The past year has been an especially tumultuous one for Americans, who have dealt both with a global pandemic and increasing social unrest. These events have seen the rise of extreme views on everything from vaccination to gun control. Now, a group of US moms has come together to form an armed “Mamalitia” — and activists and lawmakers are concerned.
What Does The Mamalitia Do?
The group’s website bills the Mamalitia as “a non-partisan group of women who support the Constitution and support uplifting other women.” According to the site, Mamalitia members train in survivalist skills including wilderness survival and field medicine.
In a blog post on the site, founder Denise Aguilar said the women-only group’s goal is to reduce their reliance on mainstream food, labor and education.
“While seeing the uprisings happening, the lockdowns not changing and children suffering, we decided it was time for a change, it was time to go back to our roots and figure out how we can exit the system,” Aguilar wrote.
The blog post goes on to describe training in “map reading skills, licensing of ham radios, how to grow your own food, how to replace your pharmaceuticals, how to create co-ops and firearm safety.”
Among the group’s goals is the establishment of alternative home schools outside of the public education system. According to the site, the Mamalitia “[pools] together to educate our children in Little School house style, given families still need to work and have various reasons for not keeping their kids in public schools.”
Firearm training is also a key component of the Mamalitia.
“We are about teaching women, should they choose to own a firearm, how to take care of them and to help women in general learn how to use them safely, to clear their house and have overall training should they need to defend their homes,” a passage on the website reads.
Support Group or Violent Extremists?
Despite the heavy focus on firearms, including ubiquitous images of rifle-toting members on its website, Aguilar denies the Mamalitia has violent aims.
“We are not violent, we have not been on a watchlist,” Aguilar said according to CBS13 Sacramento. “We are simply a group of women who are training each other and networking together.”
Still, some experts and lawmakers remain unconvinced, including Dr. Richard Carpiano, a sociology and public policy professor at University of California, Riverside.
“When you’re showing pictures of you with weapons, you are advertising services to train people in firearms,” Carpiano said. “There’s no reason whatsoever to think they’re not pushing some extremist view.”
The Sacramento Bee also noted links between Aguilar and far-right extremist group the Proud Boys. Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys reportedly provided security for a former iteration of the Mamalitia called the Freedom Angels.
“Thank you to the Proud Boys,” Aguilar reportedly told a crowd of demonstrators at the California Capitol in November. “I’ve worked with them. I know them. I love them. I trust them. And I trust them so much that they’re here protecting you. And thank you to the California militia guys out here as well.”
An Anti-Vaccine Agenda?
On top of its ties to hate groups, the Mamalitia has come under suspicion of promoting anti-vaccine misinformation as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19. While the group’s website doesn’t mention vaccines, and Aguilar has rejected the label of “anti-vaccine,” she has been vocally opposed to the COVID shot on social media. One Facebook picture reportedly shows her smiling next to a man wearing a shirt that reads “F*** THAT VACCINE” — a design she also posted to the group’s Instagram.
The Freedom Angels, which Aguilar also co-founded, have engaged in several anti-vaccine protests over the years. In spring 2019, the group tried to disrupt California legislative hearings for new vaccine rules in public schools.
Then in spring 2020, it participated in an attempt by far-right protestors to enter the California Capitol.
More recently, Mamalitia members have organized at the homes of public health leaders to intimidate them, according to California Senator Richard Pan.
“Not only did they protest the public health measures but they then employed tactics to bully and intimidate people,” said Pan.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at San Bernardino State University, warned that the Mamalitia’s rise could indicate a troubling union between anti-vaccine groups and more violent extremists.
“There was this mingling that took place throughout 2020,” said Levin. “And then we started seeing folks associated with the anti-vax movement, for instance, really cross pollinate with other grievance-oriented folks, including extremists.”
For now, Aguilar’s group, which she claims has hundreds of members nationwide, shows no signs of slowing down. While the exact number of members can’t be verified, the website claims to have chapters in 20 California counties, as well as many others throughout the US.
As a statement on the group’s site reads, “The tyrants have created women who are ready to go like it’s 1776.”
Mamalitia — Sources