In this dispatch from Cherán, a municipality in Michoacán, Alexander Sammon tours the operations of a self-governing Indigenous community that outlawed avocado cultivation over a decade ago. The ever-expanding consumption of avocados in the U.S. comes with costs: competition for its control; the depletion of resources, namely water; and cartel violence in the regions of Mexico that grow it. Cherán police spend their days monitoring the land for illegal logging and planting of avocado trees, and the community focuses on the reforestation of native pines to nurture economic growth and address water scarcity in a changing climate.

Can this “breakaway eco-democracy” stay intact in a time of high avocado demand? Sammon writes a well-reported piece on the violent and environmentally destructive consequences of America’s obsession with the green fruit.

I understood their suspicion. Just weeks prior, the neighboring state of Jalisco had sent its first-ever shipment of avocados to the United States. Violence in the sector was increasing, with reports of drone-bombed fields. A few months earlier, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which verifies the fruit’s quality for export, had received threatening messages. And there were plenty of reasons for avocado groups to size up Cherán: its fertile soil, its abundant water. Besides, what revolutionary regime isn’t a little paranoid?

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.