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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Voices Of The Indigenous Autodefensa In Santa María Ostula

Borderland Beat

Photo by: Rogelio Velázquez
By: Alejandra Natalia Rodriguez Escobar

June 10, 2014

With a full auditorium at Casa Lamm, the meeting of “The Indigenous Autodefensa In The Case Of Santa María Ostula” took place.  At the meeting was: Semeí Verdía Zepeda, the commander of the community and coordinator of the autodefensa group, Carlos González, the legal advisor, and Agustín Vera, the official spokesperson.  On this occasion, they were all the spokespersons of this indigenous movement.

After 5 years of struggling in defense of their community, the people of Santa María Ostula have revived the struggle in defense of their territory and security, the indigenous community police and the assembly have reignited in the village since this year.  Semeí Verdía explained: “On February 8, a group of exiled villagers of the community (who were exiled for security reasons), returned to Ostula in order to save part of the community organization, we should clarify that we are not autodefensas, we are community police because we all have a common origin as a community and as villagers”.

Among the demands of the villagers include: the reappearance of the disappeared people since 2009 and justice for those killed, as well as respect for the more than 1000 hectares of communal land reclaimed by private individuals such as Mario Álvarez, a smallholder in the region.

The community spokesperson, Agustín Vera, spoke in defense of natural resources and seconded Semeí Verdía stating: “For us, land isn’t about being rich in money; it’s about being rich in life; that is why only the people can save the people”.

The lawyer of Ostula, Carlos González, mentioned that “On the first of April of 2008, the Unitary Agrarian Tribunal of Colima issued a resolution which deprived the community of Santa María Ostula of 200,000 hectares.  On April 8, the villagers got together and decided to defend their lands, well they indicated that this would become their life.  The lawyer said that the community police in this region are not new, and noted that in 1989, the government at that time declared the disappearance of their community police.

The lawyer recalled that on June 14, 2009, the first environmental statement to the autodefensas at the National Indigenous Congress was issued in the municipal seat of the village.  The statement proclaimed that in the face of destruction and dispossession of the indigenous territory, it was necessary to form groups of defense for security, protected by the autonomy and auto determination of the villages.  Carlos González felt that this document is the precursor to the autodefensas in Michoacán.

All of the residents of Ostula present at the event made a call to spread their resistance, and to share their struggle in the methods and forms of each culture and space.

Source: Somos El Medio


  1. Semei is a good guy. He used to always drive the kids in the smaller towns into the village to go to secundaria, elementary school. He was a peaceful papaya farmer who bothered no one. I guess finally he had enough of the BS and stood up for his community.

  2. this whole autodefensas thing seems to be a good thing but maybe if oneday the autodefensas cleaned their communities and the dust has settled i am sure there will be new organizations who take over the narco trafficking. likely that it will be the defensas himself. theres just to much money in this whole thing.

    1. Asshole.go slander somewhere else.they want quality of LIFE and PEACE! Fuck the ferarris and heartless mansions and constant watching your back.these people want your type OUT OF THEIR LIVES.begone!!

  3. The people.from.ostula were the first autodefensa or comunity mexico but unfortunally they were 35 members by cts

  4. You are right. They rose up and got shut down hard by corrupt local forces. The people in the new revival have guts

  5. Thanks for translating and posting this ValorxTruth.

    I wanted to know more about this group.... this 2011 article clearly lays out the dangers these brave men and women are facing by reactivating the community police... and they allege the murders of people in their community are being carried out by the state as a way to "pressure" them into giving up their land and reaching an agreement. A human rights group stepped in to help them in 2010 I think... but I don't know what has happened since then.

    The Community of Santa María Ostula Struggles against Violent Repression

    The costs of war on Ostula: 16 community members dead or disappeared in the past six months, dozens of widows, orphans and families displaced, and the indefinite suspension of school.

    To the people of Mexico and the peoples of the world
    To the National Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity
    To the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
    To the indigenous people of Mexico
    To the National Indigenous Congress
    To the Otra Campaña

    This June 29 marks two years since our community, with the support of sister Nahua communities Pómaro and El Coire, recovered more than a thousand hectares of land belonging to Xayakalan, land that had been invaded by rich caciques from La Placita, Michoacán over the past 40 years. We also established the settlement and resistance camp of Xayakalan, stopped the highway megaprojects that threatened to impose all levels of government on Nahua territory, and brought an end to the decision of the state to dispossess Ostula of almost a thousand hectares of communal land.

    It has also been two years since our community resolved to close all of its territory and exercise indigenous autonomy and self defence, with the support of the National Indigenous Congress' Manifesto for Indigenous Self Defence. This was done through the reestablishment of traditional community police and the formation of a communal guard that lead the recovery of land that has been unjustly seized. The land is currently being protected by the aforementioned guard.

    We have suffered constant harassment and aggression from paramilitary groups who with total impunity, persecute, murder, and kidnap members of our community and neighbouring communities. Particularly egregious are the forced disappearances of compañero Francisco De Asís Manuel, president of community property in Santa María Ostula, and community members Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino.

    Two years from those historic days of struggle, we condemn the federal and state governments that have not guaranteed the existence of our community police force, nor have recognized the communal property in Xayakalan. Instead, they have carried out permanent campaigns of disarmament, detaining armed community members. This is done with participation of agents from the United States. At the same time, organized crime groups that dominate Michoacán and the region operate without restraint, protected by state police and the complicity of the Mexican Army and Marines.

    contd in next post

  6. pt 2

    In September 2010 our community obtained precautionary measures with relation to the disappearances of Francisco de Asís Manuel, Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This had a somewhat calming effect that allowed our community to enter into a dialogue in October 2010 with the Secretariat of Agrarian Reform and the Secretariat of the State Government in order to attempt to smooth out the problems around the recovered land in Xayakalan. A few days later, both governments proposed the “liberation” of 22 hectares that made up a part of our immemorial land but was given to the commune of Salina de La Placita in 1967. Forty million pesos was offered in compensation for the land.

