You may have seen the “Avocados from Mexico” ad during the Super Bowl game yesterday, which uses humor and religion to capture viewers’ attention. Looks like Avocados from Mexico, a Texas-based company who last year imported 1,763,593,888 pounds of Mexican avocados to the USA, is trying to convince Americans to buy Mexican avocados in place of superior California-grown avos.

But the advertisement fails to tell the dark truth about the Mexican avocado industry.

Ok, so we all know the obvious downside to buying Mexican avocados: they have to be shipped father to reach your guacamole bowl, they’re inferior in taste and texture to their California-grown brethren, and buying foreign products when you can buy American-made and grown products is kind of a dick move.

But here’s something you might not know: As avocados and limes became more profitable in recent years, they attracted the attention of drug cartels in Michoacán state, the site of violent struggle for several years now. 

A drug cartel known as the Caballeros Templarios, the Knights Templar, has infiltrated the avocado sector, and now controls the local trade, from production to distribution. About the “cruel tactics” the cartel uses on avocado farmers, KCET writes,

“The extortion fees are non-negotiable, says one farmer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. ‘It’s no use trying to convince them to demand less,’ he says. ‘They know exactly how much you own. If you lie to them, they’ll kill you or one of your family members.’

Estimates put the earnings that the cartel gets from its control of the region’s avocados at $152 million per year. “With money like that at stake, the cartel will use everything in its power to keep the green flowing,” writes KCET‘s Rick Paulas. Nicknamed oro verde (green gold), Mexican avocados outearned Mexico’s marijuana industry between 2012 and 2013, reports Sasha Chapman for The Walrus.

Super Bowl Sunday marked peak avocado consumption in the US, mostly in the form of guacamole. About 120 million pounds of the fruit were consumed during the game and its aftermath, some 1,400 percent more than in 2000, according to the Hass Avocado Board. Americans now eat four times as many avocados as they did in 2000: some 4.25 billion fruit, or 1.9 billion pounds.

So please, think twice before you reach for an avocado from Mexico at the supermarket. Chances are, there’ll be gorgeous California-grown avocados sitting right next to the Mexican-grown blood avocados.

[via KCET, The Walrus, AP]

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