Travels with Jane – Arizona and Sonora

In 1972, Dr. Jane Kelley invited me to accompany her to Tucson, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico as her research assistant. This work was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1978 as Yaqui women: contemporary life histories and in 1982 as Mujeres Yaquis: cuatro biografías contemporáneas by the Fondo de Cultura Económica. I had just completed my first year of university, knew nothing about anthropology, and didn’t have a driver’s license. She drove the whole way from Calgary to Obregón and back, much of it in a truck camper borrowed from her dad, William Curry Holden, in Lubbock, Texas. I loved becoming acquainted with new landscapes and new ways of living, was delighted to be once again in a Spanish-speaking environment, and really enjoyed listening, observing, and writing field notes. Later, when I found I could get academic credit for what I’d always enjoyed most in life, I was hooked.

That’s why I really wanted to retrace my journey with Jane, and I was thrilled that she was willing and able to come. I’d never have been able to find my way back alone. There were differences: this time, I did all but two blocks of the driving! We timed our visit to coincide with Easter (instead of mid-summer), to experience some of the Yaqui observances, and traveled some seven thousand kilometers over eighteen days.

Names and objects that are bolded are photographed, and can be seen at I hope it’s rather fun to open that and look at images while reading!



Scenery and roadways

Domestic settings


Yaqui / Yoeme / Yoreme / Hiaki



The Yaqui valley

Current Yaqui issues

Other friends

Memorable meals


Yaqui – Various

Yaqui water rights

Yaqui Easter


Scenery and roadways

Jane and I really enjoy wide-open spaces and kind of wish we were truckers. Between Calgary and Great Falls, Montana, for instance, terrain is only slightly undulating, except for the Sweetgrass Hills that pop up out of nowhere. Lots of volcanic rock further south, and then pine trees. As we left Butte for Cedar City, Utah, the first hour or two was through gently rising hills. A little snow started blowing across the road, and then we were down to two tracks. It wasn’t particularly dangerous or scary, but I was glad to have snow tires. On our return, the scenery revealed itself to be spectacular. This time, the sun poured through breaks in dramatic cloud formations, sometimes illuminating squalls all the way down to the ground. “Light beaming down from heaven,” said Jane. In the background were higher mountains with brilliant, white, fresh snow. (The sleet only reappeared on the last few miles before Calgary!) I dreaded driving through Salt Lake City but, avoiding rush hour, was able to get into my lane, keep up a steady pace, and be sucked in and shot out the other end. Utah is clean and institutional-looking to me. Buildings are monumental big blocks and cars are very clean.

Going south, we drove through some beautiful canyons down to Las Vegas, less spectacular back up, and then we were into cactus: Joshua Tree, cholla, ocotillo, saguaro, palo verde. Cottonwood trees along riverbanks were just sprouting leaves. On the way to Tucson from Phoenix, we stopped at Casa Grande National Monument, a Hohokam archeological site. Although the caliche and brick buildings were impressive (especially the 4-floor Casa Grande itself []), what I liked as much as anything was the vegetation around it. The cacti smelled so nice, so perfumed! All was quite green, many beginning to bloom, and there was enough moisture to keep it that way. Also, the temperature and humidity were perfectly comfortable: a dry 30 degrees, feeling much cooler. Later, I got to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for lots more cactus! (

Before leaving Phoenix/Tempe, we drove a couple of miles up Priest Street / Avenida del Yaqui through Guadalupe. It looks a lot like Tucson’s Pascua: relatively small bungalows on medium-sized lots, often behind chain-link fences, lining a grid of streets. Quite tidy and nice looking. We found the Yaqui Church right beside the Roman Catholic Church. Its front is wide open; people were inside decorating and, around the big patio in front, puestos were being set up for the sale of food. I think amusement park rides were going up too. I took photos of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, but not the Yaqui one – which forbids photography, anyway. We didn’t hang around long; I certainly could see we were watched. Here’s a picture of the church:

In Old Pascua, the church complex also focuses on the Yaqui Church, in front of which is the large rectangular patio, surrounded by the low buildings of the Cultural Center and puestos. We entered the administrative office, as we were seeking a particular children’s book on Easter. There were beautiful crepe-paper flowers, but no books, though there were old photos of the stages of Easter ceremonies on the wall.

Scattered around the neighborhood, in people’s yards and in empty lots, are white crosses, to be visited by the Easter ceremonial groups. Yards have a few plants and trees, but are mostly bare; this is a place for rakes and brooms, not lawn mowers! Very few houses are more than one story high. Streets are paved, but sidewalks aren’t. Images of the neighborhood in the 1930s and photos of elders can be seen at

Entering Nogales, Mexico on a Monday, we drove across the border, found a parking space (with caretaker) and walked back to have our passports stamped. We were instructed to drive 21 km. for our tourist permit. There, the clerk insisted that, to stay only until the following Monday, seven days later, we didn’t need a permit. However, when we left Mexico, the clerk on duty counted eight days! He let us go – disagreeably! Entering, we needed an Only Sonora car document from Empalme for $55, and I bought Mexican insurance for $139 online before we went.

It was also “fun” entering the States from Mexico. We were in a car line-up for ninety minutes, and were then sent into a windowless room while our car was searched. Only the fact that it was Easter Monday saved us from being fined $300 for failing to declare the apple we forgot we were bringing across the border. After the car was cleaned later that day, another apple rolled out from under the seat and today – another week later – I found a frozen tomato and an avocado!

We had lunch in Magdalena, where the Church of San Francisco Javier is located. The remains of the missionary Padre Kino are there, too. In the sanctuary is the familiar image of Saint Kateri. Under the arcade around the plaza a young boy peeled and cut a mango so it looked like a flower. A woman sold dresses in a shop on the arcade. When I heard her singing, I asked permission to take her photo. Jane found a puesto for a great lunch of quesadilla, grilled peppers, and cebollines.

South of Magdalena, the highway varies from two-lane to construction to four-lane divided, from 40-60-80-110 kph, though it was not difficult driving. There was one long traffic halt in opposite direction – due to an accident?

The divided highway continues most all the way to Obregón. From the highway to Potam, the paved two-lane road has some serious potholes, which I always hit just as I’d relaxed. As soon as we left the paved road into Potam, we were into clouds of extremely fine dust. The village roads are very rough, and I felt very conspicuous driving around in a pretty much dust-proof car while others walked. Most of our participation in Easter observances was in Rahum where, because of salty soil, there is much less dust. The dust of Potam makes a rebozo totally sensible – a way to cover the face and nose to protect oneself! The two (of eight) Yaqui villages are only a few miles apart, and Obregón is about an hour’s drive away.

On the way north, we did not return by Las Vegas. Instead, we left Phoenix for Flagstaff. (I really look forward to returning to visit Sinagua archeological sites!) We climbed way up from Phoenix, through lots of yellow wildflowers and beyond, to where pine forests start, then into Red Rock State Park (

There are beautiful red cliffs, green new leaves or evergreens, occasional purple – the latter on domesticated blooming trees, but a marvellous contrast. On to Sedona, crystal and retirement heaven (says Jane), just gorgeous colors, expensive, exclusive, hard to reach, all beautiful construction. Normal people live out of sight, I suppose. There was a nice shopping centre of Starbucks, artisan breads, jewelry and art galleries. There wasn’t a Latino in sight.

Oak Creek Canyon Road goes up the valley in switchbacks, reminiscent of the Rockies, trees, streams, rivers, stones. At the top is Oak Creek Vista, huge canyon views, fresh air smell, and Native American traders with jewelry.

