El Pueblo (The Community)
Michoacán State, Mexico
For two years Doña Chepa watched as illegal loggers rumble past her home in Cherán, west of Mexico City in the forest of the state of Michoacán. They taunted her and guzzled beer on their way to clear cut the ancient oak forest that surrounds the village. Local police and government officials stood by and did nothing to stop the organized crime.
“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?” Chepa cried to herself.
Chepa’s tears turned into boiling rage one morning in the Spring of 2011.As the loggers passed through town, they met the 15 furious women who had set up the barricade.
The pueblo quickly came to the women’s aid. The community members received gunfire from both the loggers and local police, but the pueblo stood strong and watched their opponents retreat. Soon after, Cherán dissolved its local government and police force. They have controlled their own local police and government since that day.
The action this small group of women took that morning initiated what some see as start of a revolution through civil war. More than 30 towns in the area have taken up arms and have created their own community police groups. Recently the local cartels have responded with violence to these groups in their territory. The Federal Government is also attempting to intervene, but the vigilantes are refusing to lay down their arms until action is taken against the underlying problem.
A new front line has emerged in Mexico, directly between the people and the cartels.