The mural project, created by Mario Martinez with the help of thousands of Yaquis and many of their friends, is a visual commemoration honoring the Yaqui’s history in the City of Scottsdale. The main section of the mural is visually divided into three sections: on the left, three crosses are in front of a map showing where the Yaqui came from—the Rio Yaqui, Sonora—to settle in Arizona at the turn of the century. The crosses honor and represent their ancestors who fought against the Mexicans to keep their original homelands, and all of their ancestors who lived in Arizona and kept their cultural traditions alive to pass down to their descendants. The middle section is devoted to the Yaqui workers in Arizona, who were an integral part of the Valley’s economic, social, and cultural development in the 20th Century.
On the right, three Scottsdale Yaqui villages are depicted. On the bottom, the Salt River Project Water Users provided housing for Yaquis (who were a major part of their labor force) during the 1940’s and into the 1950’s. The middle section shows old Penjamo Village (off McDowell Road between Miller and Hayden Roads). Penjamo was the Scottsdale Yaqui Village from the early 1950’s until 1972. New Penjamo or Vista del Camino is their new present day village where Scottsdale Yaquis continue to live.
Three side paintings complete the mural—the Yaqui Deer Dancer, the Talking Tree, and the children’s paintings. The Yaqui Deer Dancer mural shows a Deer Dancer and a Yaqui Pascola Dancer to his right, both figures that predate Christianity and represent their most ancient traditions and religion. The church represents the introduction of Catholicism by Jesuits in the early 1600s.
The Yaqui Talking Tree mural depicts their creation story. There was a tree in the Rio Yaqui wilderness that was humming and making sounds, which the Surem (ancient Yaquis) did not understand. Sea Hamut (Flower Woman) sent her daughters to interpret the trees sounds. The tree foretold all of the changes to come to the Surem. A new religion (Catholicism) would be introduced, baptism, new technologies, new animals…war. If the Surem, who were immortal, accepted the new religion, death would come along with it. It is said that those who did not accept what the Yaqui Talking Tree predicted, went back to nature. The present day Yaquis are descendants of those who did not accept what the Talking Tree said was coming.