Tancintaro, Mexico claims to be the “avocado capital” of the world, selling one million dollars worth of the fruit per day. But what makes Tancitaro truly interesting is that the orchards — and the town itself — is under the protection of a militia funded by the avocado growers.

In a fascinating piece in the New York Times, Amanda Taub, Max Fisher and Dalia Martinez use the towns of Tancitaro, Neva and Monterrey to demonstrate a trend in Mexico: cities are effectively seceding from the state. As they write in their piece, “These are acts of desperation, revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat.”

In this conversation Amanda Taub describes what her reporting from Mexico reveals about state fragility and the enduring presence of what can best be described as warlordism.

We discuss these three case studies in detail–and each are totally fascinating on their own. But what distinguishes this piece is the way in which it draws on social science literature to help explain this ongoing trend–which is present not only in Mexico but in other parts of the world as well.

This combination of original reporting backed by academic research is what you can expect regularly from the most excellent Interpreter column in the New York Times, which is written by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher.

If you have 30 minutes and want to learn how localities in Mexico are dealing with rampant insecurity and the weakness of the state, have a listen.

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