In a still from the documentary, a member of the community's voluntary security force stands guard. In a still from the documentary, a member of the community's voluntary security force stands guard.

Documentary tells the story of the indigenous uprising in Cherán, Michoacán

Fed up with crime, the town banded together to oust criminals and then replaced the local government

A documentary about an indigenous uprising against organized crime in Michoacán and the subsequent establishment of a self-governing community premiered online on Thursday.

Cherán: The Burning Hope tells the story of Cherán, a Purépecha town 110 kilometers west of Morelia.

Fed up with the presence of drug traffickers and illegal loggers, residents banded together to oust the criminals in 2011, even using bonfires to prevent loggers from entering the community.

They later established their own security force to supersede the municipal police, whose members were in cahoots with the criminals, and dislodged the municipal government, replacing it with a community council.

Produced by Doha Debates, an organization affiliated with the non-profit Qatar Foundation, and directed by Elpida Nikou and Rodrigo Hernández, the 13-minute film tells the story of Cherán from the perspective of its residents.

Much of it is narrated by Yunuen Torres Asencio, an activist and owner of Radio Fogata, which has recorded oral histories of Cherán’s tumultuous past.

“Before 2011, as young people we felt our liberties were being taken away,” she says at the start of the film.

“We couldn’t move around freely and were surrounded by fear. [Organized crime] was like a well-planned monster that, every day, was taking more of our territory in Michoacán.”

But in the 10 years since organized crime groups were expelled and Cherán became autonomous, peace and security have improved and the community has built a sustainable economy that includes a sawmill, a construction materials company and a garden, all of which are managed by the community, as well as Latin America’s largest rainwater collection system.

“Autonomy is the decision to govern ourselves. That is what gives us hope,” Torres says.

The documentary features spectacular aerial footage of Cherán and surrounding areas shot by drone operator Miguel Tovar and provides a fascinating insight into the struggles and successes of a small town in Michoacán, one of Mexico’s most violent states.

Mexico News Daily 

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