Sonoran Indigenous Groups

The Mayos of Southern Sonora

In their own language, the word Mayo means “people from the shore.” They refer to each other as Yoreme, “the people who respect tradition.” The Mayo region encompasses northern Sinaloa and Southern Sonora. In Sonora, the majority of Mayos reside in the Valle del Mayo, the Mayo Valley.

The Mayo Valley is a fertile agricultural region, and it also adjoins the shores of the Gulf of California. Because of the natural setting of the Valley, agriculture and fishing are two of its major industries.

There were originally eight Mayo pueblos that were established by Padre Mendez and other Jesuit priests in the early 1600’s. Some of those pueblos, such as Camoa, El Júpare, the city of Etchojoa, and Pueblo Viejo in the city of Navojoa, still exist today.

Other notable Mayo communities in Southern Sonora include Huatabampo, Navojoa, Quiriego and Alamos.

The Mayo Language

The Mayo language, which is linguistically very similar to the language of the Yaqui, is of the tara-cahita variation of the Yuto-Nahua linguistic family.

Like many native languages of Sonora, Mayo is threatened with becoming a lost language as fewer and fewer of Mayo youth speak their native tongue. Because of this, there are several efforts to increase knowledge of the language. One of these is Radio Indigena XEETCH in Etchojoa, which features programming in Mayo, Yaqui and Guarijio languages.

Arts and Crafts

Mayo craftspeople make a variety of arts and crafts products, to include weavings and knit products; stick baskets; musical instruments; wood masks and other carvings; and a variety of leather goods like belts, saddles, key rings, stools and tehuas (sandals).

Festivals and Faith

The Yoreme Mayo are known for their strong religious faith and adherence to customs and traditions. Their world view is greatly influenced by the natural world and the Catholic faith. They celebrate several religious and cultural events throughout the year, many of which are colorful, beautiful spectacles to observe.

Major annual religious events include Semana Santa (the Holy Week before Easter), Santísima Trinidad (the Most Holy Trinity), San José, San Ignacio de Loyola, Santa Cruz, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Cuaresma (Easter).

Additional Sources

National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) – Ethnography of the Mayo Peoples of Sinaloa and Sonora