Santa Ana's Connection to Mexico's Burgeoning Vigilante Civil War in Michoacán

One of the best pieces of political cartooning I've seen in YEARS...
One of the best pieces of political cartooning I've seen in YEARS...

Over the past two weeks, gabachos have slowly been learning about civilian vigilante groups in the Tierra Caliente regions of Michoacán and Guerrero taking on the Caballeros Templarios cartel after complaining that local police are in the narcos' pockets. Calling themselves autodefensas, the groups shot it out with narcos, kidnapped police, and slowly took over communities, creating a logistical nightmare for the regime of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. Now, the federal army is being summoned to ask the autodefensas to disarm themselves--and, so far, they're refusing.

If the Orange County Register wasn't so busy laying people off, they'd have a great story on their hands, because the list of communities afflicted reads like a roll call of ranchos and cities that have emptied out into SanTana over the past 50 years.

SanTana, of course, has served as a landing point for people from Michoacán for ages, and some of the cities involved in the autodefensas skirmishes are familiar to people who drive through SanTana because of all the businesses named after them--Uruapan, Apatzingán, Pátzcuaro, among the more prominent. These communities are largely based in the Tierra Caliente, the Kashmir of Mexico, a place that has always resisted government intrusion in favor of community self-government.

The Tierra Caliente also spills into Guerrero, which has been fighting it out with the narcos for years. A couple of years ago, guerrerrense immigrants took over michoacanos as the largest Mexican group in SanTana. So whatever is happening right now in the region is affecting tens of thousands of santaneros as we speak.

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Back in July, we wrote about an arts collective of young people descended from the Tierra Caliente who praised their paisanos in Cherán driving out the narcos who had been decimating the woods in their rancho. Already, I'm already hearing of fundraising efforts in SanTana to help out the autodefensas in their struggle against the cartels and the Mexican government. Will the autodefensas be the new Chicano call to arms a la the Zapatistas? And at what point does the Obama administration swoop in and label them terrorist groups, all while whistling and putting their hands in their pockets while the cartels roam? All details to consider while enjoying carnitas and green pozole in big, bad, revolutionary SanTana...

Email: Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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