The Avocadoes Of Michoacán

In the Mexican state of Michoacán, avocado growing is a billion-dollar industry that is, economically speaking, the only local rival to the drug trade. Four-fifths of all the avocados eaten in the United States are grown in Michoacán.

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    In the state of Michoacán avocado exports are a billion-dollar industry. Four out of every five avocados consumed in the U.S. come from Michoacán. (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    Antonio Villa Senior, the owner of the AztecAvo packing business, said, “Every day U.S. consumption of Mexican avocados is higher. Michoacán is like a natural greenhouse with volcanic soil. It’s great for avocado. It’s an economically healthy industry.” (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    Over the last few years, avocado producers have struggled to deal with threats from criminal groups that engage in kidnapping and extortion. (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    At the start of 2013 residents in several Michoacán towns banded together to form citizens militias known as “autodefensas.” (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    The heavily armed groups succeeded in driving out cartel gunmen from more than two dozen rural communities. This truck is decorated with a sign that says “Citizens’ Self Defense for a Free Michoacán” and features a picture of an avocado. (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    Citizen militia members man checkpoints alongside federal police officers. In this photo, a police officer walks in front of a citizen militia barricade that's decorated with a big sign that reads, “Since January 4, 2014, Thanks to the Federal Police and Autodefensas, Parácuaro is free of extortion.” (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    Despite the challenges posed by organized crime, Michoacán has succeeded in rapidly expanding its avocado crop and exports. Alejandro Bautista, a 60-year-old grower said, “Twenty years ago they exported less than 5 percent of the production. Now it’s around 50 percent. It goes up every year.” (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    A truck full of "autodefensa" members passes an army patrol near a ranch owned by Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno, the Knights Templar cartel leader who was killed in a shootout with government forces in March. (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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    The "autodefensas" continue to serve as the de facto police force in many Michoacán communities. (Photo: Nathaniel Parish Flannery)
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