Santa Ana Michoacanos Vs. the Templarios

Santa Ana residents are helping to wage a secret war against one of Mexico's most ruthless drug cartels—and they're winning

Visits by Mexicans in the States to their Tierra Caliente hometowns began being canceled because of the Templarios' violence. Sick and dying parents went unvisited by children afraid of being killed.

"My father is seriously ill and not doing well," says another Santa Ana resident who hails from the rancho of Peribán. "I'm afraid to visit him because of the fighting. The only thing I can do is call him frequently and hope for the best."

Peribán is north of Buenavista Tomatlán. Last year, a politician was killed there after criticizing the cartel, and 10 local people were killed in an ambush while returning from a meeting with authorities about the drug gang. The cartel's presence was everywhere, including the local police forces. Many believed the drug ring was capable of monitoring telephone calls.

Hans-Máximo Musielik/Courtesy Vice Mexico
A self-defense member in the aftermath of a confrontation with Los Caballeros Templarios during the takeover of Parácuaro, Michoacán
Hans-Máximo Musielik/Courtesy Vice Mexico
A self-defense member in the aftermath of a confrontation with Los Caballeros Templarios during the takeover of Parácuaro, Michoacán

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"The violence is tearing our community apart, but you don't discuss it when you call home," says the man from Peribán. "You don't know who else could be listening, so you talk about work, family or the weather."

*     *     *

Tierra Caliente and its residents abroad couldn't count on any part of Mexican law enforcement for help. Local and state police are notorious for their close ties to the cartels; the Mexican Army and federal government seemed powerless to act. And when residents of Tierra Caliente finally realized this, they rose up and began to fight.

The first village credited as retaliating against the Templarios was the indigenous community of Cherán, located in the Michoacán mountains north of Tierra Caliente and famous for its forests that serve as the breeding ground for the monarch butterfly. Most of the population there is Purépecha, and they were subject to the simultaneous triple blow of illegal logging, the Templarios and an apathetic government. Starting in 2011, the village engaged in skirmishes with La Familia and, following its demise, the Templarios. In February 2013, women in Cherán began organizing armed community-watch groups that successfully pushed the cartels out. The move shocked a Mexican nation inured to decades of nasty narco battles—and galvanized the rest of Michoacán.

Peasants, lime pickers, ranchers, shop owners, teachers and other everyday people found inspiration in Cherán and took matters into their own hands. People began occupying municipal buildings and arresting local police officers they suspected of being in the Templarios' employ. Soon, bunkers made from fertilizer bags began appearing at vigilante-manned checkpoints on roads leading in and out of the towns. The bags were also used to prepare defensive positions in the towns. Autodefensas armed with AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles began patrolling the highways and towns, looking for a fight with Templario soldados.

They were successful beyond their wildest dreams. The drug lords and their soldiers were sent running for their lives, some promising to return and mete out vengeance; by last month, the autodefensas were on the march to the Templarios' home base of Apatzingán. Peasant men and teenage combatants were photographed enjoying themselves inside the opulent homes of Templarios leaders, including Enrique Plancarte "El Kike" Solis, whose taste for interior design was monochromatic. Almost everything in his home—furniture, accessories, walls—was a shade of red on white. His pink-and-white bedroom, including a pink bed, was fodder for Mexican newspapers, which ran photos with headlines such as "This Is How El Kike Lived."

Until late last year, little was known in the United States about the bloody clashes between the defense groups and the Templarios. Recent reports in the Mexican media have claimed that a San Jose-based group called Voluntarios de la Comunidad (Volunteers of the Community) has held fund-raisers for the autodefensas in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and other California cities with a large michoacano presence. However, no one will openly admit such events have happened in Santa Ana. Several local men say they have increased the amount of money they send home every month during the timeof "las cosas." Ostensibly, the funds are supposed to be used for food and other living expenses—but if the money is also being used to purchase arms and ammunition . . . well, the men cannot say.

What is undisputed is that former Santa Ana residents have joined the autodefensas. The Los Angeles Times identified one of the fighters as Adolfo Silva, who attended Century High School and joined after the Templarios kidnapped his cousin. In an interview with GlobalPost.com, Silva seemed straight out of Hollywood central casting for American Me (his brother, the Times reported, was a member of the city's Lopers gang), with his clipped English, short hair and bravado. "We're here to defend the people. They tell us whatever they need," he told an interviewer. Then, speaking of the Templarios, Silva said, "They do a lot of bad stuff; we don't even know how come they be—how they are like that."

A man who grew up near Nueva Italia, a town south of Apatzingán, and has lived in Orange County for almost 40 years says the narco leaders' lavish lifestyles was shocking for all the poverty in the Tierra Caliente. "These are men with no education," he says. "They are ignorant but have made themselves rich by exploiting the same people that they come from."

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47 comments
mutunus69
mutunus69

Most people mistake this to be a Mexican problem.  It is not, the problem is precipitated by American drug money and American made weapons.  The sooner Americans learn and accept it, the closer we will be to a solution.  And, as far as military boots on the ground, it's been done in Columbia, Panama, etc.  It can, and should happen in Mexico.   My thoughts and prayers with the Autodefensa.

Feevahs
Feevahs

i can only pray the autodefensas continue to uphold these ideals and their successes continue unhindered. I can say without a doubt that these groups have overwhelming support from the american public, not just native michoacanos or even just hispanics, this type of righteous fight is deeply rooted in the american way of thinking and we would eagerly join our brothers south of the border to fight the good fight, even if we would get sunburned crispy in the process. 

madilyneh
madilyneh

Well done Gustavo. Real local news, history, info and journalism... and heros.

