Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Fight Of The Cherán: The Day It Began

Borderland Beat

This is  a translation, by Linda Cann,  of a Mexican journalist's take on Cherán, Michoacan, to bring more light to a community that has been building autonomous resistance to organized crime and corrupt officials since last year.  I have had it waiting  for the opportunity to share this with BB readers and I think Vato's great article of yesterday is the perfect occasion.
I have not worked with the indigenous Purepecha, but I am building a High School for the Zapatistas in the highlands of Chiapas.  I can tell you no one cares about the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Not its citizens and clearly not the government, irregardless of what political party is at the helm.  Most, if not all, its aid and assistance is derived from outside the country.  Mostly, from Americans and Europeans.  Indigenous peoples are extremely prejudice against and are at the bottom of the feeding chain.  I was stunned to learn that even today, in 2012, the government continues to rape the land of the indigenous people, confiscating privately owned farms and land as well as torching homes and autonomous schools.....Paz, Chivis

The Day It Began The 15th of April 2010

"The Bonfires of Cherán"

Photo: Pablo Perez
Written by Pablo Pérez, Translation by Laura Cann


Nobody ever told me how Cherán was, I expected the chill of a mountain morning, the wind coming down from the wooded hills. What I hadn’t read in any account, in any article, is that Cherán is quite a picturesque village, a big one, in fact; I would say a bit bigger than Naolinco, in Veracruz; smaller than Empalme, Sonora; nearly the same size as Allende, Nuevo León.
It is a small city. A small city with a colonial square and an interesting church. A small city where you don't come across skinny children (there are indeed skinny kids, but the kind of wiry, strong and healthy kids who spend the day playing soccer), where stray dogs won’t follow you begging for leftovers, as a matter of fact, stray dogs will ignore you if you call them. They'll keep to themselves and don’t seem to be bothered by you. Where townspeople will greet you with a hearty “good afternoon,” looking at you with curiosity, not fear or distrust, even being an outsider to a town that has been under siege for the last 10 months.
Defense teams: Using whatever is available
A Spanish friend of mine says that Cherán reminds her of her own hometown near Valencia: medium sized and thriving. She considers herself a native Iberian because she, like the Purepecha, has an identity and language of her own. It is us, mestizo city dwellers, who can’t understand this community. We think that we should feel sorry for every insurgent town and it's Indigenous people. I think she’s right. Every report that I read,every chronicle, seems to leave aside the fact that Cherán isn’t exactly small or poor. I cannot blame my colleagues, those coming from Mexico City will anywhere with a population of less than 100,000 habitants a 'small town'; others could have considered that talking about the abundance of two storied brick houses in a rebellious village might project the wrong image about an Indigenous community that has fought to be autonomous. I think it is just the opposite: we should talk about Cherán being big, and prosperous, because organizing 2000 habitants is difficult, very difficult; organizing almost 30,000 is something worthy of being acknowledged.
The whole thing makes me want to sit down and ask: “How did they do it?”
It cost them, a lot, and they hadn’t planned for it either. They paid the price with fear and more than one life; the price of seeing how the mismanagement of their mayor and those of neighboring towns gave the green light to the illegal activity of loggers who took over the town's forests. “The loaded trucks went by, and if you stared at them,they would get out, armed and threaten you. The only thing we could do was humiliate ourselves,” said an old woman outside of the church, in sad reference to the old Spanish definition of humillar: lower your head and stare at the ground.
"Standing United"
But Cherán's people were tired of staring at the ground.On the 15th of April, 2010, a large convoy came by and they couldn’t endure it anymore. The church bells rang, calling the people into action. The tolling of the bells gives the story takes a mythological flavor, making it one of those stories perfect for telling and retelling around the bonfire.
We will never be sure it there was 100 or 200, or if the Purépecha warrior blood really boiled in their veins as the drivers tried to run over the people with vehicles full of wood (Cherán's wood). How did they get the drivers and thugs out of the trucks, disarm them and drag them, helpless and begging for mercy, all through the town’s streets? All that is folklore now, dangling in the realms of legend. And none of those details really matter, but the telling of this saga will go on for generations to come. It is the story of the first day of a fight, one that had just started. After that they had to stop, and think, and plan.
They knew that the loggers paid the local cartel up to US$18,000a day for the right of way and that the thugs would not want to lose this income; they knew that the federal police and the army never intervened nor would they try to defend the people from abductions or executions; and that their pleas for help to the state governor always fell on deaf ears. They had nothing other than to dig in and wait.
So sure they were that they were defenseless, that they put up barricades on the four entrances to the town, and were careful to leave the local police station outside. Fear was present in every street; a prohibition of alcohol and a curfew was declared; they organized their neighbors, sometimes, even each square, to go on guard duty all evening and report any suspicious individual or activity.
And here's where the story gets really interesting.
There are many towns in resistance, sadly, meetings and councils of every type. But this town stood to protect every corner of their narrow streets. In two of every three plazas, they organized guard points, always warmed by a bonfire, which eventually was the name they adopted for their guard posts. They had up to 190 of these bonfires burning through the entire town, occupied by neighbors who were no longer shutting themselves inside, in fear. Now the people were in the streets, willing to look after each other, and in front of the bonfires those of different political allegiance and those of different religions would meet as equals. Once the fires were lit, women couldn’t resist taking advantage of them: cooking came out into the street.
They sat, made plans and were called upon to take decisions, but the youngsters didn’t always want to take part in long and boring meetings. There were assemblies, but in the solemn assemblies the women often don't feel like talking, unless they are a teacher or doctor, and even so, they would be regarded as weird. However, around the bonfire, the cook's voice is as important as the voice of an old man. And the young would listen and ask without fear of appearing ignorant, and stay because around the bonfire you can always joke and laugh; the neighbors that weren't on talking terms because of political arguments would start chatting again. Eating, around the fire, everybody is equal.
This laid back coexistence in the street, in every neighborhood, in each plaza, was the process that slowly allowed Cherán's people to fight as one for their forest and their town.

