Angélica Romero Manrique, a mother and volunteer police officer, holds up a shotgun outside of the community police command center in Xaltianguis, Guerrero, Mexico. In her town, which is located in the hills outside of the resort city Acapulco, residents have banded together to stand guard and form patrols to ward of kidnappers and extortionists.
Miguel Angel Jiménez, commander of Xaltianguis’ community police. “The power really isn’t in the weapons, it’s in the unity, in the people’s attitude,” he said.
During the day armed guards stand watch in front of the community police command center.
Brenda Castillo, a schoolteacher, explains: “We want to make it more peaceful. My daughters are happy. Before they didn’t play in the street because there were shootouts. Now they go out to play."
As storm clouds gather, Xaltianguis’s women gather together for an afternoon patrol.
Women and girls walk together. “My kids—what future awaits them if you go outside and you get kidnapped? Killed?” Brenda Castillo asked.
“First in 2010 they killed my uncle. They cut his head off. In September they shot my brother. Then they killed my brother-in-law,” Selsa Zarcotellos said.
First a few dozen men joined together to form an armed patrol group. The women followed a few months later.
Angélica Romero stands in front of the community police command center. Her husband, Luis Hipolito, said of the women’s police patrol, “It’s not that they’re brave, everyone has fear. The people are just tired.”
At an afternoon meeting Community Police Commander Miguel Angel Jiménez addresses the patrolwomen. “Ladies, this is a slow and emotional process, but the pueblo needs to defend itself. The guns aren’t important. The important thing is unity. If they take our guns it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we don’t split up,” he said.
Women in the Mexican town of Xaltianguis, an hour away from Acapulco, have joined the men in patrolling their streets and have managed to significantly reduce a local crime wave. PHOTOS BT NATHANIEL PARISH FLANNERY.