The city of Uruapan in Michoacan, which is known as the avocado world capital, has become in recent years one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), in 2018 there were 297 murders in the city, a figure comparable to war zones. Statistically, it is more likely to be killed in Uruapan than guessing four of the six numbers in the German lottery.
The state of Michoacan produces 40% of all the avocados grown in the world. Most of it is sent to the United States. In 2018, Mexico exported 2.7 billion dollars in avocados to its northern neighbor. Currently, a kilo (about five avocados) costs about $ 1.40 in Uruapan. In the supermarket across the border, the price is $ 1.30 per unit.
The business around this fruit has not gone unnoticed by drug cartels. In Michoacan, the confrontation between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, currently the largest cartel in Mexico, and the Los Viagras cartel has been intensifying for a long time, stated Javier Oliva, a political scientist at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). Its main business is still cocaine, marijuana, and pills. "But competition has grown: Mexico used to have four big cartels, now it has 250 criminal organizations," he said. The struggle to control larger areas is growing. As well as the struggle for new sources of income. According to Oliva, this includes theft of oil, robberies, prostitution, organ trafficking, and extortion. It also includes avocados.
The avocado boom
The avocado boom began in the United States after the signing, in 1994, of the NAFTA free trade agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico. Before, it was just an expensive gourmet side dish; but suddenly they were available in all supermarkets. Today, every American eats an average of 3.2 kilos a year, especially in the Super Bowl period. Guacamole is as important for the Super Bowl as beer is for the Oktoberfest.
Innocent people are increasingly trapped between two fronts. In early February, twenty people, including several children, died in three days from the attacks of the Uruapan cartel. This week, police found a grave with 24 bodies near the city. Events like this have sadly become everyday news in Mexico, a country where up to 250,000 people have died since the so-called war on drugs began in 2006.