We went downtown to Old Flagstaff looking for Rachelle (?) Running, who has been in Chihuahua with Jane. We missed her but found a gallery selling a tomato-leaf scented candle I got for Scott Johnson! Had breakfast the next morning at the 1960s style Galaxy Diner, and on to Vermillion Cliffs, beautifully cut out of the hills by the river. Loved the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon. Then up to Jacob Lake Lodge, at 7980 feet, in a great pine forest. To Zion National Park, with great stirring formations of sandstone, like frosting. Only there did we begin to run into people. I really want to go spend some time in this region! (

Domestic settings

It took us some doing to find Juana Choqui’s house in Potam. In front of a grocery store, we met two men: one said the house was 2 blocks this way, 3 blocks up; the other said it was 3 blocks this way, 2 blocks up. When we got “there”, we recognized it, but it took me almost until we left to know for certain where I was. (Turn right at the intersection before the church yard and drive 4 or 5 blocks. It’s the house on the corner with a parking area in front of the ramada.)

The houses are open to the elements and permeated by dust. There are no hermetically sealed dwellings; dust is life, and sweeping and washing are constant activities, immediately undone. As we talked about it, Jane and I realized that the community, including Juana’s house, is in worse shape now than it was in 1972. She had a small shop in the front room; gone now. The fridge works, but there is a propane stove inside that isn’t used – probably no money to buy propane. The framework of the ramada is vertical logs with a fork at the top. Logs are strung horizontally along the forks; plywood or petate roofing over that. The ramada has plywood on one end wall and on a portion of one side, and plastic sheeting tacked along a third wall. This is about to be taken down for the hot season, to allow a breeze through.

The furniture in the ramada is all hand-made: crudely constructed but functional tables, benches and chairs. By “crude” I mean very simple, with no braces. Dishes are kept on shelves nailed onto the frame of the ramada. They’re washed and left to drain on a flat surface. A cupboard holds pots and pans. From nails into the frame hang baskets and cans containing kitchen utensils, straight razors, toothbrushes, plastic bags, etc. There is also a washing machine by the back door of the house; it is filled and emptied of water manually, through hoses. The boys take care of a lot of that. I saw no television or radio, but the boys had cell phones and facebook accounts.

There is a cement basin with a washboard, and several water containers, including the tank of what was once a ringer-washing machine. A glass is used to take water from the containers to where it is needed. (I watched Román Jr. hold a glass of water in his hands and tip it so it rinsed them both at once, an improvised faucet.)  I don’t think this water is used for drinking or cooking. I know when we took water to the fariseos in Rahum, it was a large jug of purified water from the store, purchased for 10 pesos. On the tables were plastic table cloths, and a special covering for Sábado de Gloria. This was a six-metre cloth Juana hand-embroidered for one of her granddaughters.

I’m almost forgetting the separate structure used as a bedroom by the boys. It’s got nice beds, a well-sealed cement floor and well-laid bricks. It was built as part of a government project.

Juana’s ramada has two cooking stoves. One is made of clay. The other is made of two metal wash basins joined at the rim, with a thick U-shaped ring of clay on top. The fire is inside this ring, branches resting on a two-legged metal platform extending in front of the stove. On the clay ring are two metal rods, crosswise, capable of rolling off but meant to hold pots or a comal. Branches are pushed inside as they burn down.

Outside Diana’s back door was a propane stove with a similar clay ring on top of it; wood is burned on the top surface. She also had a gas stove indoors, in the kitchen, and it was used. Teresa has a propane stove in her house, but she does all her cooking at her mother’s. The young men living there both require care and provide help. She and I laughed often once I told her how disconcerted I was when I first heard her and Juana speak of all the young men as “los plebes” – the plebeians – rather than “the kids”, “the boys”, etc.

Like Juana’s house, Diana’s is made of brick covered w/ plaster. Half of Teresa’s is made like this, but the other half is of carrizo, reeds laid horizontally and sometimes plastered with mud. Her house is one-room, perhaps 20’x20’, about the size of her mother’s ramada. (The roof is made of what? Metal? Where does she get water?) In the house are a double bed and a sofa. She and her daughter Judith sleep there, while her adolescent son Vinicio usually sleeps at Juana’s, which is three houses away. Husband Vicente goes to work at a mine near Hermosillo for ten days at a time. We didn’t see much of him, but on Saturday afternoon, his wife was washing his jeans so he could go back to work on Monday.

In all cases, paint is way worn out. Yards are bare of vegetation except for a few trees. I saw no kitchen gardens in the area, and only a few lilies and shrubs growing at a company farm.

Both Juana and Teresa have outhouses. (Diana almost certainly, too, but I didn’t see it.) Juana’s has a door barely hanging onto the hinges, propped semi-closed by a piece of wood hanging on by a nail. There is a gap between the wooden box seat and the hole into the ground; aim carefully to avoid splashes!

The poorer houses in the Yaqui pueblos are those made of carrizo with doors of blankets or carpets, not wood or metal (though sometimes these buildings are outhouses). I found it hard to believe people live in some of them – perched by the side of the road, too poor to have anything to lose. I could see them as guard shacks or outhouses, but not homes – yet they are. By the highway and railway tracks nearer to Obregón are shacks of the same dimensions, though made of hard material.

Straw bale houses are being put up by a government project near Potam. There are concerns that they won’t be waterproof and won’t last, and will require money to seal the exterior, but from what I could learn online, they could work fine. Straw houses don’t need waterproofing plaster, rather, they need to breathe. Still, the straw mustn’t get wet, and cracks must be sealed. The houses will have solar panels to power electric lights, and biodigesting septic tanks will produce fertilizer and grey water for gardens. The nineteen houses are being built by the Comisión de Ecología del Estado de Sonora.

Construye CEDES 19 casas ecológicas para familias Yaquis en Potam (March 29, 2013). In Retrieved April 8, 2013 from

In Cocorit, we briefly visited the Yaqui Museum. The building was once a gobernación. There were exhibits of Yaqui artifacts, but I don’t think much controversial historical material. We looked around very little, because the front entry was crammed with people there for a tour. We entered through the back, and were gathered up by young people I’d bet were tourism students. They were dressed in shirts with flowers embroidered on them, wore name tags, and were excessively polite – almost smotheringly so, while being unable to listen.

“We’re parked over there.”

“Oh, I’ll take you to the exit that will take you closest to your car.”

“No, we’re parked on the other side.”

“Oh, I didn’t understand!”

The core of Pancha’s house in Torim is brick, with a dirt floor. It is surrounded by three large carrizo ramadas, open rooms. Just like Juana’s ramada in every other way, this house had some plastic chairs. Pancha also had an apparatus that holds large water bottles so they can be tipped and will pour.


Yaqui / Yoeme / Yoreme / Hiaki


Arriving in Tucson, we drove straight up Highway 10 to Grant Street, and made our first stop in Pascua, at the home of Agustina. She is a sister of Juana Romero and Carmen Ochoa, the one who was known to use makeup, care for her appearance, earn an income, and have no tolerance for drugs or drinking. Now in her eighties, her nails and hair are still very well cared for, though thin; she wears an “Oriental” barrette in her hair, and cabinets contain Japanese porcelain dolls. They are seriously beautiful. The paint job in the house is not at all bad, furniture is in really good shape, all clean, polished, and well cared for. There’s a big flat-screen TV tuned to a Spanish-language station. Her son has retired as a fireman. His son is a violinist who went to Boston to study, but has returned because it’s just too expensive. Her daughter, Thelma, is a police officer. She’s married – just – having lived with the guy for 14 years. Thelma had a narrow escape when blood clots formed after surgery, so the couple invited the family to Las Vegas supposedly to celebrate the violinist’s 21 birthday, but actually to attend their wedding!

When we went to pick her up the next day, Agustina came out the kitchen door immediately, grabbing the cane that hangs just outside, eager to hit the road! Her hair was fixed up, make-up fresh. She once broke a leg, has a bit of diabetes, some blood pressure and cholesterol problems, but overall is just fine and has a great appetite. Her doctor says she should live with one of her children, which she’s avoiding. In the old days, she wouldn’t go to fiestas because of the drinking and because she was Baptist. Now the Pascolas expel any drunks, and she even enjoys gambling. She worked most of her adult life in medical records, probably adding to the perception of her as serious.

