«The accompany in silence the coffin, until the cementery. Los Caballeros Templarios (a drug trafficking organization) passed full speed in their pick-up trucks, drinking beer, raising dust in the dirt road, listening narcocorridos at full volume (music genre typical from drug trafficking organizations). The family of the victim moved forward with their head down, we where asked not to take out our flags, for not to have any problem. One of them had with him a small one and put it above the box. I couldn’t hold any longer and with all the courage I had in my body I cried a “¡Zapata vive!” (¡Zapata lives!), just once, hoping no one else, besides us will hear it». With this words, a social combatant from Michoacán remembers the death of one of the communitary nahuas leaders from Santa María Ostula, Teodulo Santos, kidnapped may 15th, 2012 and found lifeless the next day. As chief of land tenure -highest postition in the indiginous community the professor Santos was a cornerstone in the land recovery of a ranch known as La Canaguancera, today appointed as Xayacalan.
The past june 29th of 2015, exactly 6 years after almost 1000 hectares where recovered and the first campsites that will give life to the community of San Diego Xayacalan where settled, a meaningful celebration was scenery to celebrate the struggle process that has cost perspiration and blood to comuneros and comuneras (community people). Thirty two assassinations and six forced disappearences are the numbers that account the terror in Ostula, but it is not, until seeing how carefully the celebration is organized and account the sad moments that suddenly appear in the conversations, that we can intuit the hardness of the lost and the will to struggle that has sosteined women and men in the solid decision to recover the lands that belong to the community.
The celebration had started in the center of the designation (Xayacalan) from where is possible to observe on one side the housings of the comuneros and comuneras, and on the other, the open sea that goes beyond the magnificents palm trees a few metres from the village. The mass started when the sun is more imposing in the coast, it was almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the elderly people, adults and even the smaller ones from the community where below a palm roof attentive to the desgnation of the new religious positions. At the end, the new possitioners devoted to share among the attendants bananas and candy, that where part of a necklace and a crown assigned with the position, as the traditions point out.
The afternoon started to dye with music and dance, of laughs and futboll matches among the smaller ones of the community: that generation that grows along the resistance and that will continue to look after the communitary lands. At the back, the sun was comming down and the almost full moon assumed the replacement of the night, while the waves harmoniously hitted the beach that belongs to Xayacalan.
In this aniversary celebration, besides the rebuild community and survivals, there where also there those violently shifted, those who have left behind teachings and strengths so that the nahua community continous to be organized and firm in the defense of their territory and culture.
Professor Santos, Trinidad de la Cruz is one of the communitary leaders that have left behind an important foot track in the inhabitants of Ostula, first major of the communitary guard that in 2009 organized themselves to protect the community. The death of this nahua fighter has impregnated in the memory of those who met him and in the social framework that keeps on building day by day. Jerónimo Flores, one of the partakers of that guard, whom was very closed to don Trino or El trompas, as he was known, shared some memories:
«The time we where with him, he also said that this was not just for those who where going to live here, he was always with the thought that it was for the whole community, this was being fought so that the whole community gained back what we had lost many years ago. Foreigners to the community took control of them (the lands) sneakily and supposedly they where owners but they have never been, because, because there where times when the community simply not; that times where going to come when the community was going to be motivated because there are now several comrades, comuneros, that are growing older and there was nowhere else to harvest the land and they then remember this land, specially don Trino. He said that it was not fair that foreigners where inside the communitary territory, because it was a land that belonged to the community.
He always cheered up the comrades. I have several deceased comrades, the comrade Juan Faustino, he was also kidnapped; other comrades that approached and lived with us, the comrade Inocencia, rodrigo Alejo, Leonardo, Sebastián, the have been here in the struggle since forever, the were clinged to our comrade don Trino de la Cruz. He always said that if one of us will have been missing that we shouldn’t faint, that we shouldn’t be afraid, that we should put forward, because this was not a struggle only for us but for those who are growing up, those who are being born and for those who haven’t yet born and this is why, he said this was for everyone. But regrettably the crime was strong back then and it ended us but we didn’t exasperate, because with fear and courage, he always cheer us up. And anything he did not liked he always said it, to us and to the civil authorities. He was a struggle partner.»
