Oral History Interview with Ignacio Ochoa Álvarez
June 20, 2012, in Pótam, Sonora
Length: 10 minutes, 29 seconds
Original (Spanish) Transcription: Benjamin Alonso
Translation: Andrew Offenburger
Finalized: June 25, 2018
Ochoa: In 1910, my "apá" and my "amá" (as I called my grandparents) lived in a town called San Miguel de Horcasitas. It's on the other side of Hermosillo [gestures], that way. There they lived. There it was purely Yaquis as with the tribe right here. One day a brigade arrived, or in other words, soldiers or something like that; and the men were removed. They took them away. [They took away t]hose who were there, all in that little town. And they grabbed my grandfather towards the end. My grandfather was going to do some shopping at a store. The soldiers arrived, they grabbed him and said, "let's go." They put handcuffs or something like that on him. They started taking him. And then my grandfather [with handcuffs on] turned and said to his son: "Go away, my boy, I'll soon return to you and will bring you some candy," he said. He never came back, and was never seen again, they say.
After four days, or about a week or two later, another group arrived ... All of the women and their children were taken. Everyone, everyone, embarked on wagons. My father went then, too, they took him as a small boy. He returned from the south after twenty years. And because of the lapse from that time to here, I conclude that my father was a man from the last century. When my dad died here, he was more than 100 years old. That's why I come to the conclusion that this story is from that date .
And my family's origin was in Bataconcica. But at that time the Yaqui nation was up there, from Hermosillo on [north]. San Miguel de Horcasitas and Ures had plenty of Yaquis in those times. That's why in the death toll that occurred...I do not know if you are familiar that in New York, there were some bodies ... how are they called?
Ochoa: Yes, remains. Yes, you know, right? They brought [repatriated] them here.
Offenburger: Two years ago, yes.
Ochoa: Ah well there in the Metetoma they buried them. In time [the early 20th century] there near where I am living: Mazatán I think it's called. Well, it's close to those small towns that I mentioned.
Up to there I can talk about my father. Now for the revolution, at that time the natives of the Yaqui tribe fought for a long time to defend Yaqui territory. They left the land, they left for years, not for a year. For years in the mountains! In order not to allow the yori, as we say to the people outside of us, to invade us. However they did invade. Here was old Pótam, here right where we are from. They had already invaded, they were pure Chinese. And other people, too, not just Chinese. In Tórim was the capital also. Have you been to Tórim?
Offenburger: Not yet, but I pass by every day. Soon I'm going to go there. But I know where it is.
Ochoa: Well, the General Hospital was there. You can see the rubble where the hospital was. "General Hospital" said. In those times, of Porfirio Díaz. And right now there are houses there, or I do not know, you can see. Where there is a river crossing, there it is on the hillside ... It was on the hill. Now there are houses there. You'll see.
Nevertheless, those who were in the mountains were cleared out [by soldiers]. They ran them all out. You see the pure ruins of the houses they had at that time. And the tombs, tombs of Chinese are also there.
Offenburger: Oh, yes?
Ochoa: Yes, they are still there.
Offenburger: I might go to take a picture of that ...
Also, in my interviews with others here, I have heard that in the time of the Revolution, women had to suffocate their children -- I don't know how many -- so that they wouldn't cry and attract the soldiers' attention. Are there other stories you remember? Maybe one that your father told you, or your grandfather. Or other things, like the removal to Yucatan and the return here.
Ochoa: Well my father came back walking [from Yucatan].
Offenburger: Just by walking?
Ochoa: Walking, working ... and it took months to get here to Sonora. I have said that in 20 (the year 1920) he was going through Obregón City, and that there were no houses save for the Náinari, the Náinari they say. And his mother stayed near Michoacán. There she died, they say. There they were also brought ... as soldiers, then. They sent them here and there ... wherever there was revolt.
Offenburger: So, your mom stayed in Yucatan?
Ochoa: In Yucatan.
Offenburger: And they never saw each other again?
Offenburger: And you?
Ochoa: No, I was born here. There where I said, near San Miguel de Horcasitas. In Zamora Station. All the others, my brothers and sisters, were born here. I was born over there and a sister too. But my ancestors were from there, from the Ochoa of Bataconcica.
Offenburger: I wonder if you or your siblings have a way of thinking or living differently because of ... everything that happened with Yucatan and the return and ... that is ... Today you feel a certain distrust towards the Yoris who live around here?
Silence from Nacho, and Andrew adds: ... or rather, do you feel that the fight is still going on?
Ochoa: The struggle still continues. Not with weapons but with the pen, with government policies. We are against that up to the present day. (silence) And against the new laws that it legislates, the government, to grind us, the indigenous and the poor, who are at the national level. Leaving us to ruin. More than we are.
Offenburger: And your dad never told you stories about Yucatan, what life was like there?
Ochoa: Very hard, they say. Because they were not familiar with the region and could not eat just anything there. There was a cane there, which they say they ate and it's said caused parasites in their stomachs. It did not take long before it started coming out through their noses and everywhere. And then there was another one that gave them a fever too. Go figure. That's what they told me. They were suffering from malaria or I do not know what disease. That's what his mother died of.
Offenburger: I wonder if Yaquis were beaten in Yucatan.
Ochoa: There, yes. The owners struck them like that. Hitting them ... they couldn't see them standing for a short time because they were being whipped.
Another person speaks in the Yaqui language and Nacho answers, "ehui."
Offenburger: In the newspapers of that time there is a discussion whether the treatment of Yaquis constituted slavery. In your view, was it ...
Ochoa: All those who were there, who were sent from there to here, were slaves. Purely of the landowners. (the third person intervenes) Ah yes, and then they were sold! At ten pesos, I think. Yes, at 10 pesos a head. 5 for the commissioner and 5 for the government.
That's why I did not want to start telling stories, because I'm half out of my mind right now (from a headache).
But later, man.