Jane and Agustina directed me out to New Pascua and back. (By the end of the day I almost know my way!). Agustina pointed out the nice houses, some new – others boarded up, emptied of drug dealers by Tribal Council. She was surprised there were so many of those in one area. She also pointed to the health center. Not only do they have medical imaging, e.g. MRIs, but also alternative healing by “curanderas del otro lado,” i.e. from Mexico. They practice massage, use herbs and prepare ointments. There are seniors’ facilities, a residence, and a place where they can go for meals.

The three of us went for lunch to Casino del Sol of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe: It has a hotel of about ten storeys, and is huge. There is also the large outdoor Anselmo Valencia Amphitheater, which hosts acts like Tony Bennett, Il Divo, and the Tucson International Mariachi Festival. The Casino interior is very high-ceilinged and the lighting looks a bit like the night sky – or is it the daytime sky? – light blue, an indeterminate, could-be-anytime color. Smoking is allowed, and there is a great deal of it, but there must be good ventilation, as it doesn’t seem to hang around. There are countless slot machines, gaming tables, a huge bingo hall with bingo monitors (instead of the old paper cards), a poker room. The parking lot covers acres, with hundreds of stalls for the handicapped. There is valet parking, but I wanted to park myself just to see what it was like. Agustina marched us right by the Festa buffet, La Abuelita’s Mexican Food, a sushi place and a pub until we reached Moby’s, a throwback to California surfing in the 1960s. She was also proud to find me a Starbucks.

We visited the cemetery in New Pascua to seek the grave of Anselmo Valencia. Although his name isn’t on it, there is a mound of earth many times higher than that of any other grave in the place. In front of that large mound was another with three arches over it, each wrapped in yellow/gold/orange fabric. A hand-lettered sign read “Itom Pa”, translated as “our father.” We were told the pioneers of New Pascua are interred here. This cemetery lacks large tombs, and there is lots of color due to wreaths around the white crosses and pots of real and artificial flowers on the ground. We spoke with one family that had studded the earth over their mother’s grave with artificial flowers. I felt a little more awkward here than I usually do in cemeteries, partly because it’s in the middle of a restricted community, not beside a public road like so many others.

On Palm Sunday, I dropped off Agustina and Jane at the church in Pascua, and returned to park the car in her yard. I should have taken lawn chairs and an umbrella for them! Women in the street wore bright satin dresses and rebozos (shawls); they were all cantoras.

Pascolas and the venado were in the ramada (a roofed shelter) w/ violins and drums. (Venado is the deer dancer; Pascola are seen by some as the hosts of Pascua, or Easter. In that ramada, young boys were outfitted in capes and bowler hats. An adult man lectured them until a procession emerged. As young children (angelitos) arrived with their padrinos (godparents) to escort Jesus, they had to beat off chapayecas. (Chapayecas are Yaqui fariseos, representing the Roman infantrymen and other evil forces responsible for crucifying Jesus.) Older men carried the Jesus image on their shoulders, and were followed by women carrying the three Marys. Chapayecas emerged and formed up first, on the sides of courtyard. They wore fantastic masks – many literally fantasy, others animals, a few long-nosed boss-men or diablos. Most wore the traditional blanket costume; diablos wore suit jackets. They beat time by clacking their daggers (left hand) on their swords (right hand), punctuated w/ ankle and waist rattles. Caballeros represent the Roman cavalry, and wear white cowboy hats. (In Sonora, some are literally “a caballo,” on horseback.)  The procession went from the church building to the far end of the yard to pick up a large bundle of palm leaves, and back to the church. After prayer, the caballeros distributed palm leaves, forcing them into the back pockets of chapayecas. Whenever church bells rang, chapayecas writhed in pain and covered their ears.

The crowd included people of all ages, speaking more English than Spanish. They were very polite, saying “Excuse me” whenever passing nearby, and making much use of garbage cans. I had a chat with Amanda, who has moved home from San Diego with her children to care for her sick father and inherit his reservation house. She works in preventative health and there is more work here than in California. I also met Diego, born and raised in Tucson. He lives in Phoenix, and came to Tucson for a job that didn’t work out, so he’s camping. One of his wives was Yaqui; he learned some Yoeme with her. He was looking for his grandchildren.

When I found Jane and Agustina, they’d decided to go “to Carmen’s” to eat. Asking the way, I was directed “to Carmen-Olivia’s”. Carmen was a sister of Agustina’s, and one of Jane’s friends; she died three years ago, in her nineties. Her house is across from the church complex. Her husband Pancho was active in the ceremonial societies, and Juana cooked for the fiestas. Olivia is one of their daughters. As I approached the house, she greeted me from her seat in a wheelchair. She remembers Jane, and maybe me. She learned to cook from her mother, and also cooks for fiestas. “How can you cook from a wheelchair?” I asked. “Oh, I’m just resting!” she said. Olivia served us delicious Indian Tacos. Her assistant and apprentice was her niece Toni, daughter of Olivia’s sister Betty. I took photos of photos of Carmen, Pancho, etc.

Carmen had six children. Betty admits she was particularly nasty to her mother while growing up, was a drug addict and alcoholic and likely abusive and learning disabled. Still, it was she who kept her mother’s house, though she says she wants to move out, as she perceives bad feelings from Carmen because she was so mean to her. She lives with her two daughters and their spouses (and Toni’s six year-old son), her sister Olivia, and perhaps others. Not all necessarily share the same small house; they’ve built other structures in the yard. The house was tidied for visitors; kids’ toys were piled in bins. Toni spoke of dysfunctional “families today.” About 25, she misses her Nana Carmen, and thought she’d live forever. Her partner is Thomas. He told Jane he was the son of a big dope dealer, raised by his grandmother, danced chapayeca, spent 12 years in jail for murder, and killed people in front of their grandmothers. However, he found Jesus just before a trial a year ago, was let off, and is being baptized tonight. It seems Carmen was the grandmother of both Toni and Thomas, but they had different grandfathers.

Attached to the front door of one house was the large wooden silhouette of a deer dancer. The house is that of Manuela, cousin of Agustina. Her house is the reconstruction of one that was destroyed a decade ago. Manuela got up at 5 a.m. to make coffee for household members who were going to work, and found the fire burning in the storage room. She got out her two little grandchildren and then woke the rest – her daughter, who thought she was kidding, and her son, who was in the shower. The roof collapsed as he was escaping.

Manuela asked Jane for genealogical information, having lost a pamphlet Rosario gave her. (Rosario was the man at the source of the Holden’s contact with the Yaqui.) Manuela wanted the name of her great grandmother, which Jane later remembered is Viviana. Jane has given all the genealogical data to the Administration of the Yaqui Tribe in New Pascua. Manuela’s mother was Mexican. Also at Manuela’s was Mary, perhaps related through her husband. Agustina shared with these women that she was in the hospital with strokes on Christmas and again on New Year’s, indicating they may not see each other often. Manuela spoke of someone else very ill with cancer – a son, we think. Doctors say they’ve lost all his medical records. He’s refusing to start over, to have all the tests and chemotherapy again. Living with Manuela is her husband, an amputee in a wheelchair. He greeted us warmly on arriving and leaving, but I don’t know his name.

.           On the walls were photos of lovely daughters and granddaughters. Like Agustina’s, this house has a cabinet with a number of large dolls, these with brown skin and Native American Indian regalia. They’re very well done. Also like Agustina’s, the house is spacious, clean, and well cared-for. We sat on a large L-shaped leather sofa. There was a huge TV on the wall, not turned on.


