Sinaloa Mexico: The new generation of artisans in the Mayo-Yore culture


According to the oral tradition of the group, the word mayo means “the people of the river”. The Mayos recognize themselves as Yoremes: “the people who respect the tradition”; in contrast, the white man is called: “he who does not respect”. The indigenous people who deny their roots and community commitments conceptualize them as torocoyori: “he who betrays”, “he who denies tradition”.

Resultado de imagen para cultura mayo-yoreme


The Mayo region is located between the northern part of the state of Sinaloa and southern Sonora. In Sinaloa their communities are distributed in the municipalities of El Fuerte, Choix, Guasave, Sinaloa de Leyva and Ahome. In the state of Sonora, the municipalities of Álamos, Quiriego, Navojoa, Etchojoa and Huatabampo.

Due to their historical process, the Mayos have had to share their territory with mestizos. In practically all the communities both groups coexist and in some localities the indigenous people have been displaced by the other group; The Mayos live preferably in communities where their ceremonial centers are located: Júpare, Etchojoa, San Pedro, San Ignacio Cohuirimpo, Pueblo Viejo, Navojoa, Tesia, Camoa, Huatabampo and Conicárit in the state of Sonora.

Resultado de imagen para cultura mayo-yoreme

As members of the Cahita family, they were previously related to the Yaquis, Ocoroni and Guasave, these last two groups have already disappeared; Currently the Mayos of Sonora relate to the Yaquis to the north and east (the sierra) with the Guarijíos.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

Historical background

The Mayos share their origin, language and history with the Yaquis; They are two sister cultures. The warohios, the rarámuri, the Guarijíos, the Mayos and the Yaquis are the result of a process of ethnic-regional redistribution that transformed the character of these groups.

Through the rupestrian remains of this area, called Aridoamérica, we can record the existence of the Huatabampo culture from around 180 BC The first settlers of the region were dedicated to hunting, fishing and gathering. Gradually they developed an agricultural technique that allowed them to settle in diverse communities along a large area.

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The first warlike confrontation that the Mayos had was with the Spaniards, led by Nuño de Guzmán in 1531; in 1584 the first formal establishment of the Spaniards in its territory takes place, from the construction of the fort of Montesclaros. The influence of the Jesuits, after their arrival in 1591, was decisive for the pacification. Diego Martínez de Iturralde corresponded to defeat the Mayans militarily and sign their submission to the Spanish Crown in 1599. However, they did not cease to resist the Spaniards. After the signing, colonization and evangelization began under the direction of the Jesuit Pedro Méndez, who was in charge of building seven chapels that functioned as integrating axes of the communities in the region.

In 1700, the current state of Sonora belonged to the Audiencia de Guadalajara and the control exercised by the Jesuits, a fact that questioned the Mayos, since they had no control of their own government or key positions. This, and the constant dispossession of indigenous lands by the Spaniards, motivated the Mayo and Yaqui uprising in 1740, led by the Yaqui leader named Juan Calixto or Muni. He managed to gather a considerable number of yoremes, with which the Yaqui and May wars began. At the end of the war, with the defeat of the Yoremes, there is a period of peace that lasts until 1825. In the 19th century, other Yaqui uprisings occurred, such as those led by Juan Banderas Cajeme and Tetabiate, in which participation is important may.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

From 1867 new conflicts in the region were aggravated, since the policy of the time was to dominate the Indians and make them disappear at any cost, hence deportation campaigns were organized. During the Revolution, the Mayos participated in it because of the promise of Álvaro Obregón, a native of the region, to reintegrate their land when it triumphed, which it never fulfilled.

More recently, in the period of President Cárdenas, their demand for land was resolved through the constitution of the ejidos of the Valle del Mayo. Although this made them lose control over their territory by integrating the mestizos in the ejidos and allowing them access to positions such as the ejido commissioner.


The May language belongs to the Tara-Cahita family of the Yuto-Nahua trunk and is related to the Yaqui and Guarijío languages, although each of the three presents dialectal variations.

