“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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