June 3, 2014

EXPORTING THAT AMERICAN SPIRIT: Mexico’s vigilante movement has a strong U.S. connection.

Many of the vigilantes, like Espejo, are returnees from California, where they worked in farm fields and factories before being deported or coming back voluntarily to protect their long-suffering families here.

Some say a key lesson they learned in the U.S. was that rampant extortion and the kind of brutality that the Knights Templar were spawning should not be permitted — and can be stopped.

“In the U.S. you can work,” said Leno Miranda, 34, as he sat atop a John Deere tractor plowing in a lush lime orchard outside town. “Here, it had gotten to the point where they [the Knights Templar] told you when you could work, what you could charge for your products, and demanded a cut.

“You could be selling candy on a street corner and they’d charge you,” said Miranda, who spent eight years in Santa Ana laying carpet and flooring.

The U.S. connection has helped inspire fundraising events from Southern California to Chicago.

Good. Now we need more of that spirit at home.