Pima Bajo - Sociopolitical Organization



Political Organization and Social Control. When first encountered, the Pima appear to have had an elected headman. Early Spanish influences resulting in the involvement of Pima in military forays perhaps imposed military leaders called captain, general, corporal, and others. The names have been translated into Pima at times, so that it is difficult to discern original from later political structure. The leadership structure seems to have been more like that of the Mayo and Cora, even more like the pre-Hispanic Gila River Pima and the Mesoamerican pattern than that of the neighboring Tarahumara. Today political control involves ejidal, municipio, and Indian leaders. Indigenous political organization consists of an Hispanic-colonial imposed system of elected governors and assistant governors. A governor controls the affairs of the Pima residents in the town of Maycoba and the nearby ranchos. The governor represents the tribe in matters involving municipio and state governments and, with the aid of his assistant, keeps official census records, is responsible for health matters and the schools, and arbitrates domestic and other disputes. As one of the few literate Indians, he deals with outsiders, is used as an intermediary by mestizos in assembling community work groups for local public projects such as road building, and acts as a hiring agent for mestizos.

Beyond this indigenous domain, political control is handled by ejido officers, mostly mestizos. This involves dealing with municipio, state, and federal authorities; protecting landholdings; collecting taxes; and registrating land. The chief ejido official, called the presidente or comisario, is responsible for acting as liaison among local citizens, including in matters affecting Indians, and brings before the municipio leaders any Pima who commits a serious crime such as murder, rape, or theft. The tribe does not have its own court, and members complain that problems of crime, except for petty matters handled by the governor and his assistant, are ignored by the Blanco authorities. Other ejidal officers include a treasurer, one charged with maintaining law and order and his assistant, and a range marshal and his assistant. The native and mestizo land-tenure and political systems are overlaid by another layer, that of the municipio, a wardlike system. The Yécora municipio administrative seat is in the town of Yécora. The presidente municipal and other officers take responsibility for law and order and other functions. Municipal officers are the main contacts with outside state and other political and legal entities, and hence have the greatest power in that they dispense federal and state services and funds, such as those for building and maintaining roads.

Despite holding civil offices in towns such as Maycoba, Pima responsibility and authority are severely limited by the Blanco power structure. Fourteen families have large landholdings in the area, with a member of one of them acting as the presidente municipal. Five of these families live in Maycoba, a supposed "Indian" town. Three of these families own stores where Pima must shop because there are no other facilities available. Other ranching families hire Pima for work. Pima dependence on the Blancos for store goods and wages ensures that Indian officials will not have power to implement decisions not favored by the non-Indians. In fact, the chief Pima political leader, the governor, must have approval of the mestizo power structure before standing for election.

Conflict. Initial relations between the Blancos and the Pima were friendly, or at least without marked conflict. In the beginning, the outsiders who settled in the region did not exploit the land being used, and the Pima earned wages as herders, drovers, plowmen, and laborers. Blancos also provided a small market for Pima crafts such as baskets, sleeping mats, and ceramic containers. After the 1910 Revolutionary War, the influx of Blancos increased steadily, and conflict over land use became widespread. For many reasons, the Pima are politically, socially, and economically powerless compared to their mestizo neighbors. They lack fluency in Spanish, literacy, money, and the influence needed to defend their rights. Power lies totally in the hands of the Blancos. The Pima say that lands the mestizos claim they purchased were acquired illegally; those who sold lands were duped or had no legal right to sell because communally owned properties can not be sold by individuals in the case of ejido lands. In other cases, the Pima maintain that the property had been temporarily rented or placed as collateral for loans, or that usufruct rather than sale of land had been intended. With more power and access to the institutions of power in Mexican society, the Blancos have developed effective strategies for the continued domination and exploitation of the indigenous people. They create economic dependency on store credit and wages, influence the election of Indian officials, and deny them representation at ejido, municipio, and state levels.

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