The dominant language in the region is Spanish and most Mayos speak it. Monolingualism, which is quite low, is recorded mostly among young children and the elderly.

There are a number of causes that have contributed to displacing the Mayo language as a factor of identification among the yoremes: the capitalism of the region, the presence of the mestizos in the same productive structure of the Mayos, the ejido, and the discrediting that it represents for many speak the language of their grandparents, and so on.


The health of the Mayos is served in three different ways: through official institutions, in the home (domestic medicine) and through traditional specialists.

Domestic medicine addresses common ills. It is based mainly on the use of infusions such as teas and water for use with various plants and in certain practices with rubbing and applications on the body. Plants that are easy to reach are used. The most common ills that are cured through these remedies are stomachache, toothache, ear pain, discomfort, fever and bruise, among others. Their treatments are not very complex and are carried out mainly by mothers.

The specialists or healers are dedicated to bone care, fright, fall of the head, empacho, “bleed”, deliveries and it is said that even anger. Their knowledge they acquire by divine gift, by teaching of a relative, by means of a dream. They use prayers, rosaries, prayers, holy water, rubbing with eggs, sobadas, poultices and infusions, plants, animals and some minerals. There are those who are dedicated to bones, scares, births, rabies. In the state of Sinaloa Mayo healers have demanded official recognition on the exercise of their profession.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

living place

This one is constructed with diverse materials: there are them of reed, heart of pitahaya or sahuaro enjarrado of adobe. In some houses, roof with wooden structure and reed is used with earth plasters, mud brick and limed to avoid saltpeter. Normally each home has a bower made of mesquite poles and roofed with reed, tule or palm depending on the region; there are also “material” houses made with reeds and concrete blocks.

Housing is not acquired by purchase. Usually the new families settle in the paternal lots. Some have at least two rooms, one of which is used as a bedroom and a task room and the other as a dining room and kitchen. A small external room is enabled to bathe and another as a toilet. The use of a gas stove and electrical installation is widespread. In the homes of May, there is usually a cross made of mesquite that represents their faith and is also a protective element.

Territory, ecology and social reproduction

The May territory in the north of Sinaloa and the south of Sonora, covers an area of ​​7 625 km2 distributed in three regions: the skirt of the sierra or low sierra, the valley and the coastal strip. Its heights range from sea level to 2,000 m. It is irrigated by the Mayo and Fuerte rivers; With the existing dams some irrigation systems and dams have been created for agriculture. Its soils, Chestnut-type chestnut, are poor in vegetal layer, clayey, silty and with difficult to work migajones. The climate fluctuates between desert and subtropical, the rainy season is mostly from July to September. The maximum temperature in the summer reaches 45 ° C, but its annual average is 25 ° C and that of its 400 mm precipitation.

Its flora is characteristic of desert places: mesquites, poplars, mountain olive, cactus, choya, etcetera. Its fauna, in danger of extinction due to urbanization and industrialization, is composed of wild boar, ravens, rattlesnake, opossum, hare, and other species. Others like the deer are in clear extinction.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

The main activities of the region are: intensified agriculture with technification, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides, irrigation systems and the expansion of cultivation areas through clearing. The area of ​​rain forest and pasture consists of 30,000 ha of first quality and about 328,000 of second. The production is organized ejidalmente, although the rentismo and the salaried work of the yoremes is frequent. Fishing is carried out by 30 fishing cooperatives, shrimp is the main export product. The tuna and sardine packers in Yavaros are also important. Finally, livestock is practiced at the family and semi-intensive level in the ejido.

There are cattle, goats, pigs, horses and farm birds. The cities of Huatabampo and Navojoa represent the most important commercial centers of the region, highlighting the latter as a city oriented towards agricultural development, where the products of the crops are concentrated and processed: safflower, soybean, chickpea, sorghum and cotton, among others.

