Cajemé (Yaqui language for "the one who does not stop to drink water"'), born José Maria Leyva (also spelled Leiva, and Leyba) was a Yaqui leader who lived in the Mexican state of Sonora from 1835 to 1887.


José Maria (Bonifacio) Leyva was born on May 14, 1835 at Pesiou (the Yaqui name), Sonora, also known as Villa de Pitic, and currently called Hermosillo. Although his foremost biographer, Ramon Corral, had stated that Cajemé was born in 1837 (Corral, 1959 [1900] ), and this date had been used by others since then, the baptismal record shows that this was incorrect (Iglesia Católica, 1835). Also, in the initial newspaper article released by Ramon Corral (1887), José Maria Leyva's father is properly identified as Fernando Leyva (born about 1816 at Huirivis, Sonora), and his mother as Juana Maria Peres (born about 1817 at Potam, Sonora), as does the baptismal record. However, in the biography of Cajemé later published by Corral (1959 [1900] ), he calls José's father "Francisco." At the age of 14, José accompanied his father Fernando, and others from Sonora, in the 1849 "Gold Rush" to Upper California, and returned about two years later, having learned English. His father evidently did well in the gold fields, as José was enrolled in an exclusive private school, the first Colegio Sonora operated by Cayetano Navarro, Prefect of Guaymas, subsequently learning to read and write Spanish. Interestingly, Corral does correctly state that Cajemé was 16 to 18 years of age during his time in school.

Later in life José Maria Leyva successfully served in the Mexican military in the war against the French occupation, even participating in the capture of Emperor Maximilian in May 1867. José Maria Leyva's service proved so exemplary that he was later appointed to the office of "Alcalde Mayor" of the Yaqui by Sonora Governor Ignacio Pesqueira. Expected by Pesqueira to assist in pacifying the Yaqui people, he instead united the eight Yaqui pueblos into a small, independent republic and unexpectedly announced he would not recognize the Mexican government unless his people were allowed to independently govern themselves. He led the Yaqui in a war against the Mexican state and those who sought to control and confiscate the traditional Yaqui lands. The war was long-lasting due to the skill of the Yaqui in battle under José Maria Leyva's leadership, and was particularly brutal, with atrocities on both sides but much larger-scale slaughter on the part of the forces of the Mexican government of Porfirio Díaz.

In 1885,one of Cajemé's early supporters, Loreto Molina, sought to gain control of the Yaqui people. With the support of the Mexican Authorities, Molina developed an assassination plot to kill Cajemé at Cajemé's own home. Molina and twenty-two other Yaquis set out to kill Cajemé, but Cajemé was not at home. Molina ran off Cajemé's family and burned his house to the ground instead. After Molina failed to kill Cajemé, the Mexican Government sent a force of three columns of 1200 men each to occupy the Yaqui territory. This force was originally under the command of General Jose Guillermo Carbo. However, before he could lead them to the engagement, Carbo died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on October 29, 1885. Following this, General Angel Martinez was placed in control of these three columns.

Hubert Howe Bancroft relates (1888) how one of the columns was led by generals Leiva (no relation to Cajemé) and Carillo, and traveled west towards the Yaqui River Valley, carrying two mitrailleuse (the first machine gun used in major combat). Another was lead by General Camano, and came from the south-east with two howitzers. A heavy body of cavalry came from the town of Buena Vista, from the north-east. General Angel Martinez directed the occupation of the strategic pueblo of Torim and other areas of the Yaqui River Valley from his headquarters at Barojica. General Bonifacio Topete eventually took control of a large part of the force and attempted to overrun a major fortification that the Yaqui built near Vicam. The fort, "El Añil", was the first use of defensive warfare by Cajemé, and consisted of fences, parapets, with a moat surrounding it. Although Topete's infantry force used cannons in the attack, Topete was defeated with a loss of 20 men. Following this successful repulsion of the Mexican forces, Cajemé gave the command to fortify other locations and to fight only behind trenches. In April of 1886, the Mexican forces occupied the Yaqui town of Cócorit; and on May 5, 1886, a major siege was began by the Mexican army at El Añil. By May 16, the Mexican army destroyed the fortification at El Añil, which was a major defeat for the Yaquis (See also Hernández, 1902).


Eventually betrayed by a Yaqui woman whose sympathies lay with Molina and other Yaquis opposed to resisting Mexican authority, Cajemé was finally captured while visiting family in the city of Guaymas on April 13, 1887. Cajemé was kept under house arrest by General Angel Martinez. He was treated with all of the respect and courtesy accorded to a defeated leader of a country while under arrest. Cajemé was extensively interviewed by Ramón Corral, who was elected Vice-Governor of Sonora on April 25, 1887 (N.Y. Times, 1887), later becoming Governor of Sonora, and eventually rising to the office of Vice-president of Mexico under Porfirio Diaz. It was at this time that Cajemé's famous saying was recorded: "Antes como antes y ahora como ahora. Antes éramos enemigos y peleábamos, Ahora está Todo concluido y todos somos amigos ( Before was before and now is now. Before we were enemies and we fought; now everything is concluded and all can be friends)" (Corral,1959 [1900] ).