Retaking old habits and customs; returning to the idea of la faena, work that’s done by all for the good of everybody. It wasn’t long ago that this tradition was still practiced. The elders will tell you: “we built this school with la faena” and remember how at a wedding or funeral, the tradition dictated that everybody helps with something: food, work, anything so that life it is easier for all. This old way keeps people close.
Today, nearly a year after its formal uprising, Cherán has a new Community Council that replaced a [Institutional Revolutionary Party] mayor who delivered his last report four years after taking office. A position he left peacefully, as the people demanded.
The council was elected according the old ways, formed by the men and women that the community consider honorable and responsible. The State Elections Institute of Michoacán was a mere spectator to the voting.
There isn’t a place for political parties in this town, where people learned that together they are stronger and apart the only people that benefit are the malitos (bad guys). Even for the upcoming federal elections they have stated their intentions of not participating -the whole town, abstaining- to avoid the partisan rifts from separating their people again.
For this reason too, the people from Cherán who are del otro lado (people who have gone as migrants to the U.S.) have been involved throughout the movement, supporting those that defend what they feel is theirs. This town, where they live well, that is full of kids and young people, is very different to so many others where migrating to the north is almost a coming of age ritual. One can only imagine that this simple way of being a community is what makes the children willing to paint the facade of the old town hall, to replace the solemn and official looking sign on the hall for a new one, a little crooked but much more beautiful, that reads: Cheran K’eri (Community House).

