Fig. 3.1: Map of Mayo Communities
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Mayo Indians are among the most numerous Indian groups in Mexico with more than 75,000 members distributed between more than 260 communities (Aguilar 1995). The traditional Mayo Indian territory runs from southern Sonora to northern Sinaloa and from the Gulf of California coast to the Sierra Madre Occidental; it covers almost 7,630 km2. Today, they share this territory with mestizo Mexicans. Mayo communities are located in the municipios (county) of Álamos, Navojoa, Etchojoa, and Huatabampo in Sonora and Los Mochis, El Fuerte, and Choix in Sinaloa. The most important ceremonial Mayo centers or communities are Júpare, Etchojoa, San Pedro, San Ignacio Cohuirimpo, Pueblo Viejo, Navojoa, Tesia, Camoa, Huatabampo, and Conicárit (Fig. 3.1).
The climate in Mayo country varies from desert to sub-tropical. A rainy season falls between July through September, but rain averages 400 mm annually. The maximum temperature falls around 45°C (110°F) in the summer and a minimum of 10°C (52°F) in winter, with an average of 25°C (77°F) . The Río Mayo and the Río Fuerte are the major rivers of the area, although several minor perennial rivers exist in the region as well. The soils in the Mayo region are rich and of the chestnut type with adequate humus but inadequate moisture; when irrigated, these fields make suitable farming lands. Currently and historically, this area with its reliable water sources, such as the Río Mayo, forms one of the most productive farming areas in the country today. The vegetation consists of mesquite, cottonwood, torote, joso, oak, and several species of cactus, such as agave, cholla, and pitahaya. Javalina, deer, rabbit, hare, mice, bobcats, puma, jaguars, snakes and several species of birds, lizards, and insects complement the desert flora. Unfortunately, urbanization, loss of natural habitats, and overexploitation have brought most of the fauna to the brink of extinction (Aguilar 1995; Griffith 1967a).
The Mayo ceremonies and traditions reflect the region’s diversity of natural resources and geographical characteristics. Mayo dances mimic the movement of the animals in the wild, the hunt, and the relationship between nature and people (Aguilar 1995; Crumrine 1990).