CHERAN, MEXICO (Report) — On the road leading into this hardscrabble town in Mexico’s southwest corner, there stands a checkpoint staffed by heavily-armed guards, clad ominously in balaclavas, or ski masks. This scene is not particularly unusual for this violence-plagued country, but Cheran is no ordinary place: seven years ago this month, the mostly indigenous townspeople here grew tired of watching the loggers illegally cut down their trees, and frustrated with the extortion rackets run by the organized-crime cartels, and angry at the politicians who did nothing to protect them or the forest that is central to the local timber economy.
And so the denizens of this community tucked away in the state of Michoacán evicted the bootleg loggers and the mobsters who hired them; they kicked out the police department and the mayor and the city council and the prosecutors and the judges and they decided to do it all themselves.
The gendarmes patrolling the city’s borders are, in fact, civilians.
Cheran is no utopia, but virtually everyone here says they feel happier and safer with the new autonomous arrangement that is reminiscent of the Paris Commune, the radical workers’ movement that governed the City of Lights for two months in the spring of 1871 before authorities and industrialists managed to regain control.
“Little by little, people have realized that this new system is the most suitable for us … now we take care of each other,” David Ramos Guerrero, a local resident, told MintPress News.
Easy pickings for the cartels, until . .
Surrounded by lush forests, Cheran is about 200 miles west of Mexico City. Its population of roughly 16,000 is predominantly from the indigenous Purepecha community, who squeeze out a meager living from agriculture — corn, oats, beans, wheat, potatoes, apples, apricots, pears and plums — and timber. The Mexican cartels typically associated with the illicit drug trade want a cut of any lucrative commercial enterprise, and for years the talamontes, or illegal loggers working on behalf of the ruthless La Familia mob, had toppled the trees — by one estimate, they had destroyed half of the 59,000 acres of forest — surrounding the community, hauling them off with impunity, and ultimately jeopardizing Cheran’s water supply.
The townspeople’s complaints to their representatives at City Hall repeatedly fell on deaf ears until finally, the women hatched a plan. On the morning of April 15, 2011, dozens of women gathered at the Roman Catholic Chapel of the Calvary at the town’s edge and waited. As the trucks passed hauling their illegal bounty, the signal was given, and the women, armed only with fireworks and rocks and white-hot indignation, attacked, driving out the loggers armed with AK-47s.
On Sunday, April 15, thousands turned out for a ceremony to celebrate the insurrection set in motion on that day in 2011. “That was the moment that the community, tired of the pilfering of our forest, tired of being manipulated by organized crime and the government, decided to rise up in struggle,” David Ramos Guerrero told MintPress News.
THE WORLD IMPERIALISM MADE: 1) FROM ENGLAND’S POOREST TO AUSTRALIA’S MIDDLE CLASS / PHOTO BY mollybob
Like all colonial societies, Australia has secrets. The way we treat Indigenous people is still mostly a secret. For a long time, the fact that many Australians came from what was called “bad stock” was a secret.
“Bad stock” meant convict forebears: those like my great-great grandmother, Mary Palmer, who was incarcerated here, at the Female Factory in Parramatta in 1823.
According to nonsense spun by numerous aunts – who had irresistible bourgeois ambitions — Mary Palmer and the man she married, Francis McCarthy, were a lady and a gentleman of Victorian property and propriety.
In fact, Mary was the youngest member of a gang of wild young women, mostly Irish, who operated in the East End of London. Known as “The Ruffians”, they kept poverty at bay with the proceeds of prostitution and petty theft.
The Ruffians were eventually arrested and tried, and hanged — except Mary, who was spared because she was pregnant.
She was just 16 years old when she was manacled in the hold of a ship under sail, the Lord Sidmouth, bound for New South Wales “for the term of her natural life”, said the judge.
The voyage took five months, a purgatory of sickness and despair. I know what she looked like because, some years ago, I discovered an extraordinary ritual in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
Every Thursday, in a vestry, a nun would turn the pages of a register of Irish Catholic convicts — and there was Mary,described as “not more than 4ft in height, emaciated and pitted with the ravages of small pox”.
When Mary’s ship docked at Sydney Cove, no one claimed her as a servant or a skivvy. She was a “third class” convict and one of “the inflammable matter of Ireland”. Did her newly born survive the voyage? I don’t know.
They sent her up the Parramatta River to the Female Factory, which had distinguished itself as one of the places where Victorian penal experts were testing their exciting new theories. The treadwheel was introduced in the year Mary arrived, 1823. It was an implement of punishment and torture.
PRISON PROPAGANDA: IDEALIZED PORTRAYALS OF THE FEMALE FACTORY. NO, IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE THIS.
The Cumberland Pilgrim described the Female Factory as“appallingly hideous … the recreation ground reminds one of the Valley of the Shadow of Death”.
Arriving at night, Mary had nothing to sleep on, only boards and stone and straw, and filthy wool full of ticks and spiders. All the women underwent solitary confinement. Their heads were shaved and they were locked in total darkness with the whine of mosquitoes.
