The narcos took the men, then women took the guns
A group of Michoacán women stand up to the Jalisco Cartel to defend their homes, but many question their origins.
There are barely 50 women and some of them are pregnant or carrying their small children. They also carry rifles. There is no other option.
The women of El Terrero, a town in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, have decided to fight one of the most violent and powerful cartels in Mexico to protect their families, as there are hardly any men left.
Most of them have been killed or recruited by the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (CNGJ), which wants to take over the state.
Women patrol the fields in groups to prevent the gunmen from sneaking into the village through the roads and put up roadblocks. They have taken justice into their own hands in the face of the inaction of the government and are fed up with seeing their relatives disappear.
This was reported by the Associated Press, which went in search of these improvised guerrillas and collected stories like the one of Eufresina Blanco Nava, whose 29-year-old son, a lime collector, was kidnapped by alleged CJNG members and never saw him again.
They have taken justice into their own hands in front of the inaction of the government and are fed up with seeing their relatives disappear.
This was reported by the Associated Press, which went in search of these improvised guerrillas and collected stories like the one of Eufresina Blanco Nava, whose 29-year-old son, who was a lime collector, was kidnapped by alleged CJNG members and never saw him again.
"Many people have disappeared... and young girls too," said Eufresina.
The 14-year-old daughter of another of the women, who did not want to be identified because she has relatives in the CJNG, also disappeared.
"We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives," said the guerrilla. "We women are tired of seeing our children disappear, our families. They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands."
The group not only uses assault weapons and checkpoints to defend their village, but has even engineered homemade tanks from pickup trucks. It is in the midst of battle because "men are scarce" in the region.
"As soon as they see a man who can carry a weapon, they take him away," said the unidentified guard. "They disappear. We don't know if they have them [as recruits] or if they have already been killed."
According to AP, El Terrero has long been dominated by the Nueva Familia Michoacana and Los Viagras cartels, but the CJNG is gaining ground and controlling nearby areas.
Partly because Naranjo de Chila, on the other side of the Rio Grande, is near the town where CJNG leader Nemesio "El Mencho" Oseguera Cervantes, the country's most wanted drug lord, was born.
Not everyone sees these women as clear defenders of their people and their children. Some people believe that they belong to the gangs of Los Viagras, but they reject this accusation and add that they would be happy if the police and the army would come to relieve them in their struggle.
"I can almost assure you that they are not legitimate self-defense activists," Hipólito Mora, founder of a self-defense group in the neighboring town of La Ruana that took up arms against another cartel, Los Caballeros Templarios, in 2013, told the AP.
"They are organised crime. The few self-defence groups that exist have allowed themselves to be infiltrated; they are criminals disguised as self-defense," said the man, who nearly a month ago announced that he was running for governor of the state.
The accusations about the group are not isolated; the self-defence forces that have emerged from the need to survive the drug trade and the lack of government aid are seen as "illegitimate" and even "criminal" by some people, such as Governor Silvano Aureoles, who did not hesitate to point to them as a cover for "protecting their illegal activities".
When the law of violence prevails, the struggle for life becomes a confusing amalgamation in which no one is safe.