Yaqui and Mayo Indian Easter Ceremonies
The Easter Ceremonies of the Yaqui and the Mayo Indians of Arizona and Sonora represent a tradition that dates back to sometime in the early seventeenth century. At that time, pioneering Jesuit priests came into the valleys of the Río Mayo and the Río Yaqui in what is now Sonora, Mexico. The Catholic ceremonies and the Mayo and the Yaqui ceremonies blended into a cycle which includes sacred elements of both worlds.
This Chapayeka wears the older style white mask made of hide with long ears and a sharp nose. His folded blanket is also worn in the traditional manner. Chapayeka means “long nose” in Yaqui, perhaps referring to the early Spaniards.
Some of the Yaqui fled Mexico as war refuges after 1886 and into the 1930’s. They later revived their ceremonies in Arizona. There are three Yaqui villages in the Tucson area: Old Pascua, New Pascua and Barrio Libre, plus another village in Marana and also Guadalupe Pueblo in Phoenix. The Yaquis were officially recognized as a tribe by the United States in the 1980’s. Their own name for themselves is the Yoeme.
To an outsider, the ceremonies of the Yaqui and the Mayo have much in common. Visitors are usually welcome, but no outside cameras are normally allowed in the villages themselves. Do not enter the church without permission or intrude on the ceremonial areas.
The Chapayekas came to town and to the Sunday Tiaguis Market on the weekends preceding Easter to ask for contributions to help pay for the performance of the rituals. The Chapayekas were sometimes accompanied by unmasked men and boys who carried small, portable shrines and donation boxes. They played drums, chanted and acted as interpreters since the Chapayekas may not speak. Alamos is at the southern edge of traditional Yaqui country which centers around the fertile valleys of the Río Yaqui. The Mayo live in the next big drainage area south around the Río Mayo.