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Located on the coast of the state of Michoacán, Santa Maria Ostula, like many other indigenous communities in Mexico, suffered great violence from organized crime. The citizens lost their land to cartels and businesses wanting to exploit their natural resources. They suffered greatly from intimidation and violence. Some were killed. Many leaders of the community decided to move away.

In 2009, a group of Ostula’s citizens decided to reclaim some of the land that organized crime and local leaders with the help of the government had taken. They founded the town of Xayakalan. However, by 2011, the community experienced a steep increase in violence. Over the next 3 years, most of the citizens were forced to leave Xayakalan because of the violence, disappearances and murders that ensued.

This all changed in 2014, when a large group of citizens returned to Xayakalan with armed self-defense groups from Michoacán. Mexican citizens are forbidden from carry firearms, yet the Mexican Constitution grants self-defense rights to indigenous communities. The citizens were ready to fight to guarantee their security. Now able to defend themselves, the community reclaimed their land and began reconstruction of their village.

Recovering Paradise documents the armed resistance of the indigenous Santa Maria Ostula community and their struggle to reestablish law and order in their homeland.


José Arteaga is a filmmaker. He has focused on documenting social and environmental movements and events, as well as various types of music and the performing arts throughout Mexico. Recently he has worked on experimental videos and created “video-dances.”

Rafael Camacho is a filmmaker and independent journalist. He has covered social conflicts for several years. Rafael has a career in feature films, television and commercials as an art director.


Winner Best Documentary – International Indigenous Film Festival (FICWALLMAPU)
Winner “Cuenca Award” – Cinema Planeta Film Festival, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Honorable Mention International Documentary Film Festival in Memory of Santiago Alvarez – Santiago de Cuba
Ambulante Coordenadas, Mexico
Cinema Planeta, International Environmental Film Festival of Mexico
The Hispanic Meeting of Independent Documentary Film and Video: Against the Silence, All the Voices
Latin American Film Festival of Montréal
Debut Feature International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City
Official Selection International Festival Signs of the Night, Urbino Italy
Stockholm Independent Film Festival
Meet The Docs! Film Festival, Forli Italy


Catalog # EPF16014 ● ISBN: 978-1-933724-53-9 ● NTSC

72 Minutes ● Copyright 2017 ● Spanish, English Subtitles