In a large older building in downtown Hermosillo is a store selling indigenous crafts ( ), many of them Yaqui: embroidery, baskets, rebozos, masks – pascola, chapayeca, fariseo – Yaqui dolls. It is owned by professional women who buy crafts from aboriginal women, returning them the profits. I learned that ankle rattles are made of cocoons and belt rattles of deer or pig hooves.

The Hermosillo Yaqui barrio of La Matanza is around the other side of Cerro de la Campana from downtown. We sought Catalina Wong, an elderly woman Jane hadn’t seen in forty years. With Lupita driving, we followed a road circling the hill; there are some pretty poor houses, but not dreadful. Twice we drove a block up the hill and Jane went into a yard in search of an older woman, who then sent us up another street. Finally, one sent us to a taller metalúrgico, a metal workshop, and that was it! A lady at the soda shop immediately showed us to the right house.

Catalina’s mother married a Chinese man with whom she had two daughters, Magdalena and Catalina. Wong was arrested in the early 1930s and never seen again, likely deported. Catalina’s daughter Chavela died a couple of years ago; she’d had a mastectomy, and years later something affected her breathing. They were going to perform a tracheotomy, but she died under anesthetic.

When Magdalena came back from Tucson, where she’d been cooking, she was already ill. “Murió de pena”; she was taken to the hospital for a leg amputation, which she didn’t want, and had three heart attacks, which caused her death.

Catalina’s adolescent great-grandson pulled out chairs for us to sit on in the shade of a tree. (In the old days, someone would have sent for soda and cookies.) Two little boys, Jorge (6) and his brother Fabián (3) came out in paper chapayeca masks. Both had the steps down pat, knew not to talk while wearing the mask, and to lie on the ground when putting it on. Jorge had a rattle belt, and knew how to move his hips. Fabián did not have rattles, but he came out with the dagger and sword and knew to beat time by hitting the sword with the dagger!

Catalina’s remaining daughter came out, as did the daughter of one of her sons. Daisy is the mother of the two boys and another, twelve. He made the masks for his younger brothers. They’ve learned steps by watching the velorio, the all-night fariseo dancers. Several sons and grandsons passed through the yard, all stopping to shake our hands. Catalina’s sons do the metalworking, making gates and fences and such.

            The Yaqui valley

Juana’s house in Potam has changed a little. Where we parked the camper in 1972, there is now a big ramada with three walls and a roof. The main activity when we arrived the Wednesday before Easter was to prepare three young men to spend the next four days as fariseos. Living with Juana are the three sons of Guadalupe, who was thirteen when she showed me around the Easter Fiesta in Potam in 1983. She lives in Nogales with her husband and her two daughters. The boys are in Potam because there they have access to Yaqui scholarships; they also claim to like the pueblo better than the city. I don’t think they’ve been in Potam always, but they do call Juana “Ma” or “Ama,” and call their mother by name.

Rafael is the second of Guadalupe’s sons. He is about to do University entrance exams. He wants to go into business management, “para levanter a la gente.” “Cuál gente?” “El pueblo Yaqui.”(To raise up the Yaqui people.)  He’s a maestro, a religious specialist, and already knows all the prayers and songs in Spanish, Yaqui and Latin. He brought out handwritten books of songs and prayers – a Gregorian chant he sang for us. Rafael gave Jane an embroidered cloth, and me a rosary he made. He took me to see the blessing over his headboard – a Yaqui version of a crucifix. He is one of the fariseos coming out of this household.

Iván is the youngest of Guadalupe’s boys. He didn’t say much our first day; it felt like a question of seniority. He wears long spikes through his earlobes, taking them out for the days of Easter celebrations. He’s teased for being a city boy. People usually call him “Cuate,” as he’s Yvonne’s twin. Guadalupe had no idea she was having twins until she was giving birth to them! They were born full-term, weighing 3 kg each. He puts a lot of work into scrubbing clothes and shoes, and I found him really polite and helpful.

Román is the eldest of the brothers. Because of the demands of his schooling, he decided he couldn’t take time off to be a fariseo. He’s in the first year of a computer engineering program at a technical institute in Vicam. He’s learning some of the language, though he’ll never be fluent. Here they’re taught the real history of “la tribu.” A bilingual Yaqui teaches a course on Valores Yaquis. Thus, when Juana spoke of how something is said in “el dialecto,” Román objected. “Es una lengua, no un dialecto!” (“It’s a language, not a dialect!”)

Also staying at Juana’s were the sons of her son Claudio, Rubén and César, at least until the latter took up his fariseo duties. They normally live with their mother, Piedad, in Empalme. Claudio came in from Baja California for the holiday. The parents have separated, and he has a new wife in Puerto Peñasco, where he teaches. The boys seem to all congregate at Juana’s. Perhaps it’s because there are no adult men living there; they can be grown-ups.

I didn’t get much of a chance to visit with César, as he went off for his fariseo duties. He’s been a pascola, and has made a nine-year vow as a fariseo. This was his fourth or fifth year.

Rubén arrived from Empalme shortly after us. He’s going to school there, taking economics (which, he has discovered, is very political). He is padrino (godfather) for his cousin Rafael. As needed over the next few days, he’ll be supplying him with some food and water, picking up pieces of regalia Rafael is to discard when they’re running on Saturday, and escort him through the reintegration ceremonies of the last day. Teresa, Juana’s youngest, is Rafael’s madrina (godmother).

Rubén is very smart and well-spoken. He has a Chilean friend from whom he has learned a whole lot, especially about Chilean vocabulary and accent. Obviously they’ve spent a long time on Skype. He knew many Chilean expressions: the way in which we speak of “la Jane” and “el Rubén” with those articles, the same way Yaquis tend to. We say “harto,” “al tiro,” and “sí, po.” The friend was going to come for a visit, but that’s off now.

Then there was Cruz, the wife of Prisciliano, Juana’s eldest son. She runs a soup kitchen for a dozen elderly people. A government organization supplies food she supplements with vegetables from village stores. She sent a young boy – her grandson? – to her home a block away to get some empanadas de cajete, which were really good. Two of Cruz’s daughters visited as well. Mónica is a dyed blond, and her daughter is Rafael’s goddaughter. The girl carried with her two blond Barbie dolls. Mónica has a son, who seemed a several years older than his little sister. I think Mónica was César’s madrina; she helped carry one of the Marys once. Alma sat by Rubén on a bench against the wall – by which I mean she sat among the young men, and participated actively in the political conversation

As we sat there, Rafael altered a white belt to go with his regalia, punching in new holes, using leather-making tools, grommets and such. Teresa’s son Vinicio was replacing the leather laces of his huaraches, strung through holes on soles which are bought ready-made. He used needle-nosed pliers to stretch the loops of lace to pull the ends through. (I just mentioned to Jane that, thinking through this scene, I realized what was lacking: an adult male to tell the guys how to do what, and remind them to put the tools away. “They’re the men of the household,” she said. They know where the tools are, how to use them and where they belong.)

None of these guys was being “mummied,” either. They’re taking responsibility for their own participation in the fiesta. They’ll spend four days sleeping out of doors, not allowed to use blankets, eating when they’re lucky, spending most nights awake. They’ll end up exhausted, and with strong bonds to their fellow soldados, weeping as they say goodbye. They know that they may not all be together next year; stuff happens.

Claudio, father of Rubén and César, was the first Yaqui we met who had read Mujeres Yaquis. He particularly liking Jane’s account of the life of Matilde, his father’s mother. Getting a copy is hard; we hope to be able to scan it. Claudio teaches school, and especially likes teaching history. He and his brothers were particularly interested in what we could tell them about Canada’s temporary foreign workers program. Claudio feels that one reason there has been little progress in the Yaqui Valley is because authorities demand a cut. A maquila wanted to come into Vicam, but they wouldn’t allow it because there was nothing in it for them. His recipe for raising children with positive attitudes is to provide them with a good example.

