A comparison is in order, between the supposed semi-autonomy of the native nations in USA, and that of the people in Cheran.
[Many of the self-defense movements that have sprung up over the past year or so in other parts of Michoacán have taken their inspiration from Cherán. There are several meaningful differences, however, in how Cherán combated La Familia versus what’s happening elsewhere in Mexico. These differences are what has made the comunitarios, as Cherán’s security force is known, successful and respected.
The Purépecha community rose up to protect its land and its people. It’s not always clear if some of the other militias have the same purity of purpose. Also, because Cherán citizenry is made up of indigenous people, they have rights that allow them a level of autonomy from the Mexican government that other groups barricading the entries to their towns don’t enjoy.
Three years ago the people of the town of Cherán were terrorized by members of La Familia cartel, who brazenly plundered their sacred forest in broad daylight, likely selling the wood to transnational corporations. The plight facing the community of 16,000 people, situated in the western portion of the Mexican state of Michoacán, was just part of a trend taking place throughout the region.
Other cartels, such as the Knights Templar, were extorting money from other industries, forcing farmers growing avocados, limes, and other produce to pay ad hoc taxes on their crops. Those who didn’t pay and their families were subject to kidnapping, murder, and other violent tactics. To make matters worse, in many towns in Michoacán, local governments and police forces were either aiding and abetting the criminal elements or were powerless to stop them. The antagonism from the cartels has led to several towns forming so-called self-defense forces, picking up arms to barricade and police their communities, protect their valuable crops, and hunt their intimidators, as well as Knights Templar’s informants.
Cherán was the first town to do so back in 2011. A community of indigenous people belonging to the Purépecha culture, its traditions included debating issues of great importance to the townspeople via discussions over some 200 bonfires throughout the town, where community members would huddle. After watching 70 percent of their forest, or Pakua Karakua, being dismantled tree trunk by tree trunk, the talk around the bonfires finally turned to action. The community had had enough.]