Survival of the Fittest

Survivalism isn’t just for white right-wingers anymore.

Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 30 | Posted May. 26, 2009

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Fernando Salguero, his son and his dog.

Fernando Antonio Salguero grew up with his sister and mom in “a community of junkies and thieves” in a series of squats in Kensington. The worst year, he says, was 1985. Salguero is certain of this because it was the same year that Mayor Wilson Goode dropped a bomb on the West Philly building containing members of the radical group MOVE, killing six adults and five children. Salguero watched the bombing on a neighbor’s TV. 

Salguero was 11 years old. This was also the year he, his mom and his younger sister learned to survive on the five gallons of water a day that dripped from the faucet of the abandoned building where they squatted.

He says he’s still haunted by the memories of going to school “not being able to shower properly, in clothes that weren’t clean. The unbound contempt of other kids.”

But those aren’t his only childhood memories. Some of Salguero’s youth was spent on various military bases with his dad, an Air Force chief master sergeant who helped “design the trigger and release mechanism devices for nuclear weapons.”

There was probably no way Salguero was going to grow up to be boring. When he hit adulthood he studied Native American shamanism and became a survivalist. He got jobs working for environmental nonprofits, including as a door-to-door organizer for Ralph Nader’s Clean Water Action Project.

These days the bespectacled, stocky guy rocks a black goatee and earns his living selling water and air purification and filtration systems. It’s a subject Salguero is more than a little passionate about. But it’s not the only topic that excites him. 

Google his name and you’ll find his footprints all over websites aimed at the dissatisfied and the suspicious, from to the 9/11 Truth Movement. 

Given his early contact with both Third World living conditions and some of the more mundane aspects of nuclear warfare, it’s not surprising that Salguero isn’t convinced that civilization in its current form is going to continue for much longer. He believes that a cataclysm will occur and that with the exception of himself, his loved ones and those he teaches, his species is horribly unprepared. When megamillion death comes a-courting it could be in one of any of a thousand guises, and Salguero is familiar with all the major suspects. 

Years ago, the survivalist, or the man carrying the banner reading, “THE END IS NIGH,” might have been dismissed as an eccentric. But what is surprising is the increasing number of Philadelphians who’ve come to share his fears. In December 2008 Salguero set up the survivalist meet-up group Survive and Thrive, which, as it proudly boasts on its website, is “open to all faiths, beliefs and lifestyles. BAR NONE.”

Survive and Thrive, says Salguero, is for people who, like him, “don’t fit the Confederate flag-hat-wearing, baccy-chewing, racism-spewing stereotype.”

“This is not a stereotypical all-male, all-God-and-guns survivalist group. Atheist, Muslim, Jew, LGBT, women, immigrants—all are welcome.”

By February 2009 the group had 44 members, many of them professionals, some of them liberal, “gay, straight, black, white,” says Salguero. “No more than a handful are the white, male Christian Republicans you’d maybe expect.”

But don’t go mistaking Survive and Thrive for some sort of postapocalyptic bunny-hugging commune in the making. As the website emphasizes: “This is NOT a group that plans to work together in the event of a meltdown, but rather a group of individuals focused on SELF-PRESERVATION AND CARE OF OUR LOVED ONES.” Today the group has 81 “prepared members.”

In other words, no matter how nice and liberal Salguero might seem on first acquaintance—especially when compared to the (often blatantly racist) old-school survivalists—you do not want to be caught sniffing around his tomato vines after The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) unless you’re looking for an ass full of buckshot. 

Those turning up to Survive and Thrive looking for advice and information about practical cannibalism, ninja-stalking tactics or how to turn a semi-
automatic weapon into a machine gun (all information that’s out there on the survivalist Web) are likely to be disappointed. So far, Survive and Thrive meetings 
have been about post-disaster medicine, cooking, 
gardening and water purification. The next meeting, says Salguero, is likely to focus on health issues “like how to create a safe room and how to dispose of a corpse.” The meeting after that—
Survive and Thrive’s eighth—may tackle guns and all that good stuff. 

Salguero says we’re dealing with a new breed of survivalist here. Educated, multicultural, often professional—far removed from the monocultural camo-clad gun nuts of the Cold War era. 

He could be right. We live in interesting times. On the TV news we see right-wingers in tricorner hats waving teabags and speaking authoritatively about Obama’s plans to “institute control of the civilian population through liberal front groups.” On the Internet there’s increased buzz about ex-police and military types organizing to keep their neighborhoods “safe.” 

Immediately after the election of the nation’s first black president, millions of Americans panic-bought guns and ammunition. Last month, Michele Bachmann, a Republican member of Congress, stated her McCarthyite conviction that Obama is planning to build politically correct “reeducation camps for the young people.” Alistair Howard, a politics professor at Temple University, reports being told by a student that the Serve America Act is yet another sure sign that we are on the road to military control of the civilian population. 

And for $550 a New Jersey-based company called onPoint Tactical will arrange for you to be kidnapped in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, as part of a course called Urban Escape and Evasion, which teaches “leading-edge skills to civilians who live and work in challenging urban environments or in urban centers that may destabilize during a crisis.”

