Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Indigenous leader Aronia Wilson murdered in Sonora

Aronia Wilson Tambo, governor of the Cucapá Indigenous group in Sonora, was found dead at her home in Pozas de Arvizu, San Luis Río Colorado, the state prosecutor’s office (FGJES) announced on Tuesday.

Wilson, 64, represented around 350 Cucapá people in her community on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the last census carried out in 2020. She was also a city councilor and one of the last surviving native speakers of the Indigenous Cucapá language. According to a statement by the FGJES, a suspect has already been arrested in relation to the murder, which is being treated as a femicide.

The indigenous Cucapá people straddle both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border. (Grupo Etnico Cucapá)

Police reports suggest she died from a blow to the head. Her body was found under items of clothing that had been set on fire, suggesting that her killer had tried to destroy the evidence of the crime.

“The first acts of the investigation rule out that the crime is related to political activity … carried out by the ethnic leader,” the statement said. “The investigation points to her immediate circle.” The FGJES did not clarify how they had reached this conclusion.

The Cucapá community is native to a region of Sonora, Baja California and Arizona that spans the U.S. border, and is often used by organized crime groups as a trafficking corridor for drugs, weapons and migrants. The community has been active in protesting the U.S. border wall, which they say would prevent the free movement of their people through their ancestral lands.

Wilson’s death is also a major blow for the Cucapá language. According to San Luis Río Colorado councilwoman Evangelina Tambo, as of last June, only 27 people still spoke Cucapá, putting it in danger of extinction. Following her murder, Indolenguo, a website specializing in Indigenous languages, released a statement mourning her loss, describing her as “a promoter and defender of culture and language.”

On social networks, representatives of Wilson’s community and Indigenous groups from across Mexico have expressed shock at the murder and demanded justice for her death.

With reports from Proceso, El País, Vanguardia and Debate

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