Guadalupe arrived from Nogales early Good Friday morning. She came with her husband, Román, their daughters Yvonne and Clarissa, and Clarissa’s husband and two sons, one a two-month old baby. Guadalupe remembers our time together 30 years ago, and that we wrote to each other for a while, until I got married. I sent her a wedding photo. She works in a maquila in Nogales, as does her husband. It’s not great work, not well paid, but is steady. Conditions, pay, benefits and holidays depend a lot on whether one is on permanent contract and whether the place is unionized – something the maquilas try to avoid. Román is trying to get a visa to go “al otro lado” – to the other side. They own their house in Nogales, and are paying for another in Obregón.

Two more sons of Juana arrived on Saturday. Juan Antonio lives in Nogales, and came with his wife Gloria. He has a water purification business there. The process requires putting the water through a number of specialized filters. He was dressed in polished black shoes – with all that dust. Carlos lives in Puerto Lobo and is a fisherman. His wife is Rosa. He’s a son from Cresencio’s first marriage.

Going back to Juana’s home was the best kind of going back in time. It was so comfortable and the hospitality so warm, the interest in us and the desire to share with us were terrific. They brought out things to show us, such as the deer head that is used by a deer dancer, wearing a purple scarf of mourning during Holy Week, changed into bright colors on Sunday. There were pascola masks, one old, modeled on a goat, the other newer, a dog. I was allowed to photograph them. It’s OK if it’s on an exhibit, not OK if it’s in ceremony.

In, Tonatiuh Castro Silva of the Unidad Regional de Culturas Populares in Sonora explains that the Easter celebrations involve a re-enactment of the capture, death and resurrection of Christ, in a dramatic form developed by Jesuits to communicate the story to Yaquis. There are participants on the side of good, among them the angels and cantoras, and those on the side of the bad, the fariseos (chapayecas), who represent Roman soldiers and Jews implicated in the death of Jesus. Their responsibility is particularly heavy, as they must represent evil in the name of good. They are to keep a rosary in their mouths always while wearing masks (hence can’t speak, but communicate by gestures) and, being basically good, wear a white shirt and white trousers under the other clothing. The mask and headpiece are worn so that they may represent evil while not being evil, and the paraphernalia is burned at the end to remove all trace of that danger. This is also the reason for the blessing and purification rituals at the end of the ceremonies, the covering with beautiful flowered scarves, receiving new rosaries, being blessed by godparents, to be able to come back to the secular world uncontaminated.

I’m still not clear on the role and identity of the caballeros, the guys in white or bowler hats.

On Wednesday, Juana and Teresa were busy preparing capirotada, a dish that’s eaten only in Holy Week, perhaps especially for sending young men in to fulfill their Easter mandas. It’s a cross between bread pudding and a protein bar. It’s made in huge vats for the apóstoles tomorrow, in the re-enactment of the Last Supper

The basic ingredients carry a rich symbolism to the Passion of Christ, and the dish is viewed by many Mexican and Mexican-American families as a reminder of the suffering of Christ on Good Friday. The bread is for the Body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, the raisins are the nails of the cross, and the whole cinnamon sticks are the wood of the cross. The melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud.

Capirotada. (2013, March 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:37, March 29, 2013, from has a good recipe, I think. It uses a sharper cheese than Juana’s queso fresco, which has little salt and a mild flavour. Her ingredients include toasted, buttered rolls, syrup made of piloncillo with water, cinnamon and cloves, prunes and raisins just like the others – but she adds sliced bananas, peanuts, and Nestle’s Quik powder. Also, hers is stirred on top of the stove rather than baked in the oven.

Women’s participation in the ceremonies is fairly limited. One of the women – Alma, I think – made as if to put on a chapayeca mask, but was prevented from it. Women can’t put on masks! And there are no women’s roles (or representations of them, e.g. in masks or costumes) on the side of the “bad.” They are cantoras, they carry the Marys, they are madrinas, they decorate the bier where Jesus is laid, and they cook. Cantoras are on duty for days. Maestros, all men, lead the songs, and there are some for every occasion. Cantoras keep up a response. It’s not exactly a harmony, but more an off-key, off-beat accompaniment. Between processions, they relax inside the church, catching sleep when they can. Other people sit and stand around the walls of the church, while children play tag.

Teresa was absolutely stellar in her efforts to ensure Jane and I were in the best possible places to observe the Easter ceremonies. In Rahum on Holy Thursday, she and Alma took us into the church, where the various images were awaiting processions. In the center of the church, Jesus was praying in Gethsemane; hence tree branches adorned columns around the church. Two men with rifles pointed at the ground stood guard over His image.

Outside, the fariseos got to their feet, once they’d put on their masks. They’d been lying under a ramada in front of the church. They may not greet any women during the days of the rituals; one of the first tasks was to find a young man to take them a jug of water. The fariseos took off at a trot to the home of the gobernador, where a dozen children, the Apostles, were being fed a dozen different dishes. They were in the company of the man who would represent El Viejito, Jesus. There were also cantoras and maestros present, as well as all the religious authorities, through whose hands must pass all the food on the way to the apostles. This is the Last Supper.

Teresa, Alma and I walked there following cantoras dressed in brilliant blue, turquoise, lavender and purple satin skirts and rebozos. (I would have loved that photo!) When the chapayecas left to take possession of the crosses around the church, and we followed. Teresa and the other woman tried to explain to me what was going on, but it was tough; they’d say, “See that one?” and I never knew just whom they were referring to, because which of those six was it? The women of our group took over the outside front of the church, but as they all talked and joked among themselves, I understood almost nothing.

Women like Juana embroider the cloths that are used. She was in charge of the urnia in Rahum and was madrina to someone in Vicam. The urnia is the canopied platform, representing the grotto, on which Christ is placed on Friday, after he is taken down from the cross. The bedding is white, and the canopy is of white netting. To it are attached artificial flowers edged in glitter, topped by a flower crown and a dove representing the Holy Spirit. While hanging on the cross, He was dressed in a purple skirt that looked just like those worn by cantoras. The skirt was removed, revealing a loincloth, and he was covered in a white shroud (also provided by Juana) before being placed under the canopy.

In the church, three rectangular boxes full of dirt (reminiscent of flower boxes) are placed before the urnia. People come to pray before it and place lighted candles in the earth. The urnia is taken out for more processions during the night. After the final one, at 3 a.m., He is resurrected, and the Sábado de Gloria begins.

This sets off the dramatic celebration of the triumph of good over evil, and reclaiming the chapayecas, who have taken the risk of representing evil in order that it might be vanquished. Rubén and Teresa went to look for their ahijado, Rafael. They fastened a colorful scarf on each of his arms. (This would be sort of taking possession of him, for good.) Teresa made sure Jane and I were well situated inside the church, with a chair by the pillar. Fariseos were outside the church, on the other side of lines drawn with ash. Inside the church were maestros and cantoras. They went outside, knelt and prayed by the green Cross of Repentance, then came back into the church. They were followed by caballeros, who approached a purple curtain strung across the church many times, taking eight stomping paces forwards, ten shorter paces back. Each time, the caballero commanders touched the curtain with their swords. A flute played, the chapayeca kept time with his dagger and sword, and the caballeros’ sandaled feet slapped the floor. Three times, the maestros made a gesture and bells rang; everyone ran out the church door, then turned and raced back in. I do not know what was going on outside the church. The first time, chapayecas gave up a sandal or two; the second time, they gave up their belts and rattles. (I don’t know about swords.) On the third entry, they gave up their masks. A huge crowd of padrinos and fariseos filled the church, to persignarse (cross themselves). As they left the church, the fariseos’ heads were covered with the scarves. Firecrackers went off and the Judas figure was burned. A venado danced, accompanied by the violin, a water drum (half a gourd in water) and rasps held on a dry half-gourd. The musicians also sang the deer song. I saw a Yaqui harp and guitars, but got to hear them very little. Teresa asked me to get a bottle of water for Rafael.