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Comments 1 - 30 of 30
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1. Alfie from the council flat said... on May 27, 2009 at 12:58PM

“Thank you Mr. Anti-Septic. What a bunch of silly, paranoid Yank howler monkeys. Eh Steven? They're clueless. The whole country's filled with gun nuts, Jesus freaks, zombie zeitgeist goatfuckers, fascist-minded canned goods-hoarding Glenn Beck-worshipping ammunition-stocking Shoney's-slurping fattos who deserve nothing but our eternal derision. Well done!”

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2. Anonymous said... on May 27, 2009 at 04:30PM

“well written”

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3. greg said... on May 27, 2009 at 08:18PM

“don't discredit this article until reading up on some of the facts yourself”

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4. C. Guggenheim said... on May 28, 2009 at 04:09AM

“I've got two jars of marmalade and some Scotch tape to get me over any rough patches. They'll have to pry my Blu-Ray remote from my cold dead hands!”

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5. b.0.b the uFo hunting HP said... on May 29, 2009 at 08:08PM

“Stephen Wells once again did a great job as usual going where the main streamed media won't go...reporting as reporting should be done by writing about the Truth. I am a member of this group, but due to work & family haven't been able to attend any meetups yet, but do read the very valuable posts on the group's site and uses them as a guide to prepare for what will be our future. I tell my friends & family to prepare for what lies ahead and what started out to be alot of giggles & eye rolling now is nods of agreement. The NWO that is trying to run this country into the ground is actually opening people's eyes open & getting them prepared for the worst. Keep up the GREAT work Fernando & hopefully I can make one of the upcoming meetups and contribute some ideas & share how I am prepared. Thanks again Stephen for the straight & to the point reporting!”

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6. FERNANDO ANTONIO SALGUERO said... on May 29, 2009 at 10:45PM

“Responsible Citizen, I am no Obama koolaid consumer and I say this without reservation; there is not a single piont in this article where the author pushes an anti gun mindset. Just the opposite, most of his interviewees are firearm advocates. He was simply pointing out that they are not the primary focal point for many urban survivalists. But I and many others are fierce protectors of the 2nd amendment . Steven did a soild job and was fair all around.”

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7. Richie Balance said... on May 29, 2009 at 11:39PM

“Wow. I am surprised to see members of the group standing behind this interpretation.
Do they really feel their intentions and motivations come through in an article that spends so much time on zombie nightmares and one paragraph on Katrina?
All I can think is- way to take a great subject- pertinent and interesting, and totally botch it. The redeeming reporting and elements of writing are so far outweighed by the useless and obligatory whackyness and status quo bolstering that this really pushes me away from PWI will have a heard time trying to justify digging into the yellow box in the future.
You blew it, big time.”

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8. Alfie from the council flat said... on May 30, 2009 at 11:53AM

“Yanks are stupid! Steven Wells is our god!”

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9. Dr. Elektrika said... on May 30, 2009 at 11:21PM

“Very well written article; informative and unbiased about the subject matter and Mr. Salguero. On a personal note, if the world goes to hell, the dead arise, the mountains shake and crumble, the seas turn to blood and dogs and cats begin to live peacefully together, I'll be right here in Montana watching from on high with a rifle, six tubes of antiseptic, a Britta container and some gauze pads....and I'll miss my Phillies. Good night and good luck.”

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10. Seawolf1090 said... on Jun 4, 2009 at 05:39AM

“An okay article, and good to see even a few Liberals actually 'get it'. But, there is a LOT of misinformation and 'squirreliness' in there too, derision for a segment of this nation's population the author has little real knowledge of. The 'survivalists' are only a tiny percentage of true 'Preppers'.
Lots of Moonbats int his response section too - many who will be simply GONE a month after SHTF day. Thank Goodness.”

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11. FERNANDO ANTONIO SALGUERO said... on Jun 4, 2009 at 04:37PM

“Seawolf, I am only "Liberal" in that I have a deep respect for liberty and the soveriegnty of every person. There are quite a few moonbats that come out from the fringe, however they too have a right to self determination, even if their life involves aliens or gay sex. It's not my business, it's their liberty. That is the Constitutional ground on which we all stand for now. I am teaching true survival skills that have been largely forgotten in this culture. I hope that you live just long enough to have your heart and mind opened to love and inclusion. That is the strength required to lead. Because you just blindly swinging your balls around like that does none of us any good.”

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12. CrafT1 said... on Jun 4, 2009 at 05:32PM

“I have to agree with the sentiment that this article is written more than just a little tongue-in-cheek. So predictable and status-quo (yawn). Wells seems so sure that Western culture is eternal and unbreachable. What hubris. He paints a picture in the minds of his audience that survival-minded individuals are so strange for being prepared in the event of a societal breakdown. When excrement and fan meet headlong, someone like Wells will be among the first to go begging to Big Brother to bail him out and be his savior. And that's just were they want you.”

