Semillero, a dialogue of knowledges

Instituto Bem Estar Brasil had the privilege to be part of the first edition of Semillero of community networks, a space for articulation between people working with indigenous communication and telecommunications in Mexico. This event was organized by the collectives Altermundi and REDES AC

Foto: Carla Jancz

The first Semillero happened from June 19th to 24th in Cherán K’eri, Michoacán, Mexico, a place described by participants as ’emblematic and nourishing’. No doubt that’s exactly what we feel in this place that has such an inspiring story of social fight. Cherán was a relatively unknown territory until 2011, the year in which it started a fight to defend his forest. Organized into ‘fogatas’, campfires in each neighborhood, the local people freed themselves from the threat of organized crime that plundered the forests. This community organization culminated in another action of social transformation and the city freed itself of political parties, declaring itself as an autonomous territory.

The desire to build the community network in Cherán comes from a community radio collective, Radio Fogata. Formed mostly by women, the radio is described as a space “where your voice burns like fire“.

“Community radio is an alternative communication to the mass media, so we are given the opportunity to speak our word, the possibility of getting organized and telling our story.”

The radio proposes the creation of the XAMONETA intranet network, which means: ‘Echo’ in the most widely spoken indigenous language in the region; purepecha. The aim of the network is to support Cherán’s knowledge compilation as a tool to continue and strengthen the political struggle and the reclaiming of traditional values. Creating a community archive is strategic to achieving the goal of linguistic revitalization and providing ‘Connectivity with meaning’.

Foto: Carla jancz

The beginning of Semillero was a presentation wheel with more than 50 people. The event was attended by several groups from all over Mexico, the group Altermundi (Argentina), Colnodo (Colombia) and two Brazilian groups; Instituto bem estar Brazil and Colab.

During the presentation it was asked which languages the participants could speak. Although the language common to almost everyone was Spanish, many spoke indigenous languages of Mexico as the purepecha. They also briefly presented the telecommunication initiatives of their communities; community radios, free GSM and embryos of community networks. It was interesting this dynamic of presentation to see the diversity of languages and protocols interconnected in the same network of people.

Some participants were graduates of the first two classes of the Community Techio, a course in telecommunications held in Mexico in 2017 and 2018. These people were able to reinforce the knowledge acquired at the workshop “Participatory Design of Community Intranets “, facilitated by REDES AC. People in the community of Cherán, managers of community cellular telephone networks and community radios, who did not have this previous contact with digital networks participated in the workshop” Introduction to community networks “of AlterMundi.

In the 3-day community design workshop, participants dreamed and designed a community intranet. Such as the Xamoneta network, whose goal was to create a life memory of Cherán to store local knowledge. One of the strategies to reach this objective was the exercise of ‘Selection and appropriation matrix of TiC’, whose goal was to choose the technologies to be used starting with a reflection on the territory itself, who we are, what are our dreams and strategies to reach them.

“Without this,” explained the facilitator from REDES AC, “Other processes, free software, terabytes, etc., will end before we begin.”

Foto: Carla jancz

During the activity it was reinforced other concepts of union and community, such as YEKNEMILISbuen vivir of the people nahua totonaku – A guiding principle with a lot of synergy with the initiatives there and with the reality of the communities represented. The focus on language and collective process have been a priority throughout the workshop: The community network does not belong to a person or to a facilitating organization, but to the community.

At the same time, 3 nodes of LibreRouter’s were installed throughout the city. Librerouter is a free hardware router developed by Altermundi to be used in community networks Xamoneta was the first community network using solely this model of routers.

Foto: Karla Velasco

As part of the technical support for the community design exercise, the groups from Brazil and Colombia assisted in the installation and training of a server with free software operating system YUNOHOST 3 local services have been installed and customized: WordPress for site creation, NextCloud for file sharing and a game, the three available on the local intranet and administrated by the members of the radio.

The last activity of Semillero was a presentation of the women of Radio Fogata. They shared the history of the collective and the results of the design of their intranet. Also future plans to establish as a conscious entertainment alternative and cooperate with other local community content producers such as TV Cherán and community film groups.

Foto: Carla Jancz

Guiding principles of the XAMONETA intranet:
-Investigation with the community
-Respect the community
-Buen vivir

Instituto bem estar brasil welcomes the opportunity to participate in this exchange, the hospitality of the people of Cherán and the privilege to exchange experiences among other community networks in Latin America.