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Cajemé / Kahe'eme (Yoeme or Yaqui Language for "the one who does not stop to drink water"'), born José Maria Bonifacio Leiva Peres (also spelled Leyva, and Leyba) was a Yaqui leader who lived in the Mexican state of Sonora from 1835 to 1887.



José Maria Bonifacio Leiva Peres was born on May 14, 1835 at Pesiou (the Yaqui name), Sonora, also known as Villa de Pitic, and currently called Hermosillo. Although his foremost biographer, Ramón Corral, had stated that Cajemé was born in 1837 (Corral, 1959 [1900]), and this date had been used by others since then. However, the baptismal record shows that this was incorrect (Iglesia Católica, 1835). Also, in the initial newspaper article released by Ramón Corral in Sonora's official State newspaper La Constitution (Corral, 1887), José Maria Leiva's father is properly identified as Fernando Leiva (born about 1816 at Huirivis, Sonora), and his mother as Juana Maria Peres (born about 1817 at Potam, Sonora), as does the baptismal record. However, in the biography of Cajemé later published by Corral (1959 [1900]), Corral calls José's father "Francisco," and this name has continued to be used since then.

California Gold Rush

At the age of 14, José accompanied his father Fernando, and others from Sonora, in the 1849 "Gold Rush" to Upper California, and returned to Sonora about two years later, having learned English, as well as having his first experience in defending himself against armed conflict (Corral, 1959 [1900]). His father evidently did well in the gold fields, as José was enrolled in an exclusive private school (the only school at the time in Sonora), the first Colegio Sonora operated by Cayetano Navarro, Prefect of Guaymas. José subsequently learned to read and write Spanish. Interestingly, Corral does correctly state that Cajemé was 16 to 18 years of age during his time in school, reflecting the 1835 date of his birth (Corral, 1959 [1900]).

Military Experience

José Maria Leiva had his first taste of battle in 1854, while serving with the "Urbanos," the local militia of Guaymas organized by his teacher, Cayetano Navarro. In a battle lasting three hours against the French filibuster Count Gaston Raousset-Boulbon, the Urbanos were victorious, and Raousset-Boulbon was captured and executed (de Collet La Madelène, 1876, pp. 266–304).[1] Now 18 years of age, José looked for new opportunities in life, and traveled to Tepic, where he worked for a short time as a blacksmith. Later, he was caught up in the draft for soldiers to serve in the regular army, the San Blas Battalion, but deserted after only three months of service. José fled to the mountains near Acaponeta, Nayarit, and worked for a while as a miner. With the Federal army still searching for him, José traveled to Mazatlán and joined a battalion comprising Pimas, Yaquis, and Opatas, that was part of the ranks of Pablo Lagarma, who had declared for constitutional restoration.

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