    In the first days of December 2010, the general assembly of community members decided to reject any quantity of money that the federal or state governments offered as a solution to the problem. The blood of our missing and dead brothers is not negotiable, nor does it have a price. Mother earth also does not have a price. Instead, we initiated a consulta among the men, women, boys, and girls who make up our community in order to find a proposal, if a consensus could be reached, that allows for the building of peace with the communal land holders and mestizo population of La Placita.

    However, the consulta that we have carried out with much difficulty over the months has been stained with blood and pain for the community of Ostula:

    1. On December 10, 2010, community member Horacio Matínez Ramos was kidnapped on coastal highway 200 and later murdered.
    2. Ernesto Nicolás López and Pedro Nazario Domínguez were murdered on January 1 and 6, 2011 respectively.
    3. On February 1, community member Pedro Guzman was murdered. On Frebruary 20, a commando attempted to murder community member Semeí Verdía in El Faro. Semeí Verdía is a member of the Commission of Dialogue for the Agrarian Problem of the Community. He is currently not in Ostula.
    4. Isidro Mora Domínguez and Feliciano Dirino Domínguez were murdered on March 20.
    5. Underage community member Enrique Domínguez Macías was kidnapped in El Ranchito, Michoacán on April 8. To this day, his whereabouts remains unknown.
    6. Young community members Jonathan and Fortino Verdía Gómez were burned and murdered in El Faro on May 2.
    7. On May 13, community members and professors Francisco and Ambrosio Verdía Macías, the former was principal of the primary school in Ostula, were kidnapped on coastal highway 200 and murdered in El Faro. Since this day, school has been suspended in Ostula.
    8. On May 28 Nicolás de la Cruz, First Comandante of the third group belonging to the communal guard that recovered Xayakalan on June 29, 2009, was ambushed and murdered along with his son Rafael de la Cruz.
    9. May 29 saw community member Juan Faustino murdered. He was First Comandante of the second group belonging to the communal guard that recovered Xayakalan on June 29, 2009.

  7. pt 3
    9. May 29 saw community member Juan Faustino murdered. He was First Comandante of the second group belonging to the communal guard that recovered Xayakalan on June 29, 2009.

    Faced with a state government that is constantly pressuring our community to reach an agreement that would give away part of our beaches in order to “stop what is happening”, we ask ourselves what next? Who will be the next victim? What else has to happen before our continuously violated rights are respected? What crimes have to occur in order for our community police to be recognized? Who will punish the government of Michoacán and the federal bodies posted in the region for their silent complicity in the extermination of our community?

    Could it be that what is happening in Ostula is the price we are paying for daring to stand up to save our land, our existence and our dignity? Is this the price we pay for exercising the most basic rights that belong to every human being around the world?
    Is this the punishment that they want to impose on us for rising up against so much injustice? Punishment for fighting against displacement, racism and violence, carried out not over years, but over a long night that has lasted five centuries?

    Because we live with it every day we shout out: The war on drugs is nothing more than charade that keeps this lucrative business going, while violence spreads more and more throughout this country called México so that a few can rob what is left of the cultural heritage in our communities and nation.

    We say clearly: the solution is self defence and the exercise of autonomy. In Xayakalan, where our community police is fully functional, there is no violence, no murders. The violence happens principally on coastal highway 200, which is under federal jurisdiction, and in communities outside our territory. It's important to remember that Ostula established and safeguarded a state of emergency for almost three months, with many sacrifices. During this time there wasn't a single crime committed in the community.

    For the above reasons, and because the offences and crimes committed against Ostula make up a part of a long series of offences and crimes committed against peoples across Mexico, we declare our support for the National Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity and the Citizens' Pact signed on June 10 in Juárez, Chihuahua.

    We will not surrender, we are still alive and we urgently need the backing of civil society. With that in mind we invite everyone to the Xayakalan resistance camp on June 29 starting at 10:00 for the second anniversary of the recovery of our communal land, the foundation of the Xayakalan resistance camp, and the formation of the community police and communal indigenous guard. We demand that the repression against the Coastal Nahua people end and that our disappeared compañeros are returned to us alive.

    Respect for all our communal land!

    Respect for our community police and communal guard!

    Return alive compañero Francisco de Asís Manuel, president of community property of Santa María Ostula, and community members Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino!

    Punish those responsible for the murder of Professor Diego Ramírez Dominguez!

    Stop the kidnapping and murder of the community members of Ostula!

    Punish those responsible for the repression against Santa María Ostula!

    Santa María Ostula, Michoacán, June 8 2011.
    Land and Liberty
    Commission for the Defence of Community Property of the Indigenous Community of Santa María Ostula

  8. Thanks for posting that piece. It gives a good summary of some of the struggle. The piece of land in conflict is a beautiful stretch of beach. I could see why anyone would want to live there, only it is too close to La Placita and that causes some conflict with the ejido.

  9. Out of a place of natural beauty, La Placita gives off a negative vibe and feel. I tend to get the hell out of there and not delay on my way to some incredible beaches, the real treasure of the area and the reason for the land encroachment. Developers eye that stretch of coast for their palatial mansions and hotelsnlike they did to the people of Punta de Mita and the Four Seasons Hotel.

  10. I used to go in to la placita for supplies and never had any problems , but the people there are not very friendly either.


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