El Pueblo (The Community)
Michoacán State, Mexico
2012- present (work in progress)
“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”
-Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
“I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.”
Emiliano Zapata, Mexican Revolutionary.
Corruption, money and power have created a destructive tumour that has grown 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 this 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, clear cut the ancient oak forest that surrounds the small community of Cherán, in Mexico's western mountains.
One spring morning in 2011, these loggers were met by a handful of furious villagers who had set up a barricade. 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 in towns all over the State of Michoacán. Moving from community to community, these groups have effectively removed organized crime from these newly liberated regions, allowing life once again to return to these pueblos.