Mexico’s avocado army: how one city stood up to the drug cartels

Javier is finally starting to feel safe. A gruff 46-year-old avocado grower with a laugh like an idling Harley Davidson, Javier still remembers the gruesome reports of cartel gunmen kidnapping and killing a neighbour’s daughter, torching a local avocado packaging facility and murdering a pregnant schoolteacher. But the memories are starting to fade.

Tancitaro, the world capital of avocado production, has finally achieved a semblance of stability. It has been over two years since the last pitched battles between vigilante fighters and cartel gunmen on the outskirts. Families whose orchards were seized by cartel gunmen are now running their farms again. “The government doesn’t rule here. But it’s under control. You can relax,” he says.