With unfailing punctuality, the grocer receives text messages from his extortionist on the last day of each month. The medical students leave their lab coats at school, to avoid roaming gangsters who need surgery. The oil man mutters on his two-way radio as he drives behind tinted glass.
For a man who faked his own death by posing with red paint running down his neck and who has recorded a video tell-all to be sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration in the event he is murdered, José Santiago Valencia Sandoval seems to lead a remarkably stress-free life.
The two dozen men standing guard on a rutted road that cuts through these lime groves and corn fields are just one small part of a citizen militia movement spreading over the lowlands of western Mexico. But as they told their stories, common threads emerged: Los Angeles gang members. Deported Texas construction workers. Dismissed Washington state apple pickers.