Indigenous Self-determination based on Organised Distrust and Identity: Alternative Democracy in Cherán, Mexico
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Cherán is an indigenous town in Mexico that followed a political system established by the Federal Constitution until 2011 when the negligence of the Mexican State to protect the town from organised crime led to a self-defence movement that expelled criminals and overthrew the local government structure. The movement achieved a milestone when the community achieved self-determination through a federal court ruling. The recognition of self-determination was just the beginning of the real challenge to implement a cultural and political project. Fieldwork was conducted in Cherán that utilised ethnographic research and interviews as methods to explore the function of the town’s governance. The findings showed that two crucial elements support the Cherán’s democracy and exercise of self-determination. First is organised distrust, in which any citizen could serve a watchdog function to exact accountability in the governance structure. This distrust prevents the concentration of power to a few elites and shares power to the citizens. Second is Cheran’s identity as an indigenous community, which is not limited to self-identification as a group with a set of values and beliefs, but also a valuable device to keep self-determination alive. Through the combination of three key concepts, namely, self-determination, organised distrust, and identity, this paper offers new insights on an alternative way of sustaining democracy that goes beyond elections.
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