their interests and still visits them in the most remote places. His greatest accomplishment is probably the establishment of a hospital in Creel, Clinica de Santa Teresa, where the Indians are treated without charge. The costs for these services are covered partially by the proceeds from sales of handicrafts and art of the Rarámuri, available at the mission store next to the Plaza.

Around Creel you can enjoy some worthwhile side trips, e.g. the Lago Arareco, 7 kilometers to the southeast, on the road to Cusárare. A picturesque mountain lake, 40 hectares large, surrounded by beautiful rock formations and pine forest with activities available such as hiking, riding, fishing or bird watching.

Cusárare, 22 km south of Creel, is an active Rarámuri Indian settlement, dating from the 17th Century. The name Cusárare means “place of the eagles“ in the language of the Rarámuri. During renovation of their mission in 1967, twelve old paintings were discovered, dedicated to the life of Mary. They proved to be precious artifacts from the 18th Century and were restored in Europe, later to be housed in a museum built for that purpose. In Cusárare the Indians still maintain a very traditional life. Lucky is the visitor who attends the Easter Week (Semana Santa) celebration or that of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the 12th of December, the impressions are unforgettable.

Not far from the settlement one can visit the Cusárare Waterfall. After about three kilometers of easy hiking along a delightfully scenic forest trail, the goal is reached. The river falls 30 meters over the rock ledge, like a curtain of water and on sunny days, framed by a rainbow.