The people still sit and chat around the bonfires in this fearless town, although just a few weeks ago a truckload of passengers were kidnapped and recently they heard how federal forces suppressed with violence and tear gas a demonstration by the villagers of neighboring Aquila, who are defending their territory from a foreign mining company.
The people of Cherán cannot forget that the danger still exists. But for now they smile and celebrate their victories and are determined to keep them, and to keep the bonfires that have helped so much to bring them together as a town again.
Before leaving, I took careful stock of Cherán, a small city, a large town just like many others that have suffered from organized crime and the indifference of the authorities. What's so remarkable here is how they fought to organize themselves despite being so many and having so many different interests. Just like the rest of Mexicans. From Chiapas to Baja California there are many towns, large and small, that are living through the same situation, divided by political parties, under the menace of drug cartels, exploited by greedy businessmen.
What they have achieved in Cherán was cooked peacefully around the fire, seasoned with conversation and a deep sense of community and tradition, which they keep alive even when they’re so close to victory. It’s impossible to walk by any guard house without them offering you a cup of coffee or a taco. That’s their way of finding out who you are, what you want. Although they have gone from terror to an apparent triumph in one year, they won't want to let the bonfires go out.

                                                  Two of the eight killed in the April conflict

Every morning, traditional medicine men ask for strength from Tata Jurhiata, our father sun,he who gives the gift of fire. They ask for the new Council, for the unity of the Purépecha people, for peace. In the central square the older men also take advantage of the sun to warm up and forget last night's cold wind. When I ask if later they are going to their neighborhood bonfire later they respond with a firm “Yes.” Then, one of them added: “Once you lit the fire, you must take care of it, so it grows bigger and warmer”.
Source:La Rocka
Additonal Reading:
On April 15, Purepechas from the indigenous community of Cherán detained a group of five loggers who were attempting to transport illegally-logged timber from their land.
Hoping to turn the loggers in, the Purepechas later informed local authorities about what had happened. But, two hours after doing so, a police car arrived in the community with two pick-ups that were occupied by more than a dozen heavily-armed men.
The armed men proceeded to open fire on the community, seriously injuring one person, Eugenio Sánchez Tiandón, who was shot in the head and remains in a coma.
Following the attack, the Purepecha, with few other options, declared an emergency "state of siege" and closed off all access points to the community. ...READ FULL ARTICLE HERE
The self-imposed state of siege is ongoing.
Props to Baggy of Borderland Beat Forum for finding the video!
HOW TO HELP!

I have been searching for organizations that are helping the indigenous people of Cheran and have not found much out there, if you know of a group please email me.

One group I wrote to did tell me of a few things, one is a petition 
started after the April 18th events.

They also suggested contacting another foundation that may have something.  I sent an email and am waiting for a response. 

Looks as though not much help has been given these brave people...

48 comments:

  1. Good article... If people of small villages can fight against crooks.. imagine what a united Mexico could do!? Mexicans united against cartels and dirty goverment, they would have Mexico back in a blink of an eye... They need to armed themselfs and have squads to take on cartels ..its just my opinion

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  2. Michoacan people will never give up. These are what people shouldbe like then maybe the world would be a much better place.

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  3. Nice story . That's what all Mexico needs to do

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Great article. Thanks for posting.

    This what it's going to take. A grassroots revolution that bypasses the corrupt feds that shield the cartel monsters from their inevitable reckoning for their horrendous crimes.

    When the Feds & media aren't cowering under their desks, or counting their ill-gotten pesos, they usually only raise their heads to lash out at vigilantism. Which is cynical & absurd in light of the cartel ghouls they've allowed to fester as parasites on Mexican society. They should be giving these people aid & medals for making a righteous stand against the gangsters.

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  6. I wish Eric Holder would supply these Cheran people with firearms to defend themselves instead of helping the narcos.

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  7. This is some real old news.

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  8. @12:54 and others
    EXACTLY what came into my mind as i first read this. These indigneous people are not the only ones fighting off org crime. But I think it is the mindset, of knowing no one is coming to their rescue making wrong right, or fighting the malitos. They have been given nothing, and have a mentality of grouping for the greater good.

    Other Mexicans do not have that particular spirit. For whatever reason, perhaps because their personal history. Whatever, Jorge Castenadas wrote of it in his book Manana Forever? That Mexicans are individualists, thinking for themselves and their family, and other outside that perameter. So how can one expect them to group, and die for others? It is perplexing to me, because Mexicans are warm and loving, yet when comes to giving of themselves for others its just not there.

