Yaqui Lands Eyed by Corrupt Politicians
LAND DISPUTES EXACERBATE CONFLICTS
Relations between Yaqui communities in northern Mexico's borderlands and the corrupt Mexican federal government have become markedly strained in recent months. Mexico's Yaqui pueblos must contend with a government which they feel neglects their rights and needs, and sponsors land seizures by outsiders.
Conflict has marred relations between the Mexican government and the Yaqui for hundreds of years. The tribe's current landholdings--a fraction of the 1,086,400 acres that made up the Yaqui's traditional lands--were established after a bloody conflict in the 1800s in which many Yaqui were forcibly relocated to the Yucatan to work as slaves. Although there have been no outright conflicts between the tribe and the government this century, government policies have frequently been the cause of internal divisions among the Yaqui.
Despite the fact that the federal and Sonoran state governments have fixed the boundaries of Yaqui territory, they have done little to protect Yaqui lands from encroachment by outside-owned agribusiness and ranching enterprises.
Instead, the Mexican government itself attempted to acquire 5,820 acres of land from the Yaqui in 1997. "The Yaqui wanted to preserve the land; the government wanted to seize it for ranching," says Pandura. "The form of communal land holdings conflicts with the government way of doing things."
Locals who work with the Yaqui say that some tribal members were promised positions of power if they helped the government cement the deal. But these positions never materialized and the spited tribe members, feeling they had been duped, led a movement against the purchase of the land. The Yaqui succeeded in obtaining a legal amparo, or protection, that stopped the land grab.
In the meantime, however, tribal land seizures by non-indigenous ranchers and farmers continue unabated. Despite the fact that government action should be taken to prevent the takeovers, "the government would rather let this happen," said Pandura.
This information comes from the IRC Borderlands Program, P.O. Box 2178, Silver City, NM 88062.
How should land ownership be decided? Tell your opinion to The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?