Cajeme's name at birth was Jose Maria Leyva. He was born in Hermasillo in the year 1837, the son of Francisco Leyva and Juana Perez. At the age of twelve, Jose accompanied his father on a trip to California. On his return, his parents sent him to be educated in Guaymas where he learned to read and write in Spanish. Soon Jose entered the military and became well know for his valiant fighting. In recognition of his heroism he was appointed mayor of the Yaqui territory. Upon his appointment, Jose surprise everyone when he turned on the Mexican government, and became Cajeme.
Under his direction, and excellent leadership the Yaqui rebellion gained momentum. Ruthlessly, the Yaqui raided and pillaged ranches and haciendas. Then, in November, 1875, Governor Pesqueria attacked the Yaqui with five hundred soldiers, a Calvary force, and a company of natives. Over fifty Yaqui died, but Cajeme steadfast and refused to surrender. For the next three years the Yaqui hid out, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. Slowly and methodically, Cajeme prepared for war.
Cajeme taxed all imports that were brought in by ship. Next, he demanded ransoms from ranchers who wanted their cattle back. Then, Cajeme implemented an idea that was utilized by the mission system. Each pueblo was required to establish community agriculture plots. With the extra money the Yaqui bought guns, ammunition, and war supplies. Before long, they were proficient in the reparation of guns as well as the manufacturing of gun powder.
In October of 1881, the Sonora National Guard, with a 1,000 well armed men attacked Cajeme and 3,000 Yaqui. After more than 2 hours of fighting, and the loss of 80 men, the Yaqui retreated toward the Yaqui River. Then, in an act of total defiance Cajeme burned 29 ships.
Unknown to the Mexican military the Yaqui had constructed an amazing fort that was protected by a system of moats and trenches. Over and over again the Mexican military attacked the fort without success. However, yellow fever had sickened over 2,000 people inside the fort. Soon, Cajeme escaped, and he would remain a fugitive for four years. Once captured he was paraded in front of his people and then executed in front of a firing squad. The remaining Yaqui would be relocated to the Yucatan Peninsula, where they would join the Maya.