All made their way to the ramadas at the other end of the church yard, where the deer dancer would be all night long. We took Teresa and Rubén back to Potam. As Jane looked for Natalia or Raquel in Potam, I watched the Judas effigy burn, and the guys in cars around me drinking beer. (Elsewhere in Mexico, Elba Esther Gordillo was burned as a “Judas” effigy. The leader of the national teachers’ union was arrested in February for using union funds to pay for her luxury homes and plastic surgery.)

On Easter morning, Jane and I packed the car to turn north. After Iván helped me empty out the back seat, we drove him and Guadalupe from Potam to Rahum. Iván and I watched the burning of almost all the chapayeca masks and swords. (A couple are kept in case of deaths; the deceased wear a mask at the wake.) The masks are all stacked together, and burning starts with some kindling and firecrackers in the midst. I moved back as others did, to be safe. It is said that chapayecas often weep as they see the fire, because they work hard to make their masks and have a great deal of emotional investment in wearing them, with their comrades.

Teresa sent Jane and me indoors to be near the front of the church for the ritual of blessing the fariseos and all participants. Each fariseo is flanked by his godparents, and two lines of trios form in the church, one along each wall. The chapayecas’ heads are now covered by two bright headscarves, probably one from each godparent. They escort the fariseo to the altar. The padrino is on the right, and places a rosary around his neck; the padrinos trade sides so the madrina can place a rosary; they switch sides once more, and the padrino forces the fariseo’s head down three times, to touch the altar cloth which a maestro lifts. They then go to cross themselves at the many saints, then outside, where the fariseo can put on his sandals and uncover his head, though he keeps the scarves around his neck. There is a long wait before everyone has been through to be “persignarred,” and this is followed by thanking the padrinos and families. Or maybe it’s the families thanking the padrinos. A maestro makes a speech (incomprehensible from a distance) thanking the padrinos, and then the family members and fariseos go down the line / around the circle, shaking hands and promising to meet again next year.

We then went back to the house, driving Guadalupe, Teresa and Iván, and hung around only a little while before leaving. I think we were all glad that Jane and I had returned one last time, to wrap things up. Guadalupe said that, last night, Iván was really sad we were leaving. Today he said he wished I’d come back next year to be his madrina. Guadalupe and Juana said they’d dress us like Yaqui women, with embroidered skirt and blouse, not that Guadalupe dresses like that!

Juana was at Potam rather than Rahum on Saturday, as she was madrina for someone there. When we saw her, later, at home, she was wearing a bright green embroidered skirt and blouse – bright colors for the Gloria. Lots of women were dressed in traditional clothing today, with full skirts and blouses. A lace overskirt often covers the embroidered one, muting it. They wear embroidered rebozos over their shoulders or heads. Women’s ordinary, modern clothing is jeans and tee shirts. Men wear cowboy clothing: jeans, plaid shirts, cowboy hats (usually light straw), and often very fancy boots.

People here in the Rio Yaqui, say the ceremonies are maintained most traditionally, with the least change. In Hermosillo, there is much more variation, different practices, costumes and rules. And in Arizona, they’re 3-4 generations away. Jane pointed out how much further everyone involved in the processions has to go in the pueblos of the Yaqui Valley vs. in Tucson. It Tucson, the church complex is the size of a small city block. Here, it’s acres and much more dusty! Even in the eight pueblos, the procedure is not identical from one place to the next. In Torim, we saw men with swords on horseback (caballeros) hauling a burro around town on the end of a rope. A cow was tethered to a post in the middle of the church yard, to be sacrificed to feed people on Saturday. There would be another for Sunday. And the schedule of events in Potam is somewhat different from Rahum, which was great, allowing us to see some of each. There were matachines in Potam, but not in Rahum. Much is duplicated in Potam because the community of Huirivis has been appended to it. The grounds in Tórim are unusual, in that the church is on top of a small hill, next to a building that is said to be Spanish.

The state of Sonora makes good use of Yaqui motifs on commercial and tourist materials, museums, etc. There is also a Hotel Yori in Obregón – “Yori” means “non-Yaqui,” usually “white person.” We saw almost no one we could identify as tourists at the fiestas in the Yaqui Valley, though there were visitors returning home (like Guadalupe and family). In Tucson, there were lots of spectators from outside at the ceremonies, and we’re told that in Hermosillo, photography and filming of the Easter celebrations is permitted. See, for instance, or (Rahum was so much more serious, so much less spectator-oriented!) The most informative videos are at, though they are in Spanish.

The Yaqui are fond of Jesuits, who came here to preach to them and grasped that the Yaqui gods were really versions of the Christian deities. The young men are all quite devoted to their religion and take their vows seriously. For a month, they can’t talk to women from outside (not including us, apparently). During our visit, they were enjoying their last minutes on cell phones. Rafa has a girlfriend; how will she feel during these days?

Ruben says Yaqui communities have two sets of hierarchies, one secular, the other religious. They’re complementary, not in opposition, not separate. During the Cuaresma, the religious one has the authority, and it is the religious one that legitimizes the political. The official titles used in the religious hierarchy are similar to Roman ones, and were introduced by the Jesuits.

A Franciscan priest spends time in the villages, and is responsible for all the Indians of this part of Sonora. On one corner of the church property in Potam is a building that belongs to the Catholic Church. There were a couple of dozen young people around in yellow tee-shirts, engaged in a retreat and their own Easter celebration. They work in their worship around the Yaquis, moving into the church when it’s not being used. There isn’t conflict, we’re told. There was no priest anywhere near the Rahum rituals.

Many men ride bicycles. There were also several men on horseback on Saturday, one practicing a lovely prancing-in-place move on a beautiful grey horse. It looks like holidays are when one takes out a horse to show off, for recreation, to ride around. Women ride neither horse nor bike. In front of a botillería on main street is always a collection of men drinking beer.

Diana, who also lives in Potam, is a niece of Cresencio, Juana’s late husband. Diana is the daughter of his sister Herminia. She was raised by Matilde, the mother of Herminia and Cresencio; they knew a lot of hunger and cold. I met Diana in Tucson at the house of Agustina when I went there to retrieve my car, as she was looking for Agustina and Jane. Her house is a corner store, with slot machines and a juke box under the porch. She’s probably in her late forties, and was widowed in about 2000 when she had five children. In addition to the store, she travels to Tucson regularly to sell Yaqui women’s embroidery. She also owns some ejido land which she hopes to rent out, once she has water for it. Most everyone in the family takes some time helping at the store: her son and his girlfriend, a twelve-year old grandson, etc. Especially over the Easter weekend, there was someone coming in every thirty seconds to buy chips, pop, or a couple of cigarettes. A small color TV with a grainy picture is on a shelf

Herminia was at Diana’s house, but I think lives with one of her daughters. She’s a beautiful woman of 73 or so, silver hair pulled back in a bun, wearing pink. Like many Yaqui women of her generation, she had children with numerous men. Just as several of her children were raised by others, she raised the children of others. As Jane says, it was a time of very fragile relationships, and this is a functional adaptation. This rather reminds me of the disruptions caused by residential schools in Canada. Among the Yaqui they were caused by deportation, ethnic cleansing, war, rebellions, and the need to migrate for work. This makes it most remarkable that the family of Juana and Cresencio has stuck together; they raised all their own children plus some.

