Sonoran Peoples
Main Points and Terms
 Groups
and characteristics
 Spanish and Mexican Eras
– Land, Identity, culture
 Post-Guadalupe
 Pre-Revolution
 The
Modern Era
Sonora, Mexico
Sonoran Peoples
 Yaqui
 Mayo
 Opata
 O’Odham
 Eudebe/Eduve
 Seri
 Ocoronis
General Characteristics
 Distance
from Mexico City
 A different “cultural world” than that
of Nahuatl speaking peoples
 Land use: multiple forms
– Mixed economies, to light to heavy
 Socio-political
 Dispersed, low density
 Village/rancheria autonomy mixed
with extensive trade networks
 Languages
 Seri
- Serian (Isolate, Yuman?)
 Mayo, Yaqui - Cahitan
 Opata, Eudebe/Eduve – Opatan
Spanish Colonialism
Program of civilization
 Clothing, language, housing, religion,
 Racial status
 Communal lands & reduccion
– Key component to colonization
– “Protection” from military and landowners
State, military, church, landowners
 Indigenous labor & resources
– Encomienda, repartimiento, rescate
Jesuits & missions
 Opatas/Eduve’s, not colonized
immediately—then very quickly
– Tended to intermarry more than others, served
as military for SP against other peoples.
Mayos sought out Jesuits
 Seris remained beyond the empire for a
long time
– Diseases hit closely knit peoples hardest
– Reduccion did not disrupt them as much as it
did the Tarahumaras to the east
Aridity, hunting,
sea as market
 Roughly six bands
of people in
different camps
 Low levels of
violence against
Limits of missions and conversion
Strategic use of missions
Wars in opposition, wars between
Self-governance under Spanish umbrella served
to cushion much of conquest
1740-Yaqui-Mayo Revolt against incursions of
Mayos made a “treaty” with Spanish elites in mid
1700s, could control people, evidence of
organization and unity
Opatas used in military campaigns against
Apache raids into Sonora
Decline of Spanish Power
Mayos and Yaquis dispersed
 Occasional bursts of anti-Spanish and
Mexican revolts by Opatas
 Missions were secularized and religious
teachings assumed by Native shamanpriests
 Rising power of secular society and the
state, emphasized land allotment and
private interests
– Seri rebellion in late 1750s against private land
– Squeezed and lost more land through the
Relations to the Mexican State
 Independence
sought to overturn
power of the church
 Liberalization of land laws promoted
private ownership of property
 Secularization of missions
 Citizenship for all within Mexico
 Public education programs
 Military force elicited military
Many Mayos understood the language of
Mexican independence and used it with
Yaquis to gain their own autonomy
 No racial or legal differences
 All persons and lands were taxable and
this led to loss of Native lands
 Rise of Banderas Rebellion linked to
 “Mestizaje”
Three Laws of the Occidente
 1.
Eight towns within a distinct
Indian district
 2. System of government,
citizenship, schooling, militia
 3. Administration of land
– Communal lands and land titles
– Mixture of reservation system in the
U.S., church “protection,” ejidos
Late19th - Early 20th century
Relations deteriorated as national economic
interests and governors promoted modernization
and industrialization.
Ethnic cleansing against Seris by private
landowner named Pascual Encinas, 1850s
1880s Cajeme’s rebellion and armed warfare for
Revolution dispersed people more
Mayos intermarried, unified government
Seris concentrated onto Tiburon Island
Mexican Revolution, Article 27 of 1917
Constitution recognized collective land rights and
established system to regain them
Policies changed, but legal position remained the
The Seri
1930s started a
fishing cooperative
 1965 federal game
preserve created
on Tiburon Island,
displaced Seri
 Fishing from
motorized boats
 Public Schools
 Population increase
Ironwood Carvings
Mayo Indians
Despite colonization,
there are selfdescribed Mayo
 Some language use
 10-40,000 pop
 Deer dances &
“synthesis” of Mayo,
Recent Issues
Although there are some distinct communities of
Mayo, Opata, Seri and lesser known peoples,
they struggle to maintain lands and a livelihood.
Few, if any, are recognized as distinct peoples
with legal rights, independent government and
protected land base
Struggle to hold onto ejido lands in the face of
irrigation projects, road building, urbanization,
and wage labor economy
– 135 Ejidos in Sonora, 1995 (Oaxaca has 1,000)
Seris may be the most distinct, poverty and
aridity, combined with impact of tourism hurts
them most.
Questions of ethnic identity, citizenship and
cultural persistence
1938: Indigenous Affairs Department
1948: Instituto National Indigenista
Level of intermarriage and assimilation is debated
Cultural identity as Mestizo or Indigenous:
Campesinos, peones
Mexico as an “Indigenous nation”?
United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights
1994 NAFTA, Zapatistas and Globalization
2005 Mexican Census estimates that 51,000
people speak an Indigenous language in Sonora
Constitutional revisions still ignore legal claims
Highest rates of intestinal infectious diseases,
respiratory diseases, heart disease