    There are videos you can watch where Jorge explains this much better than I ...here is one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=essq3341SQE

    but the one above is just a teaser-go to ZocaloPublicSquare.org and search video Castenada Manana Forever the entire video is there and if you want a good description of this, lots of example, fact and humour view it. Pay attention to his telling of the mindset of Mexicans changing when they leavee Mexico and venture to the US...very telling..Paz, Chivis

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  9. "The tolling of the bells gives the story takes a mythological flavor, making it one of those stories perfect for telling and retelling around the bonfire ... 'or the type material used to make a movie that inspires other people.' "

    There's a lot injustice in this world, abuse of people, destruction & abuse of land, abuse of animals, the stealing of other people's lives (murder), the stealing of other people's property and the natural resources that are on that property as in the story told in your post here.

    Thanks for posting this story "The Fight Of The Cherán."

    Awareness of a problem is the first step; the more people who know about these things the better, but somewhere along the line some kind of a well organized 'UNIFIED people' movement must arise to make a stand against oppression.
    .

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  10. Will someone, anyone, stand up and give these courageous people some weapons and training!! You can't fight AK-47 armed thugs with pitchforks and rocks! Establish armed community groups who have had proper training and let them defend themselves, their families, and their towns. Hell, let Holder and Obama send down some "Fast and Furious" guns to offset the 2,000 or so they let fall into the hands of the cartels.

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  11. The writer of this piece is due all praise. There is sorrow, but no pity.

    Bravo!

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  12. The govt and the cartels are against us. If we defend ourselves we het prosecuted by the corrupt govt. Then we will be persecuted by the cartels. We really need holder and friends to do us the same favor they did the cartels.

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  13. ♪♫lito brito♫♪July 22, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    hell yes!!!!viva Mexico..andarle!!!!

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  14. Puro tarasco! Arriva mi Michoacan. The Aztecs couldnt keep us down. our people were the last to fall under the spanoles but we are stll here.

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  15. ¡Viva Cheran.! The photos show people of strong character doing what is right. I pray for their best interests and their protection. If the Government lets them down, the world will know how to judge the Mexican Gov't. if Mexico's president wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel, they should foster this movement and try to encourage other to do the same.

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  16. Puro Michoacano asta el tronko. My gente is standing up. My great grampa was a Zapatista Lutenant back during the revo. My grampa always has good stories. He was a Guardian too during the 50s. (Sherrif)

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  17. it's the shit like this going on in Mexico that just aggravates the fuck out of me

    arm you're citizens Mexico

    ~~~el spaceio~~~

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  18. I feel their story needs to be open and live to the world as much as possie. The worlds eye will help protect them. For example, if live feed cameras were placed around the ace where anyone would be watching from a computer or smart phone etc. the Mexican gov nor the cartels could come walking in with guns blazing.

    I wish I was a millionaire or better a billionaire, I'd donate so muc to helping them. I hope they inspire more change.

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  19. Great read
    i wish all the people my best in thier fight,keep it in the HEADLINES and maybe someone , somewhere will send the help they need

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  20. Do us all a favor and don't mention Eric Holder again. They make it look like they're going after him for his fast & Furious Scam but he was only following orders that came from above him.

    Let's not count on the USA to save Mexico: see Borderland Beat's post "HSBC Allowed Narcos To Launder Billions" for more information on THOSE FROM THE TOP WHO OWN, RUN, & CONTROL THE 'SYSTEM' ... "He who owns & controls the Money Supply (big big stinky Bankers) CALLS THE SHOTS so don't count on the USA that is run and controlled by the Federal Reserve (the Federal Reserve is a privately owned Bank).
    .

