October 17 2016 — The Mexican state of Michoacan was the birth place of the Mexican drug war. The town of Cheran is much like other mainly indigenous communities, but it is unique; Cheran has no mayor, no police, and political parties are banned. There are no elections here. Cheran governs itself, after it fought and won a legal battle for political autonomy.
The people of Cheran used to suffer as much as their neighbours – extortion, kidnap and murder. But by 2011 they had had enough. That’s when the community – led by women – rose up. They threw out the paramilitary loggers and organised criminal groups who had devastated their forests, then chased away the mayor and the municipal police who were colluding with them.
Five years later, the town still runs itself, and the forces of law and order have been replaced by an armed, community militia. Serious crime has plummeted, and the town is replanting its devastated forest. So how has Cheran survived – and thrived -in such a harsh environment?
Local producer: Ulises Escamilla Haro
(Photo: Armed guards patrol the forests of Cheran)