Paul Mendez
Paul Mendez

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees

Pencotron
Pencotron

Does anyone believe that the cartels have survived this long without help from the Mexican government?  The registration of the weapons of the Autodefencas will be the first step for the corrupt government to disband them or worse.

Kiki Camacho
Kiki Camacho

Viva el pueblo. Unido, jamás será vencido.

P Verdin Jimenez
P Verdin Jimenez

God Bless this "AUTODEFENSAS" & thank them for helping and defending the Catholic Church along with defending themselves!..about time

Ask a Mexican
Ask a Mexican

Not necessarily true—en unos pueblos en Michoacán, no dejaron a Komander o la hija de unos de los Templarios tocar.

Dawn Ramirez
Dawn Ramirez

Christ Christ Christ. Thank you for this article.

Sam Rodriguez
Sam Rodriguez

i would not be surprised if the Mexican govt. and police are in cahoots with the cartels including our DEA. the flow of drugs is driven by greed, profits and politics.

Arturo Acevedo
Arturo Acevedo

You should add that those autodefensas have already started aligning with the government. What was interesting about those groups -at the beginning- was precisely that they were independent; they did not have all the vicious that Mexican police and even the military has. Therefore, the autodefensas will end as a kind of rural police that little by little will be eaten by the same corruption practices that have rotted the official security groups.

Steven Ferris
Steven Ferris

Rafael Sandra Floy Julia Felipe Mercedes Gayde Guillermo Cristian Eileen encontré éstas buenas noticias de Michoacán. saludos, amigos.

Daniel Castor
Daniel Castor

Pero alrato andan con sus narco-corridos, cantandole y bailandole a las canciones que glorifica esos mismos que esta causando tanto terror a la gente Mexicana.

Cezario Miranda
Cezario Miranda

La raza I'd rather die on my feet then live on my knees. ( Zapata )

El Chato
El Chato

Viva la Raza.. They are finally waking up, and taking what's theirs back!

Gerardo Robles
Gerardo Robles

That's what's up. Pretty soon all of Southern California will start doing that as a way of ending police corruption

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

ahahahahahaa


Obamas voting strategy paying off big time


hey dem voters who actually care about their lives and property


cant wait, can you for those cartels to move in 


ahahahaha

hangobamanow
hangobamanow

"Bienvenidos al Limon de la Luna" ("Welcome to the Lime of the Moon")"

Dear Fake Bilingual Person: a 'Limón' is a lemon. A lime is a 'Lima'.

I know, I know ..it STILL doesn't make sense. That's Mexican "Spanish" for you!

Bestias.

Maher-Sawaf
Maher-Sawaf

well, that is a debatable statement. The act of strife will not lead to a happy ending every time!


However, I am happy for the people of Mexico. 

brownout
brownout

@sweetliberty17761776 I can't wait for drugs to be legalized, and for those cartels to starve to death. And yeah, I'm gonna keep voting Democrat until someone else comes up with new domestic policy ideas other than trying to keep the brown people out.

Feevahs
Feevahs

@Maher-Sawaf  not in the slightest, with the sun on his back and his wounds to the fore, every man should die on his feet.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@brownout


If you have to lie you must not really believe in your own position


the gop is NOT against brown people coming in


LEGALLY


or are you admitting that the Dems want people here illegally cause they never admitted to that,,in words



so if you base your foundation on a lie, then that means your life is a lie


think about it

targetmedia
targetmedia

We've had that discussion in my house my wife told me to get Limons and when I bring home lemons she screams at me asking me why I didn't bring home limes :)

Feevahs
Feevahs

@Maher-Sawaf @Feevahs this is not a charging offensive to change the world that is twisted for the ends of the loudest group, or a lofty ideali hijacked for the gains of a few opportunists. the idea is the defense of your home against those who would corrupt it, the idea is "i'm from here, i didn't come here". the idea is fixing your home so your brothers dont die, your sisters are not raped, your family does not have to be destroyed. if the goals are accomplished and the bloodbath continues, then your goals were not accomplished were they?




and yes sir, dying on your feet in defense of your home is one of the most honorable, and beautiful, things on this earth.

Maher-Sawaf
Maher-Sawaf

@Feevahs @Maher-Sawaf  People believe in a noble idea they improvise they work they put their lives on stake they achieve something then the idea gets bigger more people join with different interests the clash intensifies it gets uglier people start to lose family members killed brothers raped sisters it gets complicated No Turning Back. other people will start to invest in your life they put money on your death The Idea starts to crack the legitimate strife turns into a circus and the bloodbath continues................

dying on your feet is not that beautiful, is it? 

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@brownout  


The Obama administration has unilaterally eased restrictions on asylum seekers with loose or 


incidental ties to terror and insurgent groups, in a move one senator called "deeply alarming." 


The change, approved by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of 


State John Kerry, was announced Wednesday in the 


Federal Register. It would allow some individuals who provided "limited material support" to terror groups to be considered for entry into the U.S

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@brownout  

you said you vote for (dems) cause thats who wants the illegals to come in as shown by their actions


of course (whites ) people who are either educated or speak the language have an easier time


my original post stands true

brownout
brownout

I don't claim to represent the Democrats or anyone but myself. That being said, you're either completely uninformed in regards to the immigration process, or you're not being entirely honest yourself. I have a good friend who emigrated legally from Peru, and the process took over ten years. There's much more of a backlog coming from Mexico, whereas people who wish to emigrate from countries that tend to run a little whiter, coincidentally, sail through the system in spite of the fact that there are more European illegal immigrants than there are from south of the border.

 
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