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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Remains of Missing Yaqui Men Possibly Found in Cajeme, Sonora

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat

Skeletal human remains that could belong to those of the ten missing indigenous men from the Yaqui tribe were found in Cajeme, Sonora. 

Just three weeks before Yaqui authorities denounced the Mexican Government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for its alleged complicity with cartel organizations in the disappearance of 10 members of the community.

The Discovery of the Remains 

On September 20, 2021, a joint “investigation operation” of state and federal investigators discovered skeletal human remains near the El Chichiquelite ranch, in the municipality of Cajeme, Sonora. By 7:00 pm on that same day, the Sonora Attorney General's Office (FGJE) sent out an official statement which confirmed the discovery of skeletal remains in the reported location. 

The FGJE also reported that DNA testing will be carried out on the remains. This testing will determine if the remains are those of the 10 missing Yaqui men who disappeared 2 months ago. “For the moment, we can only communicate that we are working on the scientific identification of the skeletons and we cannot talk about identities until there are expert results," reads the FGJE statement.

The Yaqui are an indigenous people of Mexico who are primarily located in the valley of the Río Yaqui river in the Mexican state of Sonora.  They also have communities in Chihuahua, Durango, and the southwestern region of the United States in states such as Arizona, California, and Nevada. Yaqui communities are especially prevalent in the two Sonora municipalities of Guaymas and Cajeme, the latter of which is where the remains in question were located. 

The cause for this joint search operation which discovered the remains is likely the recent inauguration of the Sonora governor on September 14, 2021. In his first press conference as Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo promised to reinforce security in the territory of the eight Yaqui towns and assured that the search for the disappeared "is a priority for the security cabinet.”

"We are going to reinforce all the entities that participate in the search today and we hope to achieve good results. Because it is a complex issue, we are going to speak with the Yaqui authorities with whom I have the greatest interest in establishing communication as soon as possible," said Durazo.

The Disappearance

There are diverging narratives as to how the disappearance of the 10 men occurred. Some facts that are not in dispute include the names of the missing are men, who are Fabián Valencia Romero, Fabián Sombra Miranda, Heladio Molina Zavala, Benjamín Portela Peralta, Gustavo Acosta Hurtado, Juan Justino Galaviz Cruz, Braulio Pérez Sol, Leocadio Galaviz Cruz, Artemio Arballo Canizalez, and Martín Hurtado Flores. Their ages range from 27 to 65 years old. On July 14, the Mexican Army (SEDENA) and the National Guard seized half a ton of methamphetamine, as well as chemical precursors in the vicinity of the Loma de Bácum community, Yaqui territory. The ten men went missing some time between July 14 to 17, 2021. The men had an official missing persons report filed on July 19, 2021. 

Relatives of the Disappeared. El Siglo reports that the relatives of the missing men recounted that the victims went out to look for food and drinks to liven up the traditional festivities of the Virgen del Carmen holiday that every year they celebrate from July 14 to 16 at the Bataconcica ranch.

According to these relatives, upon their return the Yaquis were surprised by a group of armed men, who forced them into their trucks. They report that the abducted men left a kind of breadcrumb-like trail of various personal items. They were presumably hoping it would lead those who looked for them to their captors but the men evidently ran out of items and the trail went cold. 

La Silla Rota version of events. Most of the missing persons belonged to the traditional troop of Loma de Bácum, one of the eight towns into which the indigenous group is divided. The publication La Silla Rota reports that the leaders of Loma de Bácum denounced the Army’s seizure of methamphetamine on July 14, categorizing it as a kind of "siembra" (or sowing of harvested crops) of drugs.

La Silla Rota writes that the Loma de Bácum had deployed members of their community police, who carry firearms on their person for the protection of their indigenous group. La Silla Rota writes that most of the missing men were patrolling to make sure that there were no outsiders in their territory at the time of their disappearance. 