The Mayos, in general, work as day laborers; others are used in the municipal capitals, such as packers, cashiers, loaders, masons, butchers, and so on.

Migration is not important among Mayos, it is concentrated mainly among young sectors of both sexes, but migrants maintain family and religious ties with their community. Its character is temporary and in some cases permanent. The options are in the maquiladoras of Nogales or Hermosillo and in the tuna boats of Puerto Guaymas, among others.

Social organization

The basic social grouping of the Mayos is the extended family and the networks of relationships and solidarity that this brings with it: the family constitutes a space of collective participation to which all its components are integrated, such as grandparents, parents, children, uncles , nephews and brothers.

Another space is the town itself, which is referred to as a Ceremonial Center that brings together various neighboring communities and where all the members participate actively in the organization of traditional festivals.

In most cases, the forms of organization and power are controlled by the Yoris: as the ejido commissariats, the preventive police, the church board, the progress boards and the municipal authorities. The latter are preponderantly grouped in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The constitutional government is divided between the municipalities of Huatabampo, Navojoa, Etchojoa and Álamos.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).  Deer Dance

There is practically no government structure of the yoremes. The traditional organization of the Mayos, through the governor or supreme council, has greater functionality and representatives among the Mayos of Sinaloa. In Sonora, these positions are more recognized by institutions and some communities than by the yoreme population. The Mayo organization is expressed above all in religious structures that ensure the traditional ritual.

Cosmogony and religion

The vision of the Mayo world has two great influences that have been transforming each other until adopting a deep and complex face in their meanings. In its rites, songs and dances, the role of nature, as a supplier of its world, is expressed in the character played by dancers like El Venado and El Pascola. It is a world where flowers, birds and deer are sung. Another influence is due, from the action of the Jesuits, to the Catholic faith reflected in the veneration of certain divinities such as the Holy Trinity, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, etc.; Both influences, amalgamated, interact in their traditions, festivals and beliefs.

Among its myths of origin is one that tells how God created gold for the Yoris and the objects of work for the Yoremes; the restrictions that prevent incest; of how God created the first animals and made them as they are, among others.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

The religion of the Mayos is organized around the Ceremonial Centers or Traditional Peoples, formed by smaller communities gathered around a saint. In each one of them a series of positions are carried out, designated by the religious authorities, such as the teacher, the alawasin, the cantors and the church board. Much of the organization is based on a series of commitments through promises or trusts, which can be made by the individual himself who expects or has received a divine favor; or through a person promised by his father or mother to carry out the command for two or three years and even throughout his life. Through this means individual participation is committed and the collective is ensured through family ties.

Gradually, the presence of evangelists and the Protestant church has been ensuring spaces in certain communities and winning the participation of some Mayos. However, the traditional system of community commitments, parties and promises has not been altered by these new churches in the region.


The ceremonial life of the yoremes is of great importance, practically all the festivals have links with the Catholic Church and its liturgical calendar. In these festivities various elements are expressed in ritual spaces delimited according to the occasion and type of festivity: dances, processions, orchestras, images of saints, and so on. Among the most important festivals are: Holy Week, Holy Trinity, Saint Joseph, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Holy Cross, Virgin of Guadalupe, Day of the Dead and Lent.

These festivals express various elements in ritual spaces delimited such as the church itself, the bell tower, the space for the conti or procession, where the matachines also dance organized in brotherhood; the ramada or ramadón where the dances of pascola and deer are performed and where are the stops of the musicians (flute, drum, harp, violin, scrapers and water drum) that accompany the ceremony; the cottages of the partiers where throughout the party they live and prepare food for them, the visitors and the participants of the ceremonies.

Ethnography of the May people of Sinaloa and Sonora (Yoremes).

Relations with other peoples

The first and most important interethnic relationship lived by the yoremes is with the yoris (white people). Another factor that has had a strong influence on May culture has been the Yaqui culture: although both are essentially different, they share diverse common features of historical, religious, cosmogonic and linguistic character.

Source: Linea directa, Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, 

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