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13. bonesmuggler said... on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:06AM

“Unbelievable.. Must have been a slow news day..Frank had a rough life no doubt, but he continues to exagerate his struggles.. Hopefully he can find some inner peace and a hot shower in his life”

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14. bonesmuggler said... on Jan 6, 2010 at 02:52PM

“For a guy who is involved with the crowd and many left wing idealogy of regulation and big government, survivalism seems to be the total opposite.

I'm glad his survival stock includes mountian Dew and hawian Punch..What a doofus”

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15. Wilburn said... on Jan 26, 2010 at 07:18PM

“Yo Meatloaf, thats nasty”

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16. Blankets said... on Aug 19, 2010 at 08:38AM

“Nice post — this really hits home for me.embroidered caps.The message here is super helpful.I believe you might like what I came across on this internet site today.custom hats. I will return to check on upcoming articles.this is a splendid post and I would give a five out of five rating to it.caps. Need some more posts like this to be coming out Thank you and looking for more of this kind.He paints a picture in the minds of his audience that survival-minded individuals are so strange for being prepared in the event of a societal breakdown.”

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17. shadowboxer said... on Nov 22, 2010 at 10:57PM

“can't believe i tripped across this article, does he really have hawian punch and mountian dew for his survival needs? is this guy a survivalist or someone who likes to shop at BJ's , I feel dumber after reading this article”

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18. Otter said... on Dec 2, 2010 at 05:34PM

“I attended Survive and Thrive for awhile, but I finally left an hour into a meeting during which a speaker who was off his antipsychotics shouted at us about Illuminati mind control and how we had the right to kill cops if thery violated our rights. The meetings basically went from being about making fires and purifying water, to about Redemptionism, 9/11 truthing, and how anyone who doesn't agree with the speaker is mind controlled. I walked out, and will not return.”

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19. Fernando Antonio Salguero said... on Dec 31, 2010 at 11:49AM

“Otter is a liar. The group clapped when he left. Otter was BANNED from the group for his months of piss poor behavior. Otter is a liar.”

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20. Fernando Antonio Salguero said... on Dec 31, 2010 at 02:08PM

“Otter is a liar. He was BANNED from Survive and Thrive because of his piss poor social skills. No presenter ever metioned 9/11 or Illuminati. No one ever said he was under mind control. His is now as he has always been. A sad and angry little man.”

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21. Anonymous said... on Nov 9, 2011 at 10:00PM

“I was at that meeting that Otter speaks of, he is not telling the truth! Otter was always intrusive and annoying to this group, never an asset as most members are!”

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22. Shame on Otter said... on Mar 25, 2012 at 12:23PM

“Shame on you Otter. I was sitting several seats away from Otter at the "Natural Law" meetup and he was being very disruptive. Your tactic to discredit the group didn't work. You spent all that time trying to get credit and a reputation in the group and then picked the most opportune time to pull your walk out. Right when were having one of the most important subjects of Natural Law covered you go and pull your tricks. It didn't work Otter. Nobody fell for it. Find a new job pal.”

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23. Anonymous said... on Apr 27, 2012 at 12:43PM

“The article was very well written. I commend Mr. Salguero for his positive contribution to society. There aren't many individuals, or groups out there who are are teaching skills, and discussing issues that will possibly effect the U.S.. I'm sure other countries that are facing hard economic times, riots, and food shortages, would have loved to have this information available to them, in retrospect. Everyone has their own reasons as to why they would choose to prepare for the unknown. Believe it or not folks, that used to be the American way! Our forefathers and mothers, had many months worth of food. Only in recent times have we lived in the manner ,that there will be no rainy day's. Keep on doing what you are doing Mr. Salguero, the world needs more men like you!”

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24. James Babb said... on Apr 27, 2012 at 01:52PM

“Why are survivalists associated with doomsday? Natural disasters happen all the time, that result in extended periods without modern necessities. We need practical skills that literally could save our lives in the event of an earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, forrest fire or blizzard, not to mention hiking mishaps in the wilderness.

Kudos to Salguero for sharing his knowledge so freely.

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25. Scorpio said... on Apr 28, 2012 at 10:24AM

“Fernando is a rock star! I met him through a mutual friend and he is a storehouse of information in his own right. Ask him about the political machinations of anything from vitamins (the push to have them regulated and require prescriptions)to plumbing (plastic instead of copper, chemical leaching be damned)he'll give you accurate information, chapter and verse, on who is pushing their agenda, why they're doing it and what we can do to protect our freedom.

The tag line of "Survivalism isn’t just for white right-wingers anymore." I find a little racist though. If you want to promote social equality, you might want to change things like that to something less offensive
, not bringing politics or race into it.”

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26. Anonymous said... on May 1, 2012 at 03:46PM

“I think that we all need more of this sort of thinking. Inclusive thinking and doing.”

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27. Otter said... on Aug 31, 2012 at 03:21AM

“I otter check back here for sockpuppets more often! Clearly, I attended a different meeting then Fernando remembers. At any rate, if you check out , you can enjoy a wide range of kook lit, especially Sovereign Citizen material. Is the slides of the meeting in question; anyone can view them. Slide 92 is an