Strength from the Waters


Strength from the Waters

A History of Indigenous Mobilization in Northwest Mexico

James V. Mestaz

Confluencias Series

316 pages
4 photographs, 9 maps, 1 glossary, index


October 2022


$99.00 Add to Cart

October 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Strength from the Waters is an environmental and social history that frames economic development, environmental concerns, and Indigenous mobilization within the context of a timeless issue: access to water. Between 1927 and 1970 the Mayo people—an Indigenous group in northwestern Mexico—confronted changing access to the largest freshwater source in the region, the Fuerte River.

In Strength from the Waters James V. Mestaz demonstrates how the Mayo people used newly available opportunities such as irrigation laws, land reform, and cooperatives to maintain their connection to their river system and protect their Indigenous identity. By using irrigation technologies to increase crop production and protect lands from outsiders trying to claim it as fallow, the Mayo of northern Sinaloa simultaneously preserved their identity by continuing to conduct traditional religious rituals that paid homage to the Fuerte River. This shift in approach to both new technologies and natural resources promoted their physical and cultural survival and ensured a reciprocal connection to the Fuerte River, which bound them together as Mayo.

Mestaz examines this changing link between hydraulic technology and Mayo tradition to reconsider the importance of water in relation to the state’s control of the river and the ways the natural landscape transformed relations between individuals and the state, altering the social, political, ecological, and ethnic dynamics within several Indigenous villages. Strength from the Waters significantly contributes to contemporary Mexicanist scholarship by using an environmental and ethnohistorical approach to water access, Indigenous identity, and natural resource management to interrogate Mexican modernity in the twentieth century.

Author Bio

James V. Mestaz is an assistant professor of Latin American history at Sonoma State University.


"Strength from the Waters is an important contribution to Indigenous environmental histories that examine the intersections of white settler colonialism, racial capitalism, environmental racism, water policy, and climate change."—Alana de Hinojosa, H-Water

Strength from the Waters skillfully melds ethnohistory with environmental history to chronicle the Mayo people of northwestern Mexico’s tenacious defense of the Fuerte River, the source of their livelihood and spiritual existence. . . . By incorporating Indigenous voices and tapping new archival sources, Mestaz expertly tells a story of Indigenous persistence against a water-hungry postrevolutionary and postwar state.”—Ben Fallaw, author of Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico

Strength from the Waters makes important contributions to modern Mexican history, environmental history, and ethnohistory, especially with its fascinating oral histories of Mayo elders.”—Mikael Wolfe, author of Watering the Revolution: An Environmental and Technological History of Agrarian Reform in Mexico

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Their Technology, Our Way: Los Goros and Fuerte River Infrastructure, 1927 to 1942
2. Sweetness and Water Power: The SICAE Sugarcane Cooperative and Mayo Struggles for Water, 1944 to 1958
3. When the State Fails the Gods Remain: Independent Mayo Water Control Strategies, 1944 to 1957
4. The Inward Turn: Mayo Hydraulic Labor, Millenarian Movements, and Changing Rituals, 1947 to 1963
5. From Our River to Theirs: The Effects of Hydraulic Development, 1955 to 1970
Epilogue: Remaining Strong


Also of Interest