All-Women Self-Defense Militia In Guerrero, Mexico Says They Are Capable Of Defending Their Town Against Drug War Violence

The women will rotate 80 weapons among themselves in their self-defense work.
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More than 100 women from the town of Xaltianguis, about 30 miles from the resort of Acapulco in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero, have taken up arms against organized crime in their town forming all-women regiments in a local community self-defense group known as the Union of Organized Peoples of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG). On Sunday, the women put on their new citizen-police uniforms and gathered in their town's plaza, where they took an oath to defend their community. Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, the commander of the community police in Xaltianguis, told Animal Politico that the women have undergone training on how to handle the 80 or so firearms which the self-defense patrols rotate among themselves. 

Jiménez Blanco said that the women had made the decision to join the UPOEG within the last four days.  "We have an average of nine groups" of community police, he said, each one made up of 12 women who will go on patrol during the day in Xaltianguis.  He added that the male members of the self-defense group will operate principally at night.

Silvia Hipólito, one of the female members and a mother of two, said the all-women force, "We're strong and we're capable of defending our town."

Many of the women joined after seeing sons, husbands, or fathers killed by gangs.  Two major cartels, the Knights Templar and Jalisco New Generation, have been fighting over control of the region, and community self-defense groups have sprung up across Guerrero and other states like Michoacán, where villages have seen themselves ravaged by the cartels. 

Jiménez Blanco told Milenio that when the citizen police originally formed in their town, many of the men took more than three months to rally up the courage to join.  And when they did, it was largely after being spurred into action by their wives.  "'Either you join or I will,'" the commander said the women told their husbands, contrasting the men's reluctance with the four days it took the women to organize. 

It isn't always just fighting between rival groups, either.  In June, one member of a citizen police group in Michoacán described in a widely disseminated video how cartel members had begun to abduct wives and daughters of even the most influential townspeople, returning them only when they were pregnant.  But the Mexican government looks dimly upon the community groups, and has been trying to crack down on them, sending in the military to break them up and confiscate their weapons.  One of those groups marched in protest of the move in the highway outside of Xaltianguis this past weekend.

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.