At least two photos were taken of Cajemé during his arrest, in both traditional Mexican campesino garb (as shown in the photo), as well as in a dark blue military jacket that he was known to wear when fighting. In both photos he is seen holding a Winchester Model 1873 Carbine, and carrying a white-handled revolver. Following this, Cajemé was taken across Guaymas bay by the steam-powered gunboat "Demócrata" to the Yaqui River port of El Médano, near Potam, and paraded through several of the Yaqui pueblos along the river, to show that the leader of the Yaqui had been captured. At eleven in the morning, on the return trip to Guaymas, a pretense was made that Cajemé was trying to escape his guard. He was shot seven times, causing his death at Tres Cruces de Chumampaco. An American reporter for the Tucson Daily Citizen (1887) visited the site of his death, and found Cajemé's hat was nailed to a tree, and a wooden cross inscribed with the following: "INRI, aque [sic] fallecio General Cajemé, Abril 23, 1887, a los 11 y 5 la manaña" (INRI [Latin for Jesus of Nazareth, King] Here died General Cajemé, April 23, 1887 at 11:05 in the morning). Cajemé's body was given to Tomás Durante, leader of the Yaqui people residing at Cócorit, and those Yaqui loyal to Cajemé reverently buried him at Cócorit. Following this incident, General Martinez ordered an investigation of the actions of his Lieutenant, Clemente Patino, who was in charge of the detachment that had escorted Cajemé. Following Cajemé's death, Anastasio Cuca, Cajemé's second in command, was captured on May 20, 1887 at Tucson, Arizona. He was extradited to Sonora at the request of the governor and executed. Afterward, Juan Maldonado, also known as Tetabiate ("Rolling Stone"), took over in leading the fighting, becoming Cajemé's successor in June of the same year (Troncoso, 1905).

For many years following Cajemé's death there were strenuous efforts by the Mexican government to kill or remove the Yaqui from the state of Sonora. Much of the Yaqui nation was enslaved and sent to work as slave laborers in the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Quintana Roo, where thousands died laboring in the heniquin plantations (Turner, 1911). Many Yaqui fled to neighboring states, and submerged their identity with that of other Indian groups. Quite a few Yaqui fled to Southern Arizona, where their descendants live today.

José Maria Leyva's Family

José Maria Leyva's first spouse was Maria Salgado Ramires. They had two children, both born in Hermosillo: a son, Sotero Emiliano Leyva Salgado, born in 1863 (Iglesia Católica, 1863), and a daughter, Victoria Leyva Salgado, born in 1866 (Iglesia Católica, 1866). It is likely that Cajemé's son died some time after 1885, probably in a battle against the Mexican forces, however, his daughter was still living (Newark Daily Advocate, 1885), and was able to escape the later persecution of the Yaqui people, traveling first to the state of Chihuahua, and later entering the United States of America at El Paso, Texas. Victoria died on August 5, 1946, in Los Angeles, California, living long enough to see four children, and four grandchildren born.


* Bancroft, H. H. (1888). [,M1 "History of Mexico, Vol. VI."] San Francisco: The History Company. p. 462

* Corral, Ramón. (1887). Jose Maria Leyva Cajeme. A serial article published in "La Constitution," beginning in June, 1887. Hermosillo, Sonora.

* Corral, Ramón. (1959 [1900] ). Biografía de José María Leyva Cajeme. In "Obras históricas." Reseña histórica del Estado de Sonora, 1856-1877; Las razas indígenas de Sonora. No. I. Hermosillo, Sonora, Retrato del autor. (Biblioteca Sonorense de Geografía e Historia) [Note: This is the second printing of this book, which was originally published in 1900. It was republished in 1959 as part of a series on the geography and history of Sonora]

* Hernández, Fortunato. (1902). "Las razas indígenas de Sonora y la guerra del yaqui." Mexico: J. de Elizalde.

* Iglesia Católica. (1835). "Libro de Bautistos 1835,Registro 1433," Catedral De La Asunción Metropolitana; Hermosillo, Sonora.

* Iglesia Católica. (1863). "Registros parroquiales: Bautismos 1860-1865," La Asunción; Hermosillo, Sonora. In " FHL INTL Film 671286," Microfilme de manuscritos en el archivo de la parroquia; La Asunción fue titular de la catedral metropolitana de la diócesis de Hermosillo. Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmado por la Sociedad Genealógica de Utah, 1968.

* Iglesia Católica. (1866). "Registros parroquiales: Bautismos 1865-1869," La Asunción; Hermosillo, Sonora. In " FHL INTL Film 671288," Microfilme de manuscritos en el archivo de la parroquia; La Asunción fue titular de la catedral metropolitana de la diócesis de Hermosillo. Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmado por la Sociedad Genealógica de Utah, 1968.

* Newark Daily Advocate. (1885). "A Troublesome Indian race." Newark, Ohio. June 10, 1885. See also: A "Troublesome Indian race." The Mitchell Daily Republican. Mitchell, South Dakota. June 26, 1885. [Note: this was a widely syndicated article at the time. The two citations given are among the easiest to locate.]

* N.Y. Times. (1887). [ "The Sonora Election."] April 27, 1887.

* Troncoso, Francisco P. [ "Francisco de Borja del Paso y Troncoso"] (1905). "Las guerras con las Tribus Yaqui y Mayo del estado de Sonora, Mexico." Mexico: Tipografia del departamento de estado mayor.

* Tucson Daily Citizen.(1887). May 25, 1887.

* Turner, John Kenneth. (1911). "Barbarous Mexico: An Indictment of a Cruel and Corrupt System." Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company. [Note: This is probably the best and most famous English language exposé of the Yaqui situation in Mexico during the early 20th century.]

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