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Who Are the Mayos?

The Mayo Indians are an indigenous group living in the Río Mayo valley in Southern Sonora and the Río Fuerte valley in Northern Sinaloa (Fig. 2.1).

Fig. 2.1: Map of Rio Yaqui, Rio Mayo and Rio Fuerte Areas
Fig. 2.1: Map of Río Yaqui, Río Mayo and Río Fuerte Areas
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They are one of many groups of indigenous peoples who continue to live and maintain their culture in what today is Mexico—a diverse and multicultural country. The Mayo belong to the Cahita linguistic family and are so related to the Yoeme, the Ocoroni, and the Guasave Indian groups. Unfortunately, today, no members from the last two groups survive in northern Sinaloa, their original territory, or elsewhere in Northwest Mexico. Mayos maintain relationships with the Yoemem to the north and to the Guarijíos to the east (Sierra Madre) as well as with the mestizo Mexicans that live near or in their communities.

According to the group’s oral tradition, the word “Mayo” means “the people of the river bank” and refers to the Río Mayo in Sonora and Río Fuerte in Sinaloa. The Mayos call themselves Yoreme also, which means “he that respects the tradition.” Those who are not Yoreme are addressed as Yori, or “he that does not respect,” referring mostly to the mestizo Mexicans or other non-Indian peoples. Incidentally, Indians who deny their roots and community obligations are named Torocoyori or “he that betrays” or “he that denies the tradition” (Aguilar 1995; Crumrine 1990).

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