There was no division by age or crime. Mary and the other women were called “the intractables”. With a mixture of horror and admiration, the Attorney General at the time, Roger Terry, described how the women had “driven back with a volley of stones and staves” soldiers sent to put down their rebellion. More than once, they breached the sandstone walls and stormed the community of Parramatta. .
Missionaries sent from England to repair the souls of the women were given similar short shrift.
I am so proud of her.
Then there was “courting day”. Once a week, “bereft gentlemen” (whomever they might be) were given first pick, followed by soldiers, then male convicts.
Some of the women found “finery” and primped urgently, as if an inspecting male might provide a way out of their predicament. Others turned their backs should an aspiring mate be an “old stringybark fella” down from the bush.
During all this, the matron would shout out what she called “the good points” of each woman, which was a revelation to all.
In this way, my great-great grandparents met each other. I believe they were well matched.
Francis McCarthy had been transported from Ireland for the crime of “uttering unlawful oaths” against his English landlord. That was the charge leveled at the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
I am so proud of him.
Mary and Francis were married at St Mary’s Church, later St Mary’s Cathedral, on November 9th, 1823, with four other convict couples. Eight years later, they were granted their “ticket of leave” and Mary her “conditional pardon” by one Colonel Snodgrass, the Captain General of New South Wales — thecondition being she could never leave the colony.
Mary bore 10 children and they lived out hard lives, loved and respected by all accounts, to their ninetieth year.
Elizabeth Murphy (left) was sentenced to 5 years hard labour for stealing an umbrella and Mary Richards was jailed for 5 years for stealing 130 oysters Photo: PA
My mother knew the secret about Mary and Francis. On her wedding day in 1922, and in defiance of her own family, she and my father came to these walls to pay tribute to Mary and the intractables. She was proud of her “bad stock”.
I sometimes wonder: where is this spirit today? Where is the spirit of the intractables among those who claim to represent us and those of us who accept, in supine silence, the corporate conformity that is characteristic of much of the modern era in so-called developed countries?
Where are those of us prepared to “utter unlawful oaths” and stand up to the authoritarians and charlatans in government, who glorify war and invent foreign enemies and criminalise dissent and who abuse and mistreat vulnerable refugees to these shores and disgracefully call them “illegals”.
Mary Palmer was “illegal”. Francis McCarthy was “illegal”. All the women who survived the Female Factory and fought off authority, were “illegal”.
The memory of their courage and resilience and resistance should be honoured, not traduced, in the way we are today. For only when we recognise the uniqueness of our past — our Indigenous past and our proud convict past — will this nation achieve true independence.
John Pilger gave this address on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Parramatta Female Factory, Sydney.
More than a half-century before “gonzo journalism” was a figment in Hunter S. Thompson’s imagination, newspaper writer Nellie Bly was living it. Today is Nellie Bly’s 151st birthday, so it’s a fittingly unique day to celebrate her. She reformed an insane asylum by getting committed for 10 days, she described the world on a whirlwind trip, and she reported alongside chorus girls and factory girls with equal vigor.
Bly was a Victorian superstar who created media sensations week after week. She was groundbreaking, too — she traveled the world alone 31 years before women were allowed to vote. But more than just making hits, she usually had a purpose: her work advanced the cause of people few others were willing to defend.
A woman from coal country becomes a star New York City columnist
“New African Diasporic News; the Family’s Guide to Survive Genocide”
“The New African Diasporic News” panel mixed collage, created in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin; not as an isolated incident, but within the h(a)unted context of the Black experience in the United States. It is a collage that samples and remixes a standard magazine cover into “The New African
Diasporic News,” titled the Family Guide To Survive Genocide; (Thriving and Surviving the New Millennium). Featured within the magazine are back to school specials on “Lynch-Less” shirts and “Bullet Proof Hoodies,” as revolutionary individuals, real and surreal, earthly and spiritual scream for Freedom and Equality.
“The Incursion,” a 24-minute documentary directed by Jamaican Sasha-Gay Lewis, has been selected for the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival, which opens in Toronto next week. It will be aired alongside two shorts that I have already reviewed, as well as Kaneal Gayle’s documentary Dancehall’s Asian Ambassadors, on September 19th under the heading Redemption Tales. If you are in Toronto next month, you should mark this in your diary!
For Jamaicans, the word “incursion” means only one thing: The attack by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force on the inner-city community of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston, in search of a man wanted by the U.S. Government for narcotics trafficking: Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The series of horrific events began on May 23, 2010 (It was, by the way, vividly described over a year later by New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz. It is very good…
When Ali refused the draft, I felt something greater than pride: I felt as though my honor as a black boy had been defended, my honor as a human being… The day he refused, I cried in my room. I cried for him and for myself, for my future and for his, for all our black possibilities.
