The American pianist who left everything to help the Tarahumaras

Romayne Wheeler uses the proceedings of his concerts to do charity work in Retosachi, Chihuahua.

With the proceedings of his concerts, Wheeler built a clinic and a school for the community where he lives. (Photo: Luis Fierro / EL UNIVERSAL)
English 17/01/2016 14:35 Luis Fierro / Corresponsal Actualizada 15:24
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“Since I was young I followed the teachings of Gandhi and Jesus, but when I arrived in the Sierra Tarahumara, I encountered a community that practices these teachings in their everyday life. That is why I stayed here and I don't want to go,” said Romayne Wheeler, an American pianist.

Wheeler, composer, musician, painter, poet and philosopher, arrived in Chihuahua in 1980. He grew up in Australia and has given concerts in 52 countries around the world. But he uses whatever he makes with his concerts for charity work in Retosachi, where he has lived for over 30 years.

His NGO built a clinic and a school in Retosachi attended by children aged 5 to 12, some of which walk two hours a day to attend lessons. The construction of the dormitory will finish in the next weeks, so that children who live far away can stay over. The building is being built by the men of the town, that are paid with groceries.

Also, Retosachi's food bank buys handicrafts from the inhabitants, who receive food in exchange. The funds are used to give continuity to the program.

Retosachi is a small village with 100 inhabitants with no internet or telephone. In his house, Wheeler has a Stainway & Sons piano that was used at the Degollado theater in Guadalajara for years and was then owned by the widow of Manuel Gómez Morín, founder of the National Action Party.

“My people in Vienna thought I had gone mad, but eventually they realized that I was not doing this for my personal benefit but for the community. In exchange, God has given me one of the most beautiful places one can imagine,” Wheeler explained.

Wheeler taught his god son Romeino Gutiérrez to play the piano before he learned to speak Spanish. Today, 26 years later, he is the first Tarahumara indian to give concerts in Euroepan cities and even recorded a CD.

“Here I am part of nature and my life has a purpose. I also work for other causes, like orphanages in Nepal, but I use most of the money here. For as long as God gives me life I want to share and bring eternal moments with my music, I want to give hope messages, an antidote for a society with so many negative influences, and there is no better place to do all that than here,” Wheeler said. 

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