López-Dóriga version of events. An article published on López-Dóriga Digital, a news publication associated with journalist Joaquín López-Dóriga who currently hosts a radio talk show Radio Fórmula Network wrote about the disappearance, saying: “In the raid, the military seized more than a ton of methamphetamine, as well as chemical precursors to make drugs, a situation that generated a violent response from criminal groups that took several Yaqui indigenous people.” 

This seems to suggest three parties are involved: the military, the Yaqui men and an unnamed criminal organization, which they are alleging took the men in response to the seizure. 

Grupo Fórmula version of events. Grupo Fórmula (which is the owner of the network Radio Fórmula which hosts López-Dóriga, but also stands as its own distinct entity) news correspondent for the state of Sonora, Michelle Rivera described the disappearance by saying "The disappearance occurred after that one day after important drug seizures were made in Loma de Bácum, which is in a very sparsely populated and dangerous area which is used for drug trafficking by organized crime groups in the region.” This version again seems to suggest a third party being involved. 

Yaqui Press Conference version of events. A press conference was held in which the Yaqui tribe accused the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of using the army to invade that part of Sonora, suggesting that these searches and drug seizures were merely a ruse by which the federal government sought to impose authority upon the Yaqui tribe. 

In a possibly related claim, Yaqui authorities also denounced the Mexican Government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for its alleged complicity with organized crime groups in the disappearance of 10 members of the community.

Tribuna Complications. Even more confusingly, a recent Tribuna article alleges before the skeletal remains were found, the government’s joint task force, which included soldiers from the Marines (SEMAR), Army (SEDENA) and the National Guard, had “a confrontation against armed civilians, managing to neutralize them.” And then, only after taking out armed men who were likely related to drug trafficking, were the remains discovered.

But even more surprising, Tribuna has released not just one, but two articles asserting the lawyer for the Yaqui ethnic group, Rodrigo González confirmed that five of the ten men were found alive and “released”, suggesting they were being held in custody, presumably by the armed men the joint task force neutralized. 

Sources: Official FGJE Statement, La Silla Rota, Noticias en la Mira, Lopez Doriga, Grupo Fórmula, El Siglo, Tribuna Article 1, Tribuna Article 2


  1. This article reminds me of that guy that goes by "Unknown" that says he heard a rumor, and then everyone has rumors to spread.

    1. My hope when writing it was simply to present all the versions and let readers decide for themselves. Feels dishonest for me to pick one version and run with it, ya know?

    2. Hearst you did excellent gathering on this article, through the news outlets your gathered, not an issue with you whatsoever, you are marvelous. It's the multi news outlets that one says this the other says that , that's what reminds me of the rumor guy. Keep up the good work.

    3. Thank you. I know what you mean though. The game of telephone that goes on with news outlets, and sometimes BB commenters. Rumors, rumors.

    4. Dearest Hearst, involving third parties and blaming unknown suspects like Guerreros Unidos and the Abarcas, the garbage dump, looks like a game that is getting too old, I suspect the army stole from the Compadres and killed them to silence the squeaky wheels, the dead would not be complaining about drugs taken by government.
      In Chile of the 70s it was all the army disappearing, torturing and murdering, as thaught by Klaus Barbie , southamerica's extreme right oligarchies favorite nazi, and spain had their own nazi pet, Otto Skorzeny after WWII was over and he was wanted for crimes against humanity.
      The mexican melitary still has a lot to answer for in spite of AMLO trying to pass them for a newly new born again patriots.

  2. Sad to say but these indigenous people won't get justice.
    You have to be white like the Mormons in chihuahua or be a U.S citizen to get presure on the government.
    That how the mexican system works, it screws their people over but it treats foreigners great.
    Can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what side your on..

    1. Totalmente de acuerdo hay esta chihuahuas Estados Unidos 🇺🇸 puso presión y hoy en Día el FBI es bien venido a ver de cerca muertes de sus American citizens y eso es mal negocio para los políticos y empresas que son el evil 👿

    2. 5:26 Los mormones de chihuahua no son santitos como la gente pienza.
      Tambien tienen su CARTEL.


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