El Pueblo (The Community)
Michoacán State, Mexico
2012- present (work in progress)
“I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.”
Emiliano Zapata, Mexican Revolutionary
Corruption, power and money have created a destructive tumour that has grown undisturbed in Mexico for the last 30 years- distorting communities and destroying families. Extortion, kidnappings and murder have spiralled out of control in this dangerous countryside. Yet a pervasive hopelessness has been broken by the actions of one small community.
“Doesn’t God exist anymore? Where is he? How long are these people going to be allowed to take what they want? Who could help us? Who?” asked Doña Chepa. For two years Chepa watched as trespassing loggers, working for a local cartel, rumbled past her home on their way to clear cut the ancient oak forest that surrounds the small community of Cherán in Mexico's western mountains.
One morning in the spring of 2011, these loggers were met by a handful of furious villagers who had set up a barricade, under the leadership of Chepa. Receiving gunfire from both the loggers and local police, the Pueblo (meaning community) stood strong and watched their opponents retreat from the city.
Since that day, the people of Cherán have controlled their own local police and government. Inspired by these actions, farmers, teachers, doctors and many other common citizens have taken the law into their own hands forming Autodefensa (self-defence) vigilante groups. Moving from community to community, these groups have effectively removed organized crime from these newly liberated regions.