Self-defense force founder Doña Luz Self-defense force founder Doña Luz. el universal

Aquila enjoys peace thanks to Doña Luz

Grandmother launched self-defense group to take on Caballeros Templarios

Doña Luz is a widowed mother and grandmother who lives a quiet life in a small rural community in the coastal mountains of Michoacán, but the peace she enjoys today didn’t come easily.


In June 2013, María de la Luz Sandoval Zambrano founded a self-defense group that stood up to one of Mexico’s most notorious criminal organizations.

Fed up with the violent crime ordered by a leader of the Caballeros Templarios gang known as “El Lico,” Doña Luz finally managed to convince many of her fellow residents in Aquila to take up arms to defend the small town after several previous attempts had failed.

“The extortion, kidnappings, looting, disappearances and murders that Federico González Medina ordered were unbearable . . .” she told the newspaper El Universal.

Complicating matters further, the town’s mayor at the time was suspected of having direct links to the cartel known in English as the Knights Templar.

But Doña Luz wasn’t deterred, claiming that she was forced to act out of a need to protect her children and the community.

“It was a necessity, but it was nice to awaken the people. It made me feel that the people had great courage and that we must conserve that courage because if something else happens again like what happened to us before, we’re going to take up arms again because we have to defend the family,” she said.


Establishing and managing a community militia didn’t come without challenges.

Not long after the group originally formed, one of the first setbacks it suffered was dealt not by its criminal adversary but the Mexican military.

At least 30 community guards were detained in the town’s main square and subsequently disarmed and transferred to a federal prison where they remained for almost four years. Finally, earlier this year a judge absolved them of the crime of illegal firearms possession and they were released.

But five other members of the self-defense force were less fortunate, Doña Luz recalled, presumably killed or kidnapped by the Caballeros Templarios.

Despite fearing that the same fate would befall one of her own family members, Doña Luz continued to use her own money to finance the group, traveled furtively to attend meetings and remained committed to her objective of protecting the community and its residents from the threats of organized crime.

Eventually, her passion and dedication to the cause paid off.

Despite the setbacks and losses, Doña Luz says that life is much calmer than it once was in the Sierra Costa and she now has more time to spend with her children, play with her six grandchildren and do more normal, everyday activities such as cooking and feeding her flock of chickens.


“We are freer here now. We work more at ease. They don’t charge us protection money, there are no kidnappings, we are more relaxed now,” she said proudly, sitting under a mango tree in her yard.

But despite her newfound peace, there is evidence that the situation remains precarious.

The Caballeros Templarios are still active in the state, according to a militia leader, and self-defense groups in the region, including Aquila’s, remain on alert.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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  • Mike S

    That’s what it is going to take; a grass roots effort. An inspirational story.

  • WestCoastHwy

    A perfect case study on the US Constitutional Amendment, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Now getting back to Mexican reality, I believe this Doña Luz the widowed mother and grandmother is more than just the founder of the said defense group. When you have the criminal gangs on one side, the Federal police on another, and the Mexican Military shoring up the other, you have a Mexican stand-off. The only conclusion to this is everyone dies or there is no more value for either party to pull the trigger. I would consider the last.

    • Mike S

      When the vague and confusing 2nd Amendment was written, a one shot musket that took several minutes to reload was what that 95% rural society thought of as “arms”. Many historians argue it was about the south’s need to control slaves. At any rate, the gun culture in the US is out-of-control. 95% of Mexican drug cartel weapons originate in the US. The idea of course is that if everybody is carrying, assailants will think twice. Maybe it works, I haven’t looked at the statistics. One percent of humans are verifiable clinically mentally ill and some of those people should not have guns under any circumstances. I do remember the statistic that a death resulting from domestic violence is 7 times more likely if there is a gun in the house. For sure, nothing is going to change now with 320 million guns (8 million military assault rifles) floating around US civilian society. The 2nd Amendment has been completely perverted. Bump stocks are back on sale a month after the 59 concert goers were slaughtered in Vegas (26 gunned down in a Texas church yesterday). When one compares homicide death rates in the other 35 First World free democracies with much stricter gun controls, their rates of gun homicides are 3 to 20 times less. More Americans have been killed in gun homicides that ALL our wars combined.