The indigenous town of Cherán used to be like many places in Mexico, caving under the weight of drug-related crime and a police force that did little to stop it.

But about two years ago, citizens here threw out the police, and took over their local government, running the town according to indigenous tradition. So far, they’ve had remarkable success.

Indigenous autonomy movements, like the one in Cherán, are a trend throughout Latin America, scholars say, from movements like the Zapatistas in Chiapas in the 1990s; to communities seeking to self-govern today in places like Chile and Bolivia.