Chilapa, a city in central Guerrero with pre-Columbian roots and a population of more than 100,000, is the home of a “social solidarity society” known as Sansekan Tinemi.
It's a grass roots cooperative started by local residents in 1990 that has since grown to 2,000 members, creating some 4,500 temporary jobs each year in Chilapa and nearby municipalities, including Ahuacotzingo and Tixtla.
Sansekan Tinemi is a Guerrero success story, helping promote and develop local cottage industry, including mezcal production, folk art and agriculture. It is an example of how people working together can create decent, if humble, lives.
Chilapa is also home to Zenén Nava Sánchez, alias El Chaparro, leader of the drug-trafficking gang known as Los Rojos, which is battling with the rival Los Ardillos for control of the marijuana and heroin trade in the region.
Chilapa, like so many Guerrero municipalities, has a barely functioning local government whose officials differ from each other mostly, it seems, based on the extent of their tolerance of organized crime and toward which gang they lean.
There is a local police force, seen as corrupt, but law enforcement, such as it is, also lies with informal and erratic “community police.”
With virtually no federal presence that isn’t military, Chilapa is pretty much abandoned to its fate, which organizations like Sansekan Tinemi tries to make the best of.
The feds had sent in the military last year, adding another armed element to an unstable environment. It was not going to end well.
It is wrong to say that there is no interest in Chilapa in the June 7 elections. The narcos are very interested, and have shown it this election season by murdering mayoral candidates in two of the cities in the zone — Ahuacuotzingo and Chilapa.
Then last week, according to local media reports, 12 vans pulled up to Chilapa police headquarters. An unknown number of young men, presumed to be community police members, disarmed some 40 actual police officers. In the ensuing unrest, about a dozen people, maybe 15, disappeared.
Soon, some 300 elements of the army and federal police arrived, upping the military presence in Chilapa. The disappeared are still nowhere to be found.
There hasn’t been a lot of media coverage after the first day or two of action. Today Milenio runs a front-page story of old news: “Community police disappear 14.” but there’s not much more.
That may suit interim Governor Rogelio Ortega just fine. He went out of his way after the candidates’ murder to make the point that “Chilapa is not Guerrero” and asked that the Chilapa violence not be “overblown” (“sobredimensionada”).
A strange attitude for the governor of a state where so many live in terror. Shouldn’t he be in favor of screaming it to high heaven?
But the governor’s not alone in seeming to believe that the mere mention of violence in Mexico is harmful, like Valdemort’s name. Unreconstructed nationalists will say the same thing, as will a certain sub-set of ex-pats in Mexico to whom news of crime and violence doesn’t square with their day-to-day experience.
Stay away from known trouble spots and you’ll be safe, is their advice. And, indeed, if your own safety is the extent of your interest in the matter, you’re in good shape. Congratulations.
But the good folks at Sansekan Tinemi can’t stay away from Chilapa and don’t want to. What about them? Don’t they deserve to be safe too?
Chilapa is Guerrero. Chilapa is Mexico. Who exactly is being helped by pretending it’s not?