A group of collectives and individuals recently got to travel to Cheran K’eri, in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. In 2011, the 20,000 residents of Cheran unanimously decided to venture into the seldom sailed waters of Autonomy, expelling all political parties and forming a traditional government according to the Purepecha indigenous customs.
Cheran lies in a highly mountainous area which holds a vast forested ecosystem. A force of loggers, political parties, corrupt government officials and drug traffickers thought they could deplete the forest for their own benefit. The violence, corruption and poverty peaked in early 2011, and it was then that people decided to put it to an end. All over town a community watch was organized in the form of bonfires (fogatas) which started to pop up in a call for self determination, in defense of the forests and Mother Nature, against corrupt governments, political parties, drug lords, loggers and violence.
Constant violent attacks on the population of Cheran by the so-called Mexican government and drug lords have resulted in several deaths of key community organizers.
A small group of 20 organizers arrived in Cheran to start preparing the way for about 500 supporters who would attend a gathering celebrating Autonomy, Anti-Capitalism and the defense of Mother Earth as our common ground. Upon our arrival I soon realized that my view of the world was about to completely change forever.
The complete dedication and determination of the people of Cheran to building a strong Autonomous community has been one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had in my whole life. Not only was I impressed by their organization, but also by the clarity and eloquence in which every community member I encountered expressed themselves about this collective struggle for self determination.
I got to collaborate with members of the community radio, Radio Fogata, and the amazing photographer Juan José Estrada Serafín to create these two banners that would lead three marches through the town and into to the main square downtown. All sorts of people popped in and helped paint for a little while until we had to run out with with semi-wet banners.
We also got to collaborate with Kaos, an awesome muralist from the state of Guanajuato who joined forces with several folks from the community as well as the Major Council to aid him in sketching out the idea. Sadly the mural had to be interrupted and left unfinished due to stormy weather.
The following days some of us were asked by the Traditional Council to do what to me seemed to be the strangest thing I’ve done in regards of spray painting. The council asked us if we could go out putting up posters and spray painting messages against the political parties all around town. The strange part is that we had a community police car drive us and escort us to all the best walls in town for us to paste and write on. Community police cars are formerly Mexican Government police cars, so they still
very much look the same. Community watch folks also wear all black and carry large guns with them. Now you can Imagine why it was strange as hell for us.
Cheran continues to resist the pressure and harassment from capitalist interests seeping into what they have rightfully inherited from their ancestors. This struggle is far from over and I encourage folks to learn more about Cheran and their defense of the forests, ecosystem, their culture and their Autonomy.
I am immensely grateful to the people of Cheran for their courage, hospitality and friendship, they tend a fire that continues to light the path that serves for inspiration for millions of hearts just like mine.
The following are a series of pictures I took of our visit.