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  21. Intresting how a foreign mining is trying to get in that area, i think this cartel violence is bigger then what we think , its a good excuse to scare people from their lands while the reall crooks come in an take the reasources

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  22. Check this online news post:

    "Banks, Global Elite Confirmed to Hold $32 Trillion in Offshore Accounts"

    How did they get THAT MEGA AMOUNT OF MONEY??? Let's find out how and also find out how much power that money has over the economies & of all people on the planet. Who would want that much money, what type people?, is there a limit to How Much Money they wish to acquire?, and what kind of a world do they want?! One they TOTALLY CONTROL? let's not forget that such money gatherers do not intend letting go of the money they have, the power they have, therefore the more they control The System the easier it will be not hang on to the loot & power. Do they chose which politicians will be offered to the public? Does it matter which political party you elect? Do people trust politicians? Why do we pay taxes while big bankers hide their money in offshore accounts in order Not To Pay Taxes and who do you think set THAT system up?!!

    Tie this into the previous message I sent Borderland Beat today where I mention Eric Holder. I was responding to the person who wrote "I wish Eric Holder would supply these Cheran people with firearms to defend themselves instead of helping the narcos."

    Sensiblero

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    1. A wise smart person. People like you makr me want to keep doing research to educate stupid people who want Mexico to go down the train n idiots who support the government stupid actions n actually embrace them. Tnx again for such smart comment.(no sarcasm)

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  23. Chivis, I have searched and searched on the zocalopublicsquare.org site and I have not found the full video. Could you or someone else please give a URL of the FULL video. This is a subject that I have great interest in and I would like to watch it in full! Thanks so much.

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  24. Is everyone on vacation

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  25. Welcome to ''Tierra Caliente'' m'fers.

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  26. @11:54AM

    No wonder you had a bit of trouble..i went into the manana text there is a link to a link to the audio and finally the video with a title that had no manana and no forever as in the book title...

    here you go..the first is the video, the others are text posts which may interest you. I do no always agree with jorge, but for the most part I enjoy his teachings especially speaking about the charcter of Mexican citizens...Paz, Chivis:



    http://zocalopublicsquare.org/fullVideo.php?event_year=2011&event_id=474&video=&page=1

    http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/06/02/who-is-mexico/read/readings/

    http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/06/05/mexicans-vs-mexico/read/the-takeaway/

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  27. It kind of makes you think of the movie the "Magnificent Seven", good people, give them money to hire some "MERCS" or "Blackwater" people

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  28. Poor people they have alot on their plate. These are the god fearing people I'm proud to say are true Mexicans. May the world see their struggle and get some sort of support or help in any way. Its funny how people keep saying El Chapo and Mayo help all people that arent against them and that they help the poor and hungry like some sort of robin hood. Lets see if they can help like all their Cheerleaders say that they have witnessed and not heard in corridos.

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    1. Well said... Where's Chapo or Mayo? Really helping the real hard working Mexicans... There all the same dirty crooks, innocent killing bastards... Mexico take Cheran for example u can fight back... Y ahora quien proda ayudarnos!? (Then CHAPOulin Colorado jumps out)

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  29. At myself, 8:47 AM (July 23)

    Earlier today among other things I wrote:
    ... therefore the more they control The System the easier it will be 'not' hang on to the loot & power. It should have been written:

    ... therefore the more they control The System the easier it will be 'TO' HANG ON TO the loot & power.


    * Apologies to Borderland Beat 'compas'

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  30. Can you supply a link to a web site where we can at least donate money to help these folks out?

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  31. I just feel like taking a big kaka on mexico and showing what being brown really means

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  32. @5:30PM
    I spent a couple hours last night searching for an organization working in Cheran to post methods of helping. I began googling and there is not much. I found two orgs that have done projects there and I wrote to each asking for assistance in finding a 501C3 on the ground working with them or other methods to donate or even volunteer, much like my project in Chiapas, we have volunteers on the ground from US and Europe but also accounts specifically directed to Zapatista schools.

    I have not had a reply from either as of yet.
    I do not want to post something I can't check the integrity so thats why I asked for a 501C3, but it does not necessarily have to be one.

    if anyone knows of a non-profit org, church or NGO that is directly working with the Purépecha in Cheran let me know. Either email or post on comments and I will make a post dedicated to ways to help. Vato's post also had comments asking how to help...Paz, Chivis

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  33. Wow, that Calderon is quite a leader of the people, huh?

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  34. I Just added a new video-see the people and the land..

