Tila, the Chiapas town that fled violence. More than 4 thousand displaced.

Thousands of residents of Tila, Chiapas, were forced to abandon their homes as a result of violence between armed civilian groups.
Photo: Facebook Noti Chiapas Selva

Four days they remained under siege by armed people who burned houses, killed people -two according to state authorities- and committed abuses against the population of the municipal capital of Tila, a town located in the north of Chiapas, inhabited mostly by indigenous people of the Cho’ol ethnic group.

It was not until federal and state security forces arrived on the scene that more than 4,000 people – 4,187 according to the Civil Protection Secretariat – came out of their homes, where they had remained locked up. They formed long lines in the streets to be transported in Mexican army or state police trucks to a shelter. Those who were able and had a vehicle loaded up some furniture and belongings and left the place.

There is no certainty as to what motivated the armed aggression that began on June 4. The government of Chiapas has issued only two communiqués regarding the mass exodus, one from the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection (SSyPC) which states: “Inter-institutional Group implements operation in the municipality of Tila. An operation is being carried out to help the population and dissuasive patrols by land and air, in order to guarantee security and order in that region.”

The other, just this June 8, where the Attorney General’s Office of Chiapas states: “it achieved the rescue of more than 4 thousand people (…) who were hiding in their homes after the acts of violence that took place in this place”.

According to the agency, 17 properties were set on fire, including homes and businesses; two people were killed and when the security forces arrived their bodies were still inside a house, they were Felipe “N”, 41 years old, and a 16 year old minor whose identity is being withheld. The agency also highlighted the burning of 21 vehicles.

For their part, residents say that in recent years they have lived through a situation of dispossession that some attribute to a group of “autonomous” ejidatarios who are demanding the handover of land that they legally obtained recognition of after a long struggle in the agrarian courts, and where a large part of the municipal seat is now located.

Other residents claim that the people who held the town for four days and drove around in pick-up trucks, dressed in camouflaged or black clothing, with balaclavas and carrying high caliber weapons, belong to a criminal group they call “Los Karma,” which has a presence in this municipality and in neighboring Yajalón, from where they also claim they came to participate in the aggression.


“We were at home, a normal day. Suddenly we started to hear very loud noises, they wanted to open the doors. I thought it was someone I knew, I was going to go out when I heard the windows start to break. I ran to a place where I could be safe, I stayed there the whole time (four days) because I heard that they started to break everything,” said one of the displaced women whose house was burned.

The aggressors burned homes and businesses, “they started shouting that they should burn at once, and I started to smell the smoke. They set fire to my house. I stayed under cover until dawn. They stayed a long time.”

“They shouted that it was time to kill, it was time to burn, that they are the owners, that we have to leave (…) I asked for help but I understand that people could not help me, because people are afraid, they live in a climate of much terror where we know that no matter how much we complain, the government has always abandoned us,” said the woman.

Some of the displaced people recognized their aggressors. They explained that within the group of “autonomous” people reclaiming the lands of the municipal capital, another group was formed, led by someone they call “El Quemado” (The Burned One). “They are called Los Karma, they are already armed and now there is another group called Frente Autónomo de Tila.

The people interviewed said that days before the aggression, the armed group came to ask them for “a toll, from houses and businesses, the quotas they asked for are 50,000 or 200,000 pesos (…) We refused to pay, I think that is why they burned everything,” said the owner of a grocery store.

They consider that the aggression was concentrated against those who refused to pay, and against those who have denounced the situation of violence in the municipality. “A year ago we did a march, we asked for peace, we asked for security, and look at the consequences now,” said another displaced person.


In the municipal seat of Tila – where the 2020 population census indicates that there are just over 9,000 people – only a few people remain. Houses and businesses are closed. On Friday, when the security forces entered, a group of women, mainly with their faces covered, shouted at them to leave. For several minutes they tried to prevent them from passing through the streets. Then they dispersed.

The people who now remain in the shelters that the Chiapas government installed in the community of Petalcingo, the second largest community in Tila, and those who are in the neighboring municipality of Yajalón, ask for guarantees to return to their homes.

They claim that for eight years the municipal authorities abandoned the municipal presidency building. Since the 2018 elections in the municipal seat of Tila no voting has taken place.

“We are completely abandoned, for a while the National Guard was here, but then they left. We no longer have security, who now guarantees our lives, who is going to pay us for what we have lost?” said a displaced woman.

Video by Ángeles Mariscal.

Original article by Ángeles Mariscal in Chiapas Paralelo on June 9th, 2024.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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