The forests of Cheran are at the centre of a most intricate problem. It was to stop their indiscriminate felling that town people took control of Cheran and went back to their ancient administration system of “Usos y Costumbres” (ancient traditions), which was just recently recognised as a legitimate right by Mexico’s Supreme Court. A Senior Council formed by twelve K’eri or elderlies and a supporting town assembly formed by neighbourhood councils, govern Cheran.
When the crisis broke in Cheran in April 2011, the town blocked the roads that the loggers used to drive their trucks full of illegally cut lumber, under the nose of municipal authorities that did nothing and saw nothing. Municipality officers and staff were expelled, loggers detained and the trucks impounded and burnt down.
It’s been three years since these events took place. The communal greenhouse formed back then, just a few days after the crisis, to reforest the woods on the hills around Cheran, is now producing about one million trees (three different coniferous species) a year and they actively participate not only in growing the trees from seeds collected in their forests, but also in laying out and coordinating their integral reforestation efforts. So far they’ve planted 400 hectares, they are now focused in a 200 hectares area in progress, which we as a team visited just today and help plant. The main reforestation objective comprises an area of about 9,000 hectares done away with in under a year by loggers! The community estimated an overall 20,000 hectares out of the 27,000 of this county’s forest land have been subject to felling.
Just by the greenhouse, a communal sports centre was built. The trucks burnt were transported to the forests above the communal sports centre and placed there, randomly. Local and other invited artists made art installations utilising the trucks carcasses, in memory of the conflict and of Cheran’s own that lost their lives fighting against the loggers.
Today, in a peaceful sunny morning, a yellow school bus arrived to this forest with its precious payload of about thirty children musicians of Cheran’s Children Symphonic Orchestra (O.S.I.C), conducted by Julio Ceja. One by one they climbed uphill into the forest and stepped up the burnt trucks to play classical music. A concert for an aching forest, yes. But also music brought by a new generation that represents a brighter future and is healing the forest and their society. A service paid in-memoriam of the events, not to forget them, but more importantly, to regain and to build a town collective conscience that cares and avoids any more illegal felling of their forest.
Cheran is reconstructing their forests and traditions, restoring their citizens wellbeing and their children heritage. The symbolism of such a superb act is powerful and expresses all of this. I spoke with Ariel, one of the participating artists and of the organising committee. He was happy, as Josué the Communal Goods coordinator present; They knew that, beyond current symbolism, in due time these trucks would be buried by a growing forest and justice would have finally be made by nature itself.
The concert flew me away. It had a piece interpreted in each of at least five truck-installations sites. I hugged trees, filled my lungs with the aroma of pines and lavender and, for a while left in spirit into the woods above.
These photos are for you to know about this and visit Cheran’s Communal Sports Centre to witness the brighter future being built and help them not to forget what was too slow and hard to come as a lesson. The forests of Cheran are part of the vast forest lands that Mexico and the world have left as a lung to breathe.
Concert for an aching forest by Juan Ayza M. text and photos licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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