I asked Diana what people work at in the region. They mostly work for corporate farms, the maquiladoras, or mines. Or nothing. Very few people farm their own land; it’s all leased out to large concerns, since the 1980s. The Banco Ejidal closed at that point. It used to provide loans in the form of fertilizer and seed, but Yaqui farmers sold much of what they were given, then didn’t feed the soil enough and didn’t plant enough, so didn’t get enough of a crop to repay the loans, and defaulted. That left them without land and without work. (Alternatively, perhaps commodity prices were so low they couldn’t afford to farm, especially once they couldn’t get credit. The large landowners get the water, the credit, over-fertilize and contaminate with pesticides and plaguicides, and get to exploit cheap labor to boot.)

Lacking employment, drugs are making their way in. Lots of young kids are smoking marijuana, and crystal meth is producing painfully skinny addicts. Smoking marijuana alone isn’t so bad; many who use it still work hard to be able to buy it. The meth addicts can’t work; they just steal. There are a couple of dealers poised to go to battle for control of the pueblos; there’s likely to be violence. Already, four young Yaquis went to work for the narcos and were murdered.

Jane and I went to the small village of Torim to visit Pancha Valencia, who lives on the corner just coming into town. She’s the daughter of a brother of Rosario. All household members spoke to each other in Yaqui, and to us in Spanish. Like most older and more traditional women, Pancha and her sister wore a full or pleated skirt in blue or purple, and a matching blouse. Pancha’s daughter was there with her dimpled husband (a gardener in Guaymas) and their eighteen-month old son.

Pancha’s sister accompanied us to church to see if Lázaro Valencia (who turned out to be Lázaro Piña) could come out to talk to us. He has a cargo at the church; would gobernador allow it? Mass was just starting, so we left. We returned in the evening, when the young couple went with us. They climbed the hillside to the church and returned with Lázaro. He is a half-brother of Angel and Mariana Valencia, sharing their mother. This explains why he hadn’t come up before: he wasn’t Rosario’s child. Lázaro seems to have a relatively stable home with one of his daughters.

Current Yaqui issues

The guys admit to spending a lot of time on facebook when they’re outside the village, with internet. They use cell phones to look up google maps as well. They all have email accounts from school; I’ve sent them links to my photo online albums.

All these young people, boys and girls, chime in and speak up, each has his/her say, is quite political and analytical, and fiercely proud of being Yaqui. They say some people are ashamed to be Yaquis, and try to pretend they’re Mexican, anything but Indian, trying to pass.

They asked me if the Mohawk were in Canada, and knew of Oka and the golf course. Similarly, here, they are battling for water. A year ago Yaquis blockaded the the federal highway through Vicam. The state governor sent state police to remove the blockade. This was completely wrong, as the protest was against the state governor, so should have been dealt with by the federal gov’t. The governor is violating agreements between the Yaqui and Mexico.

Many years ago, the Yaqui were involved in war with the Mexicans (never having been conquered by the Spanish). The Mexicans practiced ethnic cleansing, forcing the Yaqui into the Sierra, murdering many, locking them up in concentration camps, and deporting them. From there, e.g. Yucatán, they came back and formed barrios called “Yucateco” and “Mérida.” The government of Lázaro Cárdenas allowed them back home and set aside some land for the Yaqui (thought nowhere near as much as their traditional territory), and also decreed that they’d be able to keep at least half the water from the Yaqui River for themselves.

Guillermo Padrés Elías, the current governor of Sonora, is determined to take the Yaqui water. He has no respect for the Indians. He introduced new school textbooks that erased the Yaqui altogether, and wants to replace them with the Seri as the iconic Indians of Sonora. “No quiere a los indios.” He’s building an aqueduct to divert water from the Río Yaqui to Hermosillo, which will leave even less water for them to live on, less for their crops. They used to grow two crops a year; now there is only enough water for one. Huirivis has had to merge w/ Potam because its people don’t have enough water. Since the agreement was federal, he has no right to do this, but he’s proceeding w/ construction of the Acueducto Independencia w/out consultation with Yaquis and despite legal claims, so then he can say they can’t turn back the clock.

Much of what the boys said (above) is echoed by

Hopkins, James (January 31, 2012). Presentación al Comité sobre la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial por las Autoridades Tradicionales de los Pueblos Río Yaqui. Retrieved April 8, 2013 from

Hopkins, James (January 31, 2012). Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the Traditional Authorities of the Rio Yaqui Pueblos.  Retrieved April 8, 2013 from

In February, 2012, James Hopkins of the University of Arizona, lawyer for the Traditional Authorities of the Pueblos of the Río Yaqui and Chief Justice of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, presented this report to the United Nations’ Committee for the Elimination of Racism. It summarizes the catastrophic losses of Yaqui land and water, violating promises made by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1937. The report includes information on subsurface water contamination, environmental deterioration and pesticide misuse. In addition, the Traditional Authorities filed a petition against Mexico before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2011.

The Yaqui Traditional Authorities have passed resolutions to prohibit the uncontrolled use of pesticides banned in the U.S. on their land, claiming contamination of water with carcinogens, etc. This was publicized during a meeting with the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) which also included Mayo, Huichol and Tohono O’odham and was supported by Mexico and the U.N. IITC representatives included Angel Valencia.

Norrell, Brenda (n.d.) Yaqui in Sonora ban pesticides resulting in death. Retrieved April 8 from

Jane thinks Robert Valencia, Chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, is sponsoring the Río Yaqui complaint about loss of their water to the international courts. I questioned by what authority he could do this, as the Yaqui here have their own government, and are in a separate state, besides. The Yaqui Traditional Authorities (those from Vicam in particular) have taken the Mexican gov’t to court and obtained an injunction from the Mexican Supreme Court, which is not being observed by the gov’t of Sonora. However, I learned that Robert Valencia was at the University of Victoria to participate in a panel moderated by James Hopkins in 2010, when Hopkins was Chair of National Aboriginal Economic Development. They also presented together at a Native American and Indigenous Studies conference in Tucson that same year. Come to think of it, Agustina spoke proudly of how her nephew, Robert Valencia, is Tribe Chair and teaches at the University of Arizona. He may even have arranged to have the Pascua Yaqui Tribe pay for Hopkins to represent the Pueblos to the U.N. He helped repatriate Yaqui skeletal remains from the American Museum of Natural History for interment in Vicam. (They’d been collected by anthropologist Ales Hrdlicka after a 1902 massacre.)

I was surprised the Yaqui youth were as positive as they are. I’d expect some negative sentiment about how things aren’t like they used to be, but they’re very much in tune with the authorities of their pueblos and how things are done. There was some giggling about how the governors selected for each pueblo aren’t always to everyone’s liking, but while they speak of the federal gov’t as corrupt, they don’t speak of their own that way. They do critique some things: there are lots of households that don’t practice the religion, that allow their kids to do anything, and where the youth have no involvement in tradition and nothing to do but get into trouble. The listen to hip-hop music and do drugs and booze.

How on earth did Juana keep all these guys on the straight and narrow? Cresencio has been gone for eleven years. Whenever the boys enter the ramada, they come around and greet with handshakes and kisses. Juana is a lovely looking older woman, maybe 10 years older than me. She was dressed in a matching pink blouse and a pink patterned skirt, with her big beautiful teeth and smile and round rimless glasses.

Other friends

I have fond memories of Phoenix almost exclusively because of our meeting with Jane’s friends, Jesús and his sister Elvira. Their father is Luis, who has become a great friend of Jane’s during her field seasons in Chihuahua. Doing archeology, it’s a good idea to get to know the neighbors, which is how Jane met Luis. He’d had back surgery years before, and was told to walk to recover. As he did, he watched the ground and he started picking up lithic tools and pottery shards. He has a phenomenal ability to remember exactly where he found each one, when, and with whom. That is combined with a really thorough knowledge of the land, the environment, the plants and the climate. Jane particularly admires him because he’s courageous, having stood up to government and landowner bullies over the years, in defense of the community. The affection is mutual; Luis and his wife Eva speak of the archeologists as “mis gringos.”

