But despite the president’s harsh reaction, the indigenous Nahua community is still preparing to defend themselves against a drug cartel known as Los Ardillos, or the squirrels.
The children are part of what is called a community guard made up of 96 adult men and a dozen children who defend this village, Ayahualempa, where 600 people live.
Mexican law allows certain indigenous communities to create their own police forces. So kids over 12 can have real guns, but all the very little ones have toy guns. And the reason is that it gets them used to the idea that they have to defend themselves.
This vigilante group fills the void left by the state. There are no Mexican armed security forces nearby to protect the besieged city. There is no medical structure, and no financial aid has been provided to these villagers so that they can get through the crisis that has isolated them from the outside world.
After decades of cultivating the poppy, the raw material for heroin, this impoverished farming community stopped cultivating the illegal crop in 2015, cutting off all transactions with local cartels and their middlemen, fearing a takeover of the group by more. more powerful and violent.
In November 2019, as the cartel gained in strength, the murder rate began to rise steadily. In recent months, nine people have been killed in this village and 34 others have been killed in surrounding towns.
Villagers believe the violence is a deadly message from the cartel that wants to take over this drug corridor and tax local businesses as a form of extortion.
Today, this picturesque town has still not been overrun and occupied by the cartel, but the security situation is so bad that locals cannot make it to the nearby farmer’s market. The local school has closed because it is in an area controlled by the cartel just past this chain that serves as a demarcation barrier.