Mexico creates justice commission for the Yaqui community, the country’s most persecuted Indigenous group

The Yaquis were attacked and temporarily evicted from Sonora over 100 years ago

Mexico creates justice commission for the Yaqui community, the country’s most persecuted Indigenous group
The Yaquis fought the Mexican government’s brutal campaign to eliminate the tribe in the late 1800s and early 1900s - Photo: Jorge Serratos/EL UNIVERSAL
English 10/08/2020 11:14 Newsroom & Agencies Sonora AP, Pedro Villa y Caña & Amalia Escobar/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 11:25

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The Mexican government on Friday set up a Justice Commission for the Yaqui People, looking to solve the land, water, and infrastructure problems of what President Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls Mexico’s most persecuted Indigenous group.

The President and his cabinet met with the leaders of eight Yaqui communities. He announced he will lead the justice commission. 

The Yaquis were attacked and temporarily evicted from their homeland in Sonora over 100 years ago.

“All the original inhabitants suffered robbery, but no people suffered as much as the Yaqui,” López Obrador said Thursday in a meeting with Indigenous leaders. “Here, to steal their land they killed more than 15,000 Yaquis.”

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The multi-agency commission established on Friday will seek to work out longstanding water and land claims and provide housing, schools, and medical facilities for the impoverished Yaqui community.

Perhaps best known for the mystical and visionary powers ascribed to them by writer Carlos Castaneda, the Yaquis stubbornly fought the Mexican government’s brutal campaign to eliminate the tribe in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But they were largely defeated by 1900, and dictator Porfirio Díaz began moving them off their fertile farmland to less valuable territory or virtual enslavement on haciendas as far away as Yucatán.

One of the last chapters was a 1902 massacre by Mexican soldiers of about 150 Yaqui men, women, and children. They were among about 300 Yaqui men, women, and children who escaped from forced exile and started walking back to their lands in Sonora. They were attacked by 600 soldiers in the mountains near the Sonora capital of Hermosillo.

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The mistreatment didn’t stop there. In 2010, the Sonora government built a water pipeline across Yaqui territory to supply major cities. The Yaquis say they weren’t properly consulted and did not benefit from the project. On Friday, President López Obrador noted he had agreed to modify the route of a planned gas pipeline opposed by the Yaquis, so it would not run through their territory.

López Obrador has championed Indigenous culture and traditions, but his love of big government infrastructure projects has sometimes put him at odds with Indigenous communities.

In July, he inaugurated the start of construction on the Mayan train, which is to run some 1,500 kilometers in a rough loop around the Yucatán peninsula, from Caribbean beaches to the interior. 

Some Mayan communities have filed court challenges to the project, arguing it will cause environmental damage. They also say they were not adequately consulted and will not share in its benefits.

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