This report attempts to describe certain aspects of life in a small village in north-central Sonora, Mexico. The data presented were collected over a five-month period--February to June, 1955--during which time I spent seventy- one days in residence in Marobavi, which is a pseudonym.
Marobavi is located near what was, in aboriginal times, the western border of the Opata Indian area (Johnson 1950). The original impetus to this research was a curiosity regarding what, if anything, remained of the once complex culture of the Opata group. At the time this research project first was formulated very little knowledge was available regarding rural central Sonora, and it was then believed possible that some part of Opata culture might still survive. The Yaquis to the south demonstrated that such cultural survival was possible. Upon residence in the village it quickly became apparent that no such "survival" had occurred here. Then the research was focused on the social groups within the village with particular emphasis being placed on those people descendant from the aboriginal group.
In presenting this descriptive material, and in interpreting some of what I saw, I am aware that two months field research could have provided only incomplete, and possibly inaccurate data. If I had spent two years in the village I would have more confidence in the reliability of my observations and the validity of my conclusions. This report is considered by myself to be neither definitive nor complete, but is offered as an attempt to partially reduce the vacuum that exists in this area of Mexican ethnology.
Two very pertinent questions are not answered here: (1) What are the historical antecedents of the phenomena described and analyzed, and (2) How "typical" an example is Marobavi of rural Sonoran society? No attempt has been made herein to reconstruct Opata culture, nor to document the circumstances of Opata-Spanish, Opata- Mexican culture contact. I have studied the contemporary not just because of personal predilection but also due to the tremendous research time necessary to document the past to the point where reconstructed cultural and historical data may be used to interpret and explain contemporary behavior, if, indeed, that point can be reached. In regard to the representativeness of the village, again time in the field was a limiting factor. From the several visits made to nearby villages, and from frequent contact with their inhabitants, I believe that Marobavi is representative of some and, unquestionably, is not representative of others, even within the small valley where the village is located. Marobavi is in many ways isolated from the outside world. In the Rio Cañon valley it is most similar to those towns and villages which are similarly isolated. The companion study by Hinton surveys the villages and towns of eastern Sonora.
While living in Marobavi I stayed in a small house rented from one of the villagers and ate with the family of the man from whom I was renting. When I first entered the valley I stressed an interest in the history of the region in general and its churches in particular. My initial reluctance to state explicitly my research interests was due to the reported sensitivity of the people in this section of Sonora to the term "Indian" and its application to themselves. Only during the first month or so of residence were questions frequent concerning my objectives in living in the village; later they were quite rare. I tried to explain exactly what I was studying to two individuals, but . . .