Xaltianguis, outside of Acapulco, used to be a mecca for murder, kidnapping and extortion—until the town's women banded together to take protection into their own hands. Photos by Katie Orlinsky.
Xaltianguis is in the Southern Mexican state of Guererro, a region home to illegal poppy and marijuana cultivation and plagued by violence. It is also located less than an hour away from Acapulco, one of Mexico's most dangerous cities. Like so many towns throughout Mexico, Xaltianguis—once a quiet farming town—has been at the mercy of organized crime for years, and by 2010 it had transformed into a mecca for murder, kidnapping and extortion. Yet this past summer, a group of ordinary women banded together for an extraordinary purpose: to make the town safer than it has been in years.
In late August, the first all-female armed Citizen Police group was formed in Xaltianguis. The force is made up of mostly middle-aged housewives, mothers and grandmothers. Many of these women have lost loved ones to violence, or were victims of crime themselves. They have lived in fear for their family, and they decided that they’ve had enough. So roughly 100 women have now volunteered to put their lives on the line in order to protect their children and defend their community.