According to the Jesuits in Creel, the crisis was both exaggerated and mismanaged. "Certainly there was a very serious drought, but the indigenous always live in a situation of poverty and malnutrition, and this year wasn't really that different," said Guillermo Estrada, director of the Santa Teresita Clinic in Creel. "The difference is, the false reports of the suicides really brought a lot of public attention. We were overwhelmed with food, but the stories about massive deaths and famine like in Africa were false." Avila, who has worked for 37 years with the Tarahumara, also is a human-rights activist, a role that has brought death threats. He works out of a small office, watched by security cameras, next to the Catholic Church on Creel's main square. Here tour guides pester tourists, and a few Tarahumara peddle handicrafts. Avila said his appeals for help to the state government last fall fell on deaf ears. And, when relief finally arrived, he said, it was without good planning or consultation. "In late January, the government began to distribute food, just handing it out of trucks without figuring out if it was needed it or not," he said.
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