Land of xayacates
The xayacate is that warrior that ensures that the community stays united and strong to face any chalenge; stemming from the nahuatl locution xayacatl, the word means litterary «mask» but it refers mostly to the aception that signals the protection of the face and in some way the collectivisation of the identity. No wonder that the new appointed land, founded june 29th, 2009 in recovered community lands from small owners bound to organized crime, carries as name Xayacalan, that means land of xayacates, that is, from those having recover the land will strengthen the community and reproduce the indiginous and peasant identity. When carrying away this process, beyond political parties, cartels (criminal organization who’s purpose is promoting and controlling drug trafficking operations) and mega proyects, this is also part of the struggle against capitalist dispossession that sostein wide economical interests in the region.
Within the nahua culture that has been building and rebuilding in the wide territory of Ostula’s cofrade, the xayacates are also a breakup figure with the simpleness of between good and evil polarization, since they open the possibility to more complex situations where, the struggle in this fields is more complex and with many important nuances. Like if the apparently «universal» division that the West has imposed in the cosmogonical interpretation of life, it wasn’t enough and needed a new dimension, rebel indians that won’t accept the dicotomy between good and evil but they fight against this simplicity. This is why the relevancy of the figure of this characters in their religious and political life of Ostula.
Without the interest of understanding the rol of the xayacates in the reproduction of the community it is very likely that the analysis regarding the struggle against despossession of the territory and against the organized crime, constraints itself to good and bad; and overall, it woudn’t be possible the understand the complex actions like general assamblies where settlers affected by others who agreed to participate with the Caballeros Templarios have been confronted. Without the cosmogonical dimension of the xayacates, it can become difficult to think of one possible reconciliation among those who inhabit the land and the construction of some kind of justice that is not based only in good and evil.
In the pressing, the appointments that conform the cofrade of Ostula face different chalenges in so far as the reconstruction of Ostula broadens and the consolidation of a de facto indiginous community is increagsily more realistic. While it is true that it has reached a very emmotional, participative celebration and overall unified, it is also true that there is still a long way to go towards, a lot of agrarian conflicts that are still being put up in the specialized tribunals and the main leaders of the templarios that lead to the violence and terror and don’t even have a previous enquiry, as much as Mario Álvarez as Federico González, alias Lico, whether they promenade calmly on the streets of Colima or the reorganize in jail with the strongholds located in the highlands of Arteaga and Coalcoman.
The last just to mention the obvious, nevertheless, inside the community there are still matters pending, like the construction of a collective memory that helps the healing of the wounds caused by the assassinations and dissapereances, by threats and uncertainties, a memory that allows the reconciliation without this meaning the lost of justice and dignity. Matters as the construction of pedagogical projects and health, of living, productive, cultural, based on autonomy. And as a transversal theme, the conservation of territory and the struggle against the iron mine and other concessions that are legally operating, are also matters of concern and analysis.
Towards the beggining of the night, the accordion and large guitar guided the community people to continue with the dance in the control check point, with ventured steps among the communitary police, peasants, a lot of young girls and boys, and a unsuspected calm only six years ago. That calmness has been restored in the last year after many community people managed to go back to Ostula with a stronger self-defense community strategy; build while they where forced to exile themselves around 2011 and 2014, due to the rising of violence. Besides, it is neccesary to point out another achievement reached the past may with the distribution of land among community people for their work and care, giving continuity to the communitary project proposed since 2009.
This publication was initially published in Subversiones (http://subversiones.org/archivos/117049) a free media communication agency under Creative Commons Licence. It was a collaboration between Xilonen Pérez, Heriberto Paredes and Cráter Invertido.