A Survey of Indian Assimilation in Eastern Sonora

By Thomas B. Hinton | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

IT IS CLEAR that the three groups considered are no longer tribal Indians, but instead represent varying degrees of the assimilation of the Spanish colonial Indian into modern Mexico. The Opatas and Jovas together with some of the Lower Pimas are merely the physical residue of the aboriginal population of eastern Sonora, retaining a few slight traces of both Spanish mission and probable aboriginal culture and being in most respects well integrated members of rural Sonoran society. The remnant Pimas of Onabas and especially the mountain Pimas consider themselves, and in actuality are, still separate ethnic entities, preserving to a certain extent the same mission period culture that the Opatas have abandoned in the last hundred years.

Spicer, in his examination of adjustments to contact in the Southwest, tentatively places the Opatas in the category of a group which has undergone complete cultural assimilation, while the Cahitas, he believes, present a cultural fusion of Spanish and native elements with the probable retention of much of the original orientation ( Spicer 1954: 663-678). I am essentially in agreement with this categorization of the Opatas. However, it seems clear that though the basic orientation of the Opatas and Jovas may have shifted completely, some elements which have emerged point to a certain degree of fusion here as well. Indeed, Ezell suggests in his analysis of Spicer's concept that divergent adjustments may occur within a dominant pattern of over-all response ( Ezell 1955: 18-19). Something of the sort must certainly have taken place among the Opatas, Jovas, and lowland Pimas where a tendency toward fusion is greatly overshadowed by willingness to accept complete assimilation. Conversely, the mountain Pimas possibly exemplify a situation in which the trends toward assimilation are subordinate to those resulting in fusion.

The amalgamation of these Sonoran peoples with their neighbors displays certain contrasts with the acculturation process which has taken place among related groups in the Southwest and among the Indians of southern Mexico. In Sonora, among the Opatas especially, one is impressed by the apparent ready abandonment of all traces of cultural differentiation. Taking into account the differing time element, it would appear that while Indians in Anglo-America may cling to portions of their old non-material culture as a defense against rejection by the dominant group, the Sonoran Indian has evidently been able to achieve integration with Mexican society as soon as Indian patterns are dropped, with greater incentive toward assimilation ( Broom, Kitsuse 1955: 44-48).

The Opatas, Jovas and Lower Pimas have in addition been able to avoid the tightly closed societies which have perpetuated the "corporate" Indian villages of Middle America. This is apparently due to the fact that the system of civil and religious community offices introduced by the Jesuits ( Johnson 1950: 42-43), which insulated the Indian from direct contacts with outsiders and has been a major factor in the continuance of the corporate pueblos of Middle America, fast crumbled away when the direction of the missionaries was withdrawn.

Another difference from Middle America is seen in the fact that the Pima and Opata villages were small in population compared with those of the former area. In the late mission period, they seldom had more than 300 Indian inhabitants and often had considerably less ( Ocaranza 1937: Vol 2). The arrival in such a community of any number of outsiders with their subsequent mixed offspring soon resulted in the Indians losing their superiority of numbers and finally becoming marginal inhabitants scattered on the outskirts of the towns where they now await final assimilation, both cultural and physical. The survey of the area shows this to be the case in nearly all of the Opata colonial pueblos today. A few of the rancherías and small villages, which for some reason never attracted large numbers of blancos and mestizos, are the contemporary pueblos de puros inditos. In these a few traces of Opata culture were retained, although the language disappeared with time. These few small settlements have survived until the present when the lack of a firm economic base (except in the case of Tepupa) and the rising incentives for migration to newly developed agricultural and industrial areas of coastal Sonora make their continued existence extremely unlikely.

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A Survey of Indian Assimilation in Eastern Sonora
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 5
  • Introduction 6
  • Contents 7
  • 1: Contemporary Socio-Racial Classifications 9
  • 2 - THE OPATAS AND JOVAS 12
  • 3 - MODERN DISTRIBUTION OF OPATAS AND JOVAS 19
  • 4 - THE LOWER PIMAS 26
  • CONCLUSIONS 30
  • References 31
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