“Autonomy is Everything”: Interview with Indigenous Political Prisoner José Antonio Arreola of Nahuatzen

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

La versión original de esta entrevista en español puede encontrarse aquí.

The following is an interview with Indigenous political prisoner José Antonio Arreola Jiménez, one of three political prisoners from the P’urhépecha community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán, currently serving seven-year sentences based on trumped-up charges. The interview was conducted in late November by IGD contributor Scott Campbell.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?

Yes, my name is José Antonio Arreola Jiménez. I’m from the Indigenous community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán. Nahuatzen is an Indigenous community nestled in the heart of the Meseta Purépecha. I have my wife and five children.

Can you share with us some details about Nahuatzen, its struggle, and your role in that struggle?

The struggle in Nahuatzen began in 2015, when the last municipal president was imposed on us by the state government, by [then-governor] Silvano Aureoles Conejo. Then, this Miguel Prado Morales, which is his name, arrived with more than twenty or thirty armed individuals from outside the community, claiming to be his private police, his bodyguard. We, as community members, thought this was bad, because within the town there is no need to bring weapons, we’re not people who fight, we’re not armed people. We’re working people, peaceful people. So that was, more than anything else, the main issue.

Then, one day we asked for a meeting with the municipal president, which was granted, and we told him that we wanted his police to leave the community of Nahuatzen. It turns out that he said yes, but later on he didn’t want to. The next day, he summoned us in front of his police, and we were attacked by them, his entire family, the entire town government. So, there was a revolt, there was a conflict, there were people who had their heads cracked open and people who were beaten. But at that moment, the community decided to hold a meeting, a general assembly, and to remove recognition of the town government. So, in a public meeting in the main plaza, we held this assembly.

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Oaxaca: Launch of the Campaign: “It’s Not Development – It’s Dispossession!”

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

The following is a statement from the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, translated by Scott Campbell, regarding the launch of a new permanent campaign against extractivist, neoliberal megaprojects.

Launch of the Campaign: “It’s Not Development – It’s Dispossession!”

We, the communities and organizations that have joined together since 2019 as the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, today, November 20, 2021, on the 111th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, declare the following:

Thanks to the long struggles of our ancestors against the conquistadores, colonizers and invaders who for centuries tried to dispossess us of everything that gives us life and sustenance, the First Peoples of Oaxaca still retain our communal and ejidal lands, as well as our territories and autonomy as communities and municipalities. We are still here as Afro-Mexican, Amuzgo, Binizaa, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocholteco, Chontal, Cuicateco, Ikoots, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Tacuate, Triqui, Zapoteco y Zoque peoples, and all the men, women, and others who have their blood in our veins and maintain their culture in our daily lives. We inhabit and work our ancestral territories, developing our own forms of knowledge and at the same time enriching the world with them, in a reciprocal and respectful manner. Thanks to this connection to territory, Oaxaca and all of Mexico has great cultural and ecological richness and diversity that those who seek to harm us so often boast about.

The peoples of Mexico today commemorate the invaluable struggle of our general Emiliano Zapata, speaker of the Nahuatl language and son of the people of Morelos, and our immortal Ricardo Flores Magón, Oaxacan and son of the Mazateco people, who together with thousands of Mexicans gave their lives for justice and for a dignified life for the peasants, the workers, the dispossessed, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico.

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Polyvalent Power: A Review of the “Power” Issue of “Perspectives on Anarchist Theory”

Originally published on It’s Going Down.

“A Love Supreme,” by Erin Bree of Gallery of the Streets, from issue 32 of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.

During the height of the movement against neoliberal globalization in the U.S., numerous chants and sayings emerged or were resuscitated, such as, “This is what democracy looks like” or “The whole world is watching.” Fortunately, along with the phenomenon of summit-hopping itself, these utterances have largely fallen into disuse. A particularly nonsensical saying from that moment was “Speaking truth to power.” First coined by Bayard Rustin for a pamphlet he co-wrote in 1955, called Speaking Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence, the notion has been rightfully critiqued by the likes of Noam Chomsky, who stated, “power knows the truth already, and is busy concealing it.”[1] Yet even this does not go far enough, as it maintains the presumption latent in the slogan that there exists a binary between those with power and those without it, or that power as such is a thing one can speak to.

Theorists from Spinoza to Gramsci to Foucault have attempted to wrestle with the question of what power is, arriving at no agreement aside from the fact that power is no one thing. In this sense, power can be understood as being “overdetermined,” a Freudian concept appropriated by Marxist theorists which, as explained by Stuart Hall, allows that “an idea, a symptom, or a dream symbol can itself be the condensation of a set of different chains of meaning, which are not manifest in the way in which the symbol is given.…One has to conceive of it as overdetermined; that is, the same symbol can be determined at different levels, by different kinds of discourses.”[2] The exploration of this discursive malleability of power, as well as the capacity of power to reify certain discourses, is at the heart of the most recent edition of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, volume number 32, published in May of this year by the Institute for Anarchist Studies and oriented around the theme of “Power.”

