Simón Sedillo teaches geopolitics and political economy and he also coordinates a study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico for native students from the USA. He has been teaching geopolitics and political economy in the US and Mexico for the last 15 years. Simón has a growing archive of workshops, lectures, articles, and documentary films about the effects of and community based resistance to neoliberalism, militarism, and white supremacy.
Workshops and Films
Neoliberal Fascism 101:
This is a participatory workshop through which we define neoliberal fascism collectively, then make a list of institutions, industries, other entities, and global political and economic policies that make up the neoliberal military political economy.
Militarism and Paramilitarism:
Through a participatory discussion we will take a brief look at the history of the U.S Military’s role in an ongoing campaign against indigenous people with a particular focus on the USA and Mexico. We will dig in deeper into an ongoing military strategy to criminalize indigenous land tenure and identity in order to secure political and economic interests as seen in the state of Oaxaca. Finally we will begin a discussion on the phenomenon of Narco-Paramilitarim, as seen in the State of Michoacan.
Weapons, Drugs, and Neoliberalism
Crime and Corruption in the US/Mexico Political Economy
Sedillo will give a breakdown of the neoliberal political economy currently functioning between Mexico and the United States. From transnational resource exploitation to militarism to institutional corruption, Sedillo maps out the relationships between neoliberalism, militarism and organized crime in the USA and Mexico. Sedillo will give an updated account of the current political actors and the ongoing strategies of violence and coercion taking place across a common border.
Self Defense Training
One to 3 day workshop series that would include a talk about racial and gender violence in general and 1-3 2 hour practical physical self defense trainings. This workshop/training will a) provide a powerful perspective from which to build consciousness around the issue of violence against people based upon race, gender, sexuality, or religious beliefs and b) provide very useful trainings that will give participants practical skills for defending themselves physically in real life situations.
Know Your Rights and Copwatch / Migrawatch Training
This workshop presentation is intended for grassroots work in communities, which are confronted by ICE raids, police brutality, and the systemic criminalization of people of color and poor people in general. The Know Your Rights training is a basic overview of your rights during any interaction with the police, strategies for legal defense and avoiding harassment and arrest. The Copwatch/Migrawatch training is intended to support organized community members with strategies for the legal observation of the police and Immigration officials, during interactions with the community. This workshop along with the know your rights training can be a useful tool for community based organizing against police brutality and abuses of power.
Self Defense Against White Supremacy and Neoliberal Fascism
One of the greatest barriers to community based self defense has been a very powerful shift towards pacifism and non-violence as a primary means of political expression in Europe and the USA. We should all be open to diversity of tactics, and we cannot expect everybody to show up in the same way as everybody else. Not everybody has the same possibilities to take the same risks as everyone else. Non-violent direct action is a valid form of political resistance. However, the dilemma comes about when proponents of non-violence and pacifism criticize, prohibit, and criminalize community based self-defense as violent. We must understand that non-violence comes from a position of privilege where-in its practitioners have a choice in the matter, while so many other people on the planet exist in choice-less situations where in non-violence could and does very well mean death. Pacifists who put their lives and liberty on the line have all my respect, but we have to recognize the difference between pacifism and passivity. We must begin to understand that self-defense is non-violent. Self-defense is a valid and key element of self determination. It is a tool for survival not for violence.
Indigenous Strategies for Community Liberation
This work shop will begin by defining and clarifying our understanding of 3 basic concepts for community based liberation: Self determination, Self Defense, and Autonomy. These key terms will be a recurring theme throughout the process of the workshop/presentation.
We will look at several examples (with short video clips when possible) of traditional forms of self governance taking place in Mexico. We will begin with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and working our way through different examples in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Michoacán. These examples will include general assembly structures and practices as well as an overview of necessary attitudes and world views necessary to carry out these forms of self governance. These examples will also include an analysis of power, powerlessness, and the exercising of collective power as strategy of attaining self determination.
A common theme through out mesoamerica in particular, has to do with a living list of indigenous principles for unity and resistance. These principles are a toolbox for day to day community organizing as well as for moments of resistance or direct action. We will go over the principles in detail and review how we can apply them to the set of goals we set up for ourselves earlier in the discussion.
To conclude we can go over the 3 basic concepts for community liberation: Self determination, Self Defense, and Autonomy once again, and begin to discuss what forms of traditional self governance we can translate into our community goals and aspirations in neighborhoods, the workplace, and in our hood.
These can be depressing and scary times in the USA, but this is also a really good opportunity to dissect our realities and begin to figure out what we are going to do to build the world in which we do want to live. I hope that this workshop/presentation will help us learn from one another while pushing one another towards self determination, self defense, and autonomy.
“El Factor Demarest” (The Demarest Factor) 55 min. 2010
This film is part of an ongoing investigation which has exposed US military mapping of communally owned indigenous land in the Southern Sierra of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The mapping took place under the auspices of the department of geography from Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas in collaboration with the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) at Fort Leavenworth, in Leavenworth, Kansas. The FMSO senior analyst Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey B. Demarest (SOA GRADUATE) declares in several essays and texts that communal ownership of property, leads to crime and insurgency. The film irrefutably exposes an ongoing military strategy to criminalize indigenous land tenure and identity in order to secure political and economic interests in the region.
“Guarda Bosques” (Forest Keepers) 45 min. 2013
On April 15th 2011, when organized crime thugs teamed up with the logging industry and different government agencies to pillage precious and sacred forests at gun-point, the indigenous Purepecha community of Cheran, Michoacan, Mexico rose up with sticks, rocks, and bottle rockets against what can only be described as their local narco-government. Since then, they have taken the authorities offices, weapons, and pick-up trucks, ousted all political parties and all local and state police, and have re-established a traditional form of self-governance that includes its own council of elders, a community “police”, known as a “ronda”, and its own forest defense team, or forest keepers, known as the “Guarda Bosques.”
2012 Film Excerpt
“OUT OF THE WAY” (Gentrification of Francisville, North Philly)
Ruby Sanders moved to Philadelphia in the 1960s after escaping loansharks in the plantations of South Carolina with her husband and their first 7 kids. In 2016, after living in her home for 50 years, she was evicted from the house because of gentrification in her neighborhood. Her, her grandson Speedy, another young man from the neighborhood, Yusuf, and several other neighbors tell us more about how rich white people moving to the neighborhood is transforming their community. They also explain how gentrification is part of all the racist violence their community has been suffering throughout history. From the so called “war on drugs” to police brutality and from mass incarceration to public schools being shut down, this community is being pushed “Out of the Way”.
Film Duration: apps 42 minutes
“SOMOS UN CHINGO Y SEREMOS MAS” (Celebrating Seven Years of Self Governance in Cherán, Michoacán)
On Sunday May 27th, 2018 the indigenous Purépecha municipality of Cherán Michoacán named its third council of elders (Consejo Mayor, Cosejo de Keris) to the communal government of their community. Cherán has been practicing a traditional form of self government for 7 years. Earlier this year, on April 15th, 2018 the community celebrated the 7 year anniversary of the it’s uprising against what they all call today: The narco government.
Film Duration: 22:48 minutes
Oaxaca Ingobernable (2016)
In contrast to the experience of 2006, during which the resistance was mainly concentrated in the city of Oaxaca, in 2016 blockades were established in practically the whole state. What has not changed is the government’s response to the protests, which continues to be characterized by brutal repression. To this date, hundreds of people have been injured and more than ten assassinated by elements of the police and the government’s gendarmerie.
With this documentary, we want to make public what took place between June and August of 2016, through the voices of the citizens, teachers, mothers, and municipal authorities of Oaxaca.
Caminando Hacia la Autonomia (2015)
Cherán is a Purépecha indigenous community in Michoacán, Mexico. Beginning in 2000 organized crime infiltrated the town. With time the presence of narco-traffickers and their power grew substantially. They began to raze the precious forests surrounding the community. When community members tried to defend the forests they were assassinated or kidnapped. The forest was devastated and the people terrorized. The situation put everyone’s life at risk. At sunset Cherán turned into a ghost town.
On April 15, 2011 a group of women decided to stop the situation: They covered the streets to stop the pass of the clandestine tree-cutters. Rapidly the entire community reacted and the uprising united, burning cars and setting up barricades at all the town entrances. Against all this, the politicians and local police fled Cherán in fear. The community took the city government offices like the vehicles and weapons of the police, to begin to provide security. At the same time the town decided to definitively expel the political parties to retake their traditional forms of self-government.
Four years after the uprising, community members speak to us of the different stages that have passed in the construction of their new world, where you are really giving voice to the people, in which the boss is the assembly, while the government obeys. This is the beginning of a long process of building autonomy of which each and everyone can learn.
Letters of Recommendation
To whom it may concern,
The Rebel Diaz Arts Collective wants to express our support and appreciation for the community defense work being done by Simon ‘el pinche simon’ Sedillo.
The Rebel Diaz Arts Collective is an autonomous, multimedia community arts space in the South Bronx, NY that aims to utilize culture, in particular Hip Hop, as a means for self-education, and self-empowerment. We aim to provide an alternative to the profit-driven mass media that imposes values destructive to our community.
Simon has been an active contributor to both the founding of our space and the ongoing political education workshops with young people- in particular young women of color- in our community. His workshops on Hood Liberation have provided our youth with a global perspective on the issues of poverty and institutional racism that plague our local neighborhoods. In turn, he has facilitated our youths’ understanding of methods of resistance and self-determination via culture, community organizing, and self-defense.
Sedillo’s workshops are invaluable not only for our young constituency, but also our collective leadership as we continue in the process of building an autonomous, liberated community space in the South Bronx.
We wholeheartedly support his workshop and research work, and consider it an invaluable asset to our struggle for the liberation of marginalized communities worldwide.
The Rebel Diaz Arts Collective
South Bronx, NY
Simon Sedillo is a superb classroom presenter. As a High School teacher who hosts several speakers a year I can honestly say that Simon is one of our favorites. He explains complex concepts such as neoliberalism, imperialism and capitalism in a way that makes sense to my students. He brings the world he lives in and in which he works right into the classroom and shares his experiences honestly and intelligently. His video work is impeccable and gives us insight into the reality which millions of people face all over the world. His lens is primarily Oaxaca, Mexico.
Simon speaks at a high level of intelligence but is able to include and engage my most struggling students. Through his video, classroom lecture and life stories, he makes the world a bigger place and opens it up to us in about an hour. He is a talented speaker and one I recommend highly. If you have classroom funds to bring ONE speaker to your class this year, host Simon Sedillo. You and your students will gain tremendous knowledge and insight. I have had Simon in the classroom for three years straight and always book him early when I know he is coming to town.
Jenn Laskin, M.S.
Humanities Teacher/ Reading Specialist
Renaissance High School
La Selva Beach, CA
Pajaro Valley Unified School District
It is with great pleasure that I write in support of Simón Sedillo. I have known Simón for about four years. He has spoken and shown films numerous times in my social problems and social movements classes. Simón is a creative and imaginative young film-maker and human rights activist whose films inform audiences about the self-determination struggles of indigenous youth in Oaxaca, Mexico, immigrants in the U.S. and young people of color in North American inner cities. In his movement work Sedillo conducts film-making workshops so that people in communities of struggle can document their own histories and lives and present their struggles from their own perspectives. As products of grassroots collaboration with a skilled film maker the videos convey a sense of authenticity as well as technical quality. The collectively made videos sparkle with drama and insight. They communicate the connections between “Third World” liberation struggles and our own. They speak to our common humanity. Before an audience Sedillo is charismatic and engaging. He is a global citizen and people connect with that. Student feedback from his class presentations is overwhelming positive; remarks such as, the best guest speaker in my four years of college are common. I am happy to recommend Simón.
Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
University Of Central Michigan
Simón Sedillo has been active in the campaign to close the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) for many years. The School of the Americas (SOA) is a U.S.-Army military training school for Latin American militaries, located in Fort Benning, Georgia. Renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, the school has been producing death squad leaders and human rights abusers since 1946. Dubbed the “School of Assassins,” the SOA/WHINSEC is a school that is synonymous with torture and military repression around the world. Graduates of the school have a long history of participating in and orchestrating killings, rapes and the suppression of popular movements for social change.
Simón Sedillo’s contributions to the movement have been invaluable. Through his work in indigenous communities in Oaxaca, in immigrant communities in the US, and with youth of color across the US, he was able to bring a much-needed perspective to the work of SOA Watch. Simón has been part of the annual November Vigils at the gates of Fort Benning, where he spoke from the stage about the human rights situation in Mexico, screened films about resistance struggles, and gave numerous presentations about Militarization, Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism.
Simón Sedillo has been instrumental in starting much needed discussions and thought-processes among the members of SOA Watch. He has challenged the traditional understanding of Latin America Solidarity work and introduced new ways of thinking about existing power relationships within the solidarity movements. His approach has empowered voices that had been marginalized within SOA Watch and successfully initiated changes in the ways that SOA Watch events are being organized.
Sedillo shared some important experiences and perspective about popular community based resistance and the collective construction of horizontal networks of popular power within the movement through his participation in Presente, the newspaper of the movement to close the SOA (print-run of 80,000 copies per issue). His article “Standing With Those Who Fight for Themselves,” which he wrote for the Summer 2008 issue of Presente has become the second most popular article on the Presente webpage www.SOAW.org/presente
School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) greatly appreciates the continued cooperation with Simón Sedillo on projects in the future. His well thought ideas, his approach and his steadfast commitment to movement building, mutual aid and collaboration has been an asset for our organizing. Simón’s work is actively fostering equal exchanges and relationship building between communities that are involved in the same struggle for justice and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Rev. Roy Bourgeois, MM
Founder, School of the Americas Watch
In Oaxaca, Sedillo has been actively engaged with a variety of popular organizations. His primary activities, to my knowledge, involve teaching media skills in an effort to promote self-determination of communities. I have followed his work over the past years with great interest, and have been very much impressed with his dedication to human rights and justice, his imaginative use of the opportunities provided by a wide range of media, his technical competence, and his ability to engage local communities and organizations and to help them organize and develop and to work independently. In the United States his work has been of very high quality, and quite successful.
Institute Professor, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Cambridge MA USA
For years, Simon Sedillo has been an ally and supporter of our organization, The Watsonville Brown Berets. He has presented and informed us on critical issues and perspectives regarding indigenous identity and solidarity, globalization, and neoliberalism. Sedillo utilizes an approach that youth can identify with and understand. His methods are non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical. It is clear that Sedillo’s information sharing is based on the methods used by the community he works in. Young people of all ages of our community have participated in these presentations and continue to ask, “When is Simon coming back?”
Sedillo has motivated several members of our organization to get involved and experience the struggles and cultures of indigenous Mexico. He has become more than a teacher to our organization but a friend and mentor.
Watsonville Brown Berets
This post is also available in: Spanish