The Western Mexican state Michoacán has been called the country's sustainable avocado Mecca, praised by celebrity chef Rick Bayless for its production of incredible Hass avocados. It also may be one of the most lawless places in North America.
"Michoacán isn't a problem. It is a nightmare," George W. Grayson, an expert on Mexico at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, told the Wall Street Journal this week. The state has been under the control of a gang called the Knights Templar, whose grip on the region is so tight that the Mexican government had to send in the military to police the Lázaro Cárdenas port, one of the country's largest and the center of the Knights' financial power. Michoacán has roughly 10,000 homicides per year. A bishop described the area as a "failed state."
Avocado is more lucrative than marijuana in Michoacán, and the gang has been extorting farmers and their families for insane amounts, sometimes even demanding their land. Some farmers were apparently millionaires and are now facing destitution. Seeing no help coming from the government, the farmers throughout the state have organized into militias and forced the cartels out of several towns. They've surrounded the towns with roadblocks and checkpoints
For the record, no, there's not much chance that it will. Michoacán produces a lot of avocados but not enough to impact the entire market if things are unstable at home. But it should still give us ethical pause when buy guacamole. And it should also make you wonder -- when the U.N. ranked the happiest countries in the world, how the hell did Mexico outscore the U.S.?
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