More than 180,000 people have been killed in Mexico since then-President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight organized crime groups in his native state of Michoacan in 2006.
But one small town in that state says it hasn’t had a homicide since 2011 because its residents – led by women – took up arms to kick out groups who had expanded from drug trafficking into illegal logging.
While overall in Michoacán, federal authorities say 614 people have been killed this year, a 16 percent increase from 2016, the people of Cherán say they’ve become immune to serious crime. They expelled the politicians and local police, and community members now patrol the area wearing uniforms emblazoned with the slogan “For Justice, Security and the Restoration of Our Territory.”
A member of the Forest Keepers patrols in search of illegal loggers in Cheran, Michoacan State, Mexico, on June 9, 2017. “Since the very beginning we have wanted three things: security, justice, and the restoration of our land,” Pedro Chavez Sanches says. “Security was made possible thanks to our community patrol. The reconstitution of our land has been made possible because of the tree nursery. Justice, however, that is not that easy. The people of Cherán have lost loved ones, have family members that remain missing, they have pain, so justice is the hardest to reach, but we are progressing.”