The Jumanos are a group of Indian tribes of what is today west Texas and the Sonora region of Mexico. They were omnivorous, obtaining food through agriculture, hunting and trade.The term Jumano has historically been applied to members of several neighboring tribes sharing a prevalence for heavily tattooed bodies. Though these native may not have thought of themselves as a single people, there were undoubtedly cultural similarities.
The areas inhabited by the Jumano were largely deserts, making agriculture impossible. In the vicinity of major rivers, however, agriculture was possible and flourished. The Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers were the major source of water for the gardening Jumano. Geography, rather than culture, belief or nutrition, was the deciding factor in Jumano food sources.
The Pueblo Jumano lived in large mud brick structures and practiced agriculture in the Rio Grande valley. They raised corn, beans, squash, and other similar vegetables and gathered pinon nuts, mesquite beans, agave bulbs, and prickly-pear cactus. This high carbohydrate diet was supplemented through trade with the hunting Jumano, semi-nomadic tribes who grew crops for part of the year and hunted wild buffalo, deer and rabbit as the major source of their food for the remainder.
Though the agricultural lifestyle made them more susceptible to attack, the farming Jumano outlasted their hunting neighbors. In addition to the higher nutritional content of their produce, Jumano relying primarily on agriculture made beans a staple of their diet, providing them with protein and fiber in a source that can easily be stored for long periods of time.
Native American food preparation was relatively primitive, lacking access to a wide variety of seasonings or metal cookware. Most food, including meat, was eaten raw or boiled and salted. Buffalo meat was also smoked or dried for preservation. Bulbs of the psychotropic cactus peyote were also available to the Jumano, though its unclear the extent to which they were utilized by these particular tribes.
The issue of Jumano identity is exacerbated by their disappearance from the historical record, at least by that name, after about 1700. Descendants of the Jumano can be found today primarily in Mexican border towns such as Ojinaga, opposite Presidio, Texas, where Jumano Indians and there descendents have lived since at least the 16th century. Today they are so well incorporated into Mexican culture that little is known of the Jumano as a distinct tribe. The diet in a town like Ojinaga is typical of Tex-Mex cuisine, featuring bean-based dishes and Mexican seafood to steak and hamburgers.
- Photo Credit Drawing by Frank Weir