The Cherán Indigenous Community’s Remarkable Road to Self-Rule in Mexico

By Global Voices, 04/13/15

“For Justice, Security and the Restoration of our Territory”—that’s the slogan emblazoned on the uniform of the people in charge of security in Cherán, one of the main indigenous communities in the heart of the State of Michoacán in western Mexico. The story of Cherán’s resistance goes back centuries to when it held off the Aztec empire, a foreshadowing of the spirit of independence that enabled it to take on organized crime and successfully re-establish political self-governance and self-defense in 2011.

Until recently, like many rural areas of the country, Cherán had experienced a rising tide of violence as unwelcome elements increasingly moved in to exploit its natural resources. As described in the documentary “Resistencia de Cherán (Resistence of Cherán):

Cherán was made up of 27,000 hectares of forest [which were] destroyed, leaving a mere 7,000 hectares. In other words they razed 20,000 hectares to the ground. Basically, there was no forest left, and what’s more, they destroyed the fauna, our animals, everything that affects the lives of the Purépecha people.

Another member of the community interviewed in the documentary recounts how partisan politics prevented a concerted response to threats against and abuse of the region’s indigenous inhabitants:

Their cars and trucks would drive down all the main roads of the community. They would mock us as they passed and not just that, they would go into stores and ransack them and then leave. Nobody could say anything. Women, men, all of us, we felt powerless to yell or stop them. Our situation was critical, it was desperate, but nothing tangible could be done because we couldn’t agree, each of us belonged to a different political party.

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