From my new manuscript: Stealing for Porfirio Díaz, Chapter 1

(The Loading of the Porfirio Díaz—early draft)


Te conozco, mosco,
por tu zumbidito.

I know you, fly, by the way you buzz.
(common Mexican saying)


Yori ~ Yaqui word for Mexican non-Indians;
those who do not give respect;
conqueror, whip, killer of people

Yoreme ~ Yaqui word for themselves;
those who win and give respect;
those who respect tradition; humanity;
those who give life.

torocoyori ~ Yaqui word for
those who do not respect their own tradition;
those who emulate or go over to the yoris.


The Report

For: His Excellency the Inspector General
Francisco M. Ramírez

Ministry of the Interior
Palacio Nacional
Mexico City


Miguel Angel Ibarra

Does one take life in order to stop torture,
banishment, executions, and slavery?
That is my question.

I am fifty-two. A few years ago, I suffered a small apoplexy. For a while I dragged my left foot a bit and wasn’t as steady on my feet. My wife Lirio—unsympathetic to my self-pity—would kiss me on the cheek and say at least the right limbs were still working fine. Then, off the cuff, she referred to her current reading—Goethe’s Faust—mentioning that Mephistopheles, the Devil, he too dragged one foot, and so I wasn’t so special. With time, my foot swung forward over the ground as it had before and my balance returned. But something troubling remained behind, in that I found it harder to give the usual quick answers to complex matters, or to accept old explanations.

Still, I am supposed to be writing a report on what to do with the Yaqui Indians. The year is 1900. I am a First Corporal in the National Rural Police, State of Sonora. I am one of the feared rurales who wear charro suits with silver buttons, a cavalry saber at the belt, the broad-rimmed sombrero and supposedly make up their own laws and shoot down their prisoners “while trying to escape.” It is called the ley fuga – the flight law. You tell the prisoner to walk away from you, or even run, then put a bullet in his back—at the lower tip of the left scapula. I have never used it on a Yaqui Indian. Or a Mexican non-Indian. I have never used it at all—though I have thought about it.

I am in charge of seventy-six men. I live in Tórim, about sixty kilometers south of the port of Guaymas, near the Yaqui River, in the middle of what has always been thought of as Yaqui land. Tórim is supposed to be a model community that shows how Yaquis and non-Yaquis can live together and thrive. This is the First Military Zone, and the Twelfth Battalion is stationed there to assure experiment’s success.

Theoretically, I take my orders from the President of the Republic Porfirio Díaz who resides in the Chapultepec castle and from certain government officials in the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City. But in reality, pressure also comes from the Governor’s office in Hermosillo. I have heard my immediate superior will soon be National Rural Police comandante Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky—referred to by some as the Kosack of the North, by others as the Mad Russian. I once wrote him about a problematic American mercenary that had nearly killed me twice with his 98 Mauser rifle and his Austrian telescopic lens. The American worked for the Governor and for the management of the American silver mine called La Cándida—the pure and innocent one—that sits like a sore in the middle of the Bacatete—mountains sacred to the Yaquis, a few miles east of Guaymas. I asked Colonel Kosterlitzky for his legal and political advice regarding the mercenary mentioned above. He telegraphed back, “Shoot the bastard as soon as is convenient.”

Porfirio Díaz has said Mexico must modernize. I am in agreement with this idea. Most of the Yaquis—the ones that are still left—do not know how to read and write. The same can be said of the National Rural Police. I have a beautiful wife Lirio and a beautiful daughter Mariana, eighteen. They know how to read and write. I had eight years of schooling with the Franciscans, who taught me how to write. I have been my own university since than, reading everything Lirio puts in my way. I am fairly light-skinned, the color of honey. None of my classmates, all boys, were Yaquis. They were Mexicans, most of them honey-colored like me, but some coffee-colored, like the Yaquis—already mixed with darker bloods. My friends want their children to be educated. The Yaquis want their children to stay alive.

If President Díaz really wanted to modernize Mexico, he should educate everyone. But I think he means something else when he says modernize. I think he means take this land away from the Yaquis. He says there should be no corporate ownership of property. He equates community ownership with corporate ownership, and this position is reflected in the Baldío Law of 1883. It is true he takes property away from the Church, but he does not kill priests. Plus, priests do not work the land in order to survive. When you take land away from the Yaquis, you are attacking their very existence. I can not speak too closely to this issue, since I do not have much to do with the Church. But I live among the Yaquis.

I am suppose to enforce this policy of modernization. At least the part about the Indians. My men and I are to guard the surveyors from the the Ministry of Development – the Scientific Commission of Sonora – who drive the pipes into the ground, dividing up the black soil into sections. The government tells the Yaquis of the Eight Villages that they have to register their land. The latter come to the municipality buildings to sign, to clarify that they already own the land.

That is when the traps begin. The government says the Yaquis have to pay taxes on the land. The Yaquis say they don’t own the land as individuals. They say it is community land and always has been. The municipality says individuals must sign, it doesn’t matter who actually pays the taxes. The Yaqui leaders say they can’t sign. The municipality says that’s all right, someone will sign for you. The authorities make deeds and write “State of Sonora” on them. Later, that is changed to “at the legal disposition of the elected governor.” And still later, they declare these sections “unoccupied” and sell them to outsiders with money, often land speculators.

To stay on their land the state says the Yaquis must pay taxes for the last ten years—an exorbitant sum. The Yaqui leaders say, taxes for what? There are no schools, no roads, no police protection, and no rights of citizenship like those given to the people with honey-colored skin who are descendants of the the Spanish and the Gringos. Who were not born from this river and this soil. In the meantime, the Sonora and Sinaloa Irrigation Company, with 75 percent American interest, begins to divert water from the Río Yaqui away from Yaqui farmers and into land owned by yoris – outsiders. At gun point.

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