    Props to Baggy our forum poster from AU...he discovered the video...Paz, Chivis

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  35. "July 23, 2012 7:09 PM," did you get any replies yet?

    Thanks

    SB

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  36. from youtube look at THE SLINGSHOT CHANNEL
    by by JoergSprave
    simple weapons made of wood that can be made with simple woodworking tools available in a town of fifteen thousand.
    120 lb: Homemade Slingbow with Speargun Rubber (incl. How To)
    Winch Operated Portable Slingshot Cannon .
    or this one
    As big as a car: Huge Slingshot Cannon in Action


    think about how the british beat the french with the skill they had with the longbow.
    A skilled longbowman could release between 10 - 12 arrows per minute

    The longbow could also pierce the armor of a knight at ranges of more than 250 yards

    The string of the longbow was made from hemp as it was the strongest and least elastic fibre available. The string was then soaked in glue as some protection against moisture

    The weapon was particularly effective against opponents wearing plate armor.

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  37. RE: Helping The People of Cheran
    Hi folks..
    One org did finally reply to my inquiry to help.
    I will post the petition and other info above.

    Paz,

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  38. Stupid Eric holder should give this brave people at least some shotguns. Cause we all know one of this days the narcos or corrupt police are going to show up and spray the shit out of them.

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  39. .

    Hola Chivis (Chivis said...

    RE: Helping The People of Cheran
    Hi folks..
    One org did finally reply to my inquiry to help.
    I will post the petition and other info above.

    Paz"
    ............


    It would great if you could pass that update on to us Not Only Here (The Fight Of The Cherán: The Day It Began) but also at your web site Main Page under the "Update: 'PLEASE TAKE NOTE' section" that you have yet to create (WHEN it becomes available to you and you wish to pass it on to us).

    Sensiblero.Popped.In 4 a short visit ;-)


    Paz!

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  40. @Mary Poppins-lets go with MP from this day forth-ok? :)

    Are you hacking into my computer? jajaja
    I have been in discussions with people on the ground in Cheran, actual folks who work with the people. They are having a meeting on Monday- i will post the update in my post above since we have not created PLEASE TAKE NOTE-UPDATE section...BTW GREAT idea.

    However in her communication to me a few minutes ago she was left "discouraged" after reading the article about the 62 police kidnapped, she found it confusing and gave me info of who the responsible people may be. and where they are from she said CAPACUARO not CHERAN.
    I linked to this and Vatos article and ask if she would please read the positive comments from readers. I explained many of us want to help and are simply looking for a way. In an offer to gain her trust I suggested that I put her in contact with the Zapatistas I am working with to verify I am a humanitarian whose work includes the indigenous peoples of Mx and Central America.

    She also said La Jornada Michoacan gets it "right" So I looked and sure enough it was the Capacuaro. And...there is an article I will translate and post about the Cheran having come to an agreement with the federal and state governments on issues such as security (this was yesterday. Have patience MP, I am all over this story and doing my best...paz, chivis

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  41. Thanks for the feedback amigo mío y k tengas un super día. Nos vemos,

    MP ;-)

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  42. K tal estás 12:07 AM (July 28, 2012 ) ?

    "I have been in discussions with people on the ground in Cheran, actual folks who work with the people." You also mentioned a woman and I'm wondering if you have spoken to her again after having written "I linked to this and Vatos article and ask if she would please read the positive comments from reader. ... "

    PS, you're actually in Mexico right now?

    María P.

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  43. todavia No Update ... jum

    Hola Chivis

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  44. Chivis, never mind answering the question of whether or not you're in Mexico. Two nights ago I was checking the Borderland Beat page using my iPod and I saw the list of reporters involved in the posts here. I saw your name, clicked on it and red your B B biography write up and it says you're in the USA right now. Of course I forgot to check on the date of that biography clip. In the USA you're safe, In Mexico you could be long gone by now. Nice to know you're out of danger.

    You're a 'happening' guy from what I red about you, I was impressed by what was written on you. I appreciate knowing the background of a reporter.

    María

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