A documentary about the Yaqui people of Sonora and the struggles and injustices they have faced for decades begins screening in cinemas this week.
Laberinto Yo’eme, the debut film of Sergi Pedro Ros, will open Friday in Mexico City cinemas including the Cineteca Nacional and Cine Tonalá. The documentary will also begin screening in the coming days in other cities across Mexico, including Oaxaca, Veracruz, Monterrey and Guadalajara.
“My main interest [in making the film] came from the fact the Yaqui tribe is living through a situation of terrifying injustice,” Ros told the newspaper Milenio.
Members of the community participated in several protests last year to demand the return of expropriated land and the delivery of basic services authorities promised to them. They have also been affected by high levels of violence in Sonora, and two Yaqui activists who collaborated on the documentary, Tomás Rojo and Luis Urbano, were recently murdered.
“As a filmmaker, I was very interested in telling the story of a people who, despite all the extermination attempts they’ve lived through and which they continue suffering, continue to fight for who they are – keeping their culture, language, worldview and universe alive,” he said.
Made in conjunction with the Mexican Institute of Cinematography, the film shows the reality that the Yaqui community of southern Sonora is experiencing today, Ros said.
“Unfortunately, the story we tell in Laberinto Yo’eme is current, it’s what’s happening at the moment,” he said.
Their land rights have been violated for decades despite a 1940 presidential decree that recognized them as the owners of the land on which they live, Ros said.
Although the film explores a range of difficulties and challenges faced by the Yaqui people, it’s not all doom and gloom. It also gives viewers an insight into the traditional customs of the community, a group that is best known to some for inspiring the Carlos Castaneda book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.
Ros said that his documentary might eventually find its way to a streaming service but emphasized that he made it specifically to be shown on the big screen.
“After you see this film you will never forget who the Yaquis are and what they’re living through at the moment,” he said.
With reports from Milenio