With the Nation of Islam, listening to the Prophet Elijah Muhammed
With his friend, Minister Malcolm X
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This…
“Their hands were tied or handcuffed, yet their fingers danced, flew, drew words. The prisoners were hooded, but leaning back, they could see a bit, just a bit, down below. Although it was forbidden to speak, they spoke with their hands. Pinio Ungerfeld taught me the finger alphabet, which he had learned in prison without a teacher:
“Some of us had bad handwriting ,” he told me. ” Others were masters of calligraphy .”
The Uruguayan dictatorship wanted everyone to stand alone, everyone to be no one: in prison and barracks, and throughout the country…
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — One morning in April, federal immigration agents swept into a meatpacking plant in this northeastern Tennessee manufacturing town, launching one of the biggest workplace raids since President Trump took office with a pledge to crack down on illegal immigration.
Dozens of panicked workers fled in every direction, some wedging themselves between beef carcasses or crouching under bloody butcher tables. About 100 workers, including at least one American citizen, were rounded up — every Latino employee at the plant, it turned out, save a man who had hidden in a freezer.
The raid occurred in a state that is on the raw front lines of the immigration debate. Mr. Trump won 61 percent of the vote in Tennessee, and continues to enjoy wide popularity. The state’s rapidly growing immigrant population, now estimated to total more than 320,000, has become a favorite target of the Republican-controlled State Legislature. In 2017, Tennessee lawmakers passed the nation’s first law requiring stiffer sentences for defendants who are in the country illegally. In April, they passed a law requiring the police to help enforce immigration laws and making it illegal for local governments to adopt so-called sanctuary policies.
But Morristown, a town of 30,000 northeast of Knoxville that was the boyhood home of Davy Crockett, has drawn migrant workers from Latin America since the early 1990s, when they first came to work on the region’s abundant tomato farms. As stepped-up security has made going back and forth across the border more difficult, many of these families have settled into the community, enrolled their kids in school, and joined churches where they have baptized their American-born children.
So the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Southeastern Provision plant outside the city and sent dozens of workers to out-of-state detention centers was the day people in Morristown began to ask questions many hadn’t thought through before — to the federal government, to the police, to their church leaders, to each other.
Donations of food, clothing and toys for families of the workers streamed in at such volume there was a traffic jam to get into the parking lot of a church. Professors at the college extended a speaking invitation to a young man whose brother and uncle were detained in the raid. Schoolteachers cried as they tried to comfort students whose parents were suddenly gone. There was standing room only at a prayer vigil that drew about 1,000 people to a school gym.
Here, based on interviews with dozens of workers and townspeople, and in their own words (some edited for length and clarity), is how it happened.
ANGELA SMITH, 42, A LONGTIME RESIDENT OF THE AREA: My first thought was one of sorrow. Oh my goodness, this is going to hurt so many people in the community. It’s going to hurt their kids, our kids. It’s going to have a ripple effect throughout the entire community because these people are part of Morristown. Immediately, I drive over to the parish center to see what I can do to help. I had to park way at the end because it was so packed. I go in, I said, I’m an attorney, how can I help?
The April 5 operation signaled a return to the high-profile immigration raids that last happened during the presidency of George W. Bush. President Barack Obama’s chief workplace enforcement tactic was to conduct payroll audits and impose fines on businesses found to employ unauthorized workers. The Trump administration, on the other hand, has vowed to quintuple worksite enforcement. Last week, ICE agents arrested 114 employees at two worksites operated by a gardening company in Ohio.
All 97 workers taken into custody in the Tennessee raid now face deportation, though several have been released pending hearings. And much of the town is reeling. Up to 160 American-born children have a parent who could soon be ordered to leave the country; many families are relying on handouts.
NATALY LUNA, 12, WHOSE FATHER WAS DETAINED: My mom had told us one day it could happen, that one day one of them would be taken. The hardest thing is talking about it.
After the raid, immigrant advocates organized a peace march, and Nataly carried a sign bearing the image of her father, a native of Mexico who had been working in the United States without papers for 20 years before he was taken into custody at the meat plant that day. “We Miss You,” the sign read. “We need you by our side. You are the best father.”
Nestled between two mountain ranges and flanked by two large lakes, Morristown is the county seat and industrial hub of Hamblen County, where most of the plant workers’ families reside.
The Latinos who arrived here, especially those who came after the late 1990s, were part of a swelling wave of migrants bypassing traditional gateway states like California and Texas to seek opportunity in the fast-growing South. Word reached their villages that jobs were plentiful.
More recently, as with other places, Tennessee has been struggling with a meth and opioid epidemic. As drug abuse has sidelined many working-age American men and women, local employers have increasingly turned to immigrants.
KATIE CAHILL, A RESEARCHER WHO STUDIES PUBLIC HEALTH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE: Tennessee is facing one of the highest rates of opioid addiction among states. Within this challenged state, you have a county that is doing even worse.
These days, Latinos make up about 11 percent of Hamblen County’s population and account for one of every four students in its public schools. Immigrants toil in meat, poultry and canning plants, as well as at automotive parts, plastics and other factories that dot the area.