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In times of climate crisis, the future is a territory to defend

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

The following is the manifesto of the recently launched #FuturosIndígenas initiative being organized in so-called Mexico and beyond. Translated by Scott Campbell.

In the midst of this electoral drought, a network of narratives of resistance is born. Facing a climate crisis that threatens our future on the planet, that puts our lives and territories at risk, representatives from more than 20 Indigenous peoples are organizing to confront this emergency. To reforest minds, to indigenize hearts.

We are defending territory, our way of being and existing; we are uniting efforts and hearts through communicative actions and the creation of narratives in defense of life. We name ourselves Kiliwa, Cucapá, Nahua, Acolhua, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ñu Savi, Hñatho, Amuzga, Purépecha, Ayuuk, Afro-descendant, Zapoteca, Popoluca, Maya, K’iche’, Wayuu, Zoque and germinate as #FuturosIndígenas [#IndigenousFutures].

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State Continues Attacks Against Normalista Students in Chiapas

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

By Scott Campbell

Today, May 31, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School took over at least 11 commercial trucks and set up a blockade to the protest the May 18 state attack against them as they were protesting against changes to the school admissions process. During that previous attack, 95 people were arrested, women were subjected to sexual assault, and many were injured by police beatings. All 95 face serious charges, with 19 still being held in the high-security El Amate prison. Joining the students in protest both today and on May 18 were displaced Indigenous Tzotzil residents from Chenalhó, forced to flee their homes due to paramilitary violence.

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Indigenous Women Begin Hunger Strike Demanding Freedom for Political Prisoners in Oaxaca

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

The following piece by Erika Lozano, published by Desinformémonos and translated by Scott Campbell, discusses the hunger strike started by women from Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, demanding the release of seven political prisoners from the community.

Mazatec women encamped in front of the Federal Judiciary Council in Mexico City to demand the release of their relatives after seven years in prison. Argelia Betanzos, Bertha Reynosa and Carmela Bonfil, from Eloxochitlán, Oaxaca, demanded a meeting with the president of the council, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea.

“What brings us here is desperation, since the innocence of our family members has been proven by legal evidence, as has the fabrication of the crimes of which they are accused,” explained Betanzos during an interview. She is the daughter of prisoner Jaime Betanzos Fuentes, and she started a hunger strike on Tuesday, May 25, stating she will not leave until she has an answer. She also denounced that “using the pandemic as a pretext,” there has been no progress in the case on the part of Oaxacan authorities.

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Brutal State Violence Against Students in Chiapas Inspires Widespread Protests

Original posted on It’s Going Down.

By Scott Campbell

On Tuesday, May 18, around 120 students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School blockaded the Chiapa de Corzo-San Cristóbal highway in Chiapas, Mexico. The students were protesting changes to the admissions process to the school that would disadvantage working class, rural and Indigenous students. Seen as an attempt to change the makeup of the student body or as a step towards closing the school (which has already been closed four times by the Mexican state), students took to the streets, along with others who joined in solidarity.

In response, Chiapas State Police brutally attacked the blockade, firing tear gas and beating students with batons. In total, 95 people were arrested, 74 women and 19 men, all but two of them students. All 95 were moved to the high-security prison of El Amate. During the course of the arrests and transfer, the women students were forced to strip naked and were sexually assaulted by police. All those arrested are facing charges of rioting with a gang enhancement, violent robbery, damages, and attacks on the public peace and the bodily and cultural integrity of the state.

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Interview on Fidencio Aldama, Settler Colonialism, and Extractivist Capitalism

Above is an interview/conversation I had with Daniel for his D Report podcast. We discussed the case of Yaqui political prisoner Fidencio Aldama, the history of Yaqui resistance in defense of their territory, settler colonialism, and racialized neoliberal extractivist capitalism. For more details on the podcast, please see Daniel’s post here.

Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About

Thanks for being real, Jarad. RIP.

Content Warning: Includes discussion of self harm and suicide.

For T, J, T, R, and E

I have the annoying habit of smiling all the time. It’s a defense mechanism. It is meant to make someone like me, to appear friendly, amiable and amenable, and to wordlessly deflect any inquiry into my mood or state-of-being. It’s designed to pacify, to make one not worry about me. It began in childhood and is now reflexive. It takes conscious effort, active thought, and muscle manipulation to not smile. For decades I have heard about my “beautiful smile” and how “Scott is always smiling.”

As related to me by my parents, once I was able to crawl, when I had to cry, I would crawl into an empty room to do it, so as not to bother anyone. Though I can now walk, I still do that today. Smile all the way into the empty room, or car, or bathroom floor, until I can weep freely. Though even that’s not true: I try to avoid making too much noise so as not to attract attention.

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Message from Yaqui Political Prisoner Fidencio Aldama

Join the effort to free Fidencio here: https://www.fidencioaldama.org.

A message from Yaqui political prisoner and land defender Fidencio Aldama from prison in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. Fidencio has been locked up since October 27, 2016 and is serving 15+ years for a crime he did not commit.

Versión en español del video.