Sadly, he is now dying of lung cancer .He was brought to Arizona late last year, and doctors pronounced it inoperable. Elvira drove her parents home on December 24. She returned on the 25th with her daughter. A tire blew and the car rolled four times. Although the girl wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, they were unhurt!

Jesús met Jane when she first went to Chihuahua in 1989. He then came to the U.S. and has had different jobs, hanging drywall, as a mechanic, etc. He’s got beautiful light-colored eyes and a big smile, and he cracks a joke whenever possible. Elvira works as a nurse’s aide. She came here married and has two children born here, twins. She’s a really sweet, kind person with a soft smile, easy to get along with.

We visited with her again on our way north, having lunch at Las Cazuelas in her neighborhood. Elvira’s house is some 1700 square feet, shiny with lots of mirrors. There’s a “great room” of very large kitchen – dining – living room, four bedrooms, and at least two baths. It’s in an area of neat bungalows, but few with gardens as nice as hers (a green lawn, petunias and bedding plants, which will need water). There are lots of sidewalks. Her boyfriend is a welder. Her parents don’t approve; to them, marriage is for life. However, her ex-husband has returned to his ejido with a new partner!

We visited Bahti Indian Arts in Tucson, with pottery, kachinas, storytellers, basketry, jewelry, painting, sand paintings, and books, all very beautiful and costly. The owner, Mark Bahti, had stepped out briefly. His bibliography looks really interesting:

Archeologists make good friends! We spent several nights at the homes of Loy Neff and Nancy Pearson in Tucson, and with John Carpenter and Lupita Sánchez in Hermosillo. Jane has worked a good deal with the guys. Both opened their homes, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens to us. Both have multiple pets – all cats in Tucson, cats, dogs and a bird in Hermosillo. This proves their generosity. I so enjoyed getting to know them and, through them, their areas and colleagues. Loy and Nancy invited over Gloria, Lupita reached Raquel Padilla and prepared delicious curried chicken!

Raquel is very knowledgeable about Yaqui communities and their history. She spoke of going to Spain to do an archival search of the story of Yaqui soldiers sent to Morocco in the early 1900s. They were recruited in Veracruz, and he Mexican government tried to prevent their departure, perhaps successfully. Padilla was also to testify on behalf of Yaqui traditional guards arrested for carrying illegal weapons. . .

Memorable Meals

In Butte, Montana, we had supper at Fiesta Mexicana. The owner is a Mexican from Jalisco, preparing to build a retirement house on land he’s bought there. Ours was a good, comfort-food supper of enchiladas, tamales, refried beans and rice, w/ a bit of lettuce and tomato. Warm tortilla chips were especially good!

I loved the salad and fried chicken buffet at Sizzles in Cedar City, where 55 year-olds qualify for the senior discount and employees are extremely polite and full of “Excuse me, Ma’am”s. Good iced tea! I may be easy to please: I liked the turnip greens and ham at Cracker Barrel, too!

We stopped at a Five Guys burger joint for iced tea and peanuts in the shell. I was again amazed at the almost exaggerated welcome and friendliness of employees. They seem genuinely interested in customers:  “How are you enjoying your day so far?” and “Would you like a tray to carry your drink? Well, let me know if you change your mind.” Earlier, as I checked out a waffle restaurant, servers called out to wish me a nice day, hoping I’d return – “Aren’t you going to eat anything?” In each case, the employees were a mix of African- and Euro-American.

The Guadalajara is a great Mexican restaurant in Tucson. A woman comes to each table wheeling a cart and prepares fresh salsa then and there! Mariachi musicians come to each table, too, and Jane almost managed to stump them with her love of obscure songs.

Jane and I drove south to from Hermosillo to Guaymas. We made three attempts to get into the town, down to the old port section w/ shellfish shacks on the beach. No luck; it seems to no longer exist. However, we did get to marisco shacks at Empalme for delicious huge shrimp (Jane) and shellfish (me) cocktails. They were so large that, after we’d eaten all we could, we put the rest into thermal mugs and had it for supper!

I found myself hungry down by the urnia-decorating ramada in Rahum, and said so – thinking I’d find a puesto nearby. Not so, only food for participants. Being fed made us participants. The meal was a delicious huge flour tortilla with garbanzo soup. After so many years of unappetizing flour wraps in weird colors, I’d forgotten how good these fluffy wheat flour tortillas can be.

We arrived at Juana’s on Easter Saturday to find Juana patting out tortillas while Guadalupe and Teresa were cooking them on the metal comal, turned round side up over the fire. Before going to bed last night, they’d left the food ready to cook: stewed beef with large pieces of potato, refried pinto beans with lots of lard, onion, garlic, chicharrón, and salsa.  Neither Jane nor I intended to eat, as we’d eaten before leaving town, but we both succumbed. It was so good! Jane patted out her own tortilla!


Yaqui – various

Yaqui people. (2013, March 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:13, March 17, 2013, from

Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Retrieved March 17, 2013 from

te Wechel, Edith (2004). Yaqui: a short history. In Las Retrieved March 17, 2013 from

Holden, W. C. (1936) Studies of the Yaqui Indians of Sonora, Mexico. Retrieved March 23, 2013 from

Vachiam eecha. Planting the seeds. (Digital ethnography w/ Yaqui pueblos.)

Hiakim: the Yaqui homeland (Spring 1992). Journal of the Southwest Vol. 34, No. 1. Retrieved April 10, 2013 from

Florez de Amarillas, Maria (2005). Waehmatuko Teva (Lenten Fast). In The oficial website of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Retrieved March 17, 2013 from

Yaqui water rights

Meloncoyote (October 23, 2013) Yaqui Resistance: Against the Aqueduct, Agricultural Chemicals and Transgenics Crops on their Ancestral Lands. Americas program. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from

Piden Yaquis a la Suprema Corte reconocer sus derechos en próximo fallo sobre caso Acueducto Independencia. (Febrero 18, 2013). Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from

Padilla Ramos, Raquel (n.d.). Jornaleros agrícolas en las haciendas henequeneras de Yucatán: y el mundo vino a ellos. . .  Retrieved April 9, 2013 from…srl

Padilla Ramos, Raquel (2006). Progreso y libertad: los yaquis en la víspera de la repatriación. Programa Editorial de Sonora.

Padilla Ramos, Raquel (2011). Los irredentos parias: los yaquis, Madero y Pino Suárez en las elecciones de Yucatán, 1911. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Yaqui Easter

Duree, Richard (n.d.) Yaqui Easter. Rectrieved March 23, 2013 from

The history of the Yaqui Easter ceremony. Retrieved March 23, 2013 from

How to speak Semana Santa: Antigua, Guatemala. Retrieved March 23, 2013 from

Shorter, David Delgado (2009). We will dance our truth: Yaqui history in Yoeme performances. University of Nebraska. [GPRC e-book; on bookshelf.]

Yaqui and Mayo Easter ceremonies. In Rimjournal: Arizona y Sonora. Retrieved March 17, 2013 from

Painter, Muriel Thayer (1971). A Yaqui Easter. University of Arizona Press. Accessed March 23, 2013 at Luis David Valenzuela


Sinagua. (2013, February 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:50, April 4, 2013, from


3 thoughts on “Travels with Jane – Arizona and Sonora

  1. Good Morning Dr. Nock.

    I am very much blessed to be associated with you. I am so thrilled to see your work, and I will take my time and study it and enjoy it. My first quick look was to find out the picture sections which I could not find in three minutes. I am very proud of your accomplishment. Your last e-mail informed me that you are at Calgary. When are you planning to come to Grande Prairie?

    With Love and sincerity:

  2. Me again.

    My next attempt took me to the pictures right away. I saw your friend Jane, you, and your dusty car.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of information.


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