The Narco News Bulletin

August 15, 2018 | Issue #67 - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America

The School was not what I expected

The best way to learn is like in real life: through friendship

By Alsi CastaƱeda
2014 School of Authentic Journalism

May 6, 2015
This report appears on the internet at

Two and a half years ago the struggle against the extension to the La Pera - Cuautla highway started. To keep with tradition, the authorities decided to take on this project without the knowledge or consent of residents in the area. The government and foreign investors promoted the business, saying that it would bring benefits that were never explained to the citizens of Tepoztlan, Morelos.

Alsi Castañeda, scholar of the 2014 School of Authentic Journalism.
In the summer of 2012 a couple of young people formed the Youth Front in Defence of Tepoztlán. They rejuvenated the social fighters of old that were still willing to fight for the land that bore them. The Youth Front organised different activities: informative murals, concerts, town meetings, links with other NGOs etc. Every event, every action was a platform to publicise this problem.

The media play an important plan in all types of struggles because its up to them how people get the message. But what can you do with media that has been taken over by the government? In the case of Tepoztlán they decided to generate information by themselves and to contrast it publicly to that of the sold-off press. The idea was that people would analyse the differences and reach their own conclusions.

With time, the movement won credibility, but it wasn't enough.

Renovation works on the highway had started by the end of 2013 and with them spirits and morale was running low. Nevertheless, we knew we had to look for new alternatives.

One day I saw the application for the School of Authentic Journalism was open to all types of people to apply. I thought I could fit the profile: a photographer from an arts background driven to photo journalism by circumstance. I applied, got accepted and honestly didn't know what to expect from a school of authentic journalists. At first, my prejudices came into play. I thought my lack of journalism training would leave me ridiculed. But my objective was to inform a great range of media outlets about the problems facing the people of Tepoztlán. So I thought this would be the ideal space where journalists from around the world would converge and I could learn from them.

I thought the school was going to be all writing workshops, text editing, photography, methodology, grammar, etc. To my surprise, the workshops were far from my conventional expectations. It was like spending a day with friends sharing experiences, knowledge and laughter. This school taught me the best way to learn is to do it like in everyday life: through friendship and camaraderie even in discussions.

The days went by filled with human warmth and kindness. I identified with my colleagues because they question the system we live in and show it through their different mediums: images, photographs, videos, letters, songs, theatre plays, performances, organisations, social networks, books, etc. Newspapers, radio and TV aren't the only ways to communicate: we are our own medio and we are our own limit. So after starting off with low morale I left the School with new ideas and new ways of transmitting and sharing what was going on.

The struggle hasn't been easy but as of the 11th of February, 2015, the roadworks are stopped by three federal legal injunctions. Socially, the struggle continues: we are still working with other organisations, movements and towns, nationally and internationally. Because now I know that Tepoztlán's situation is not an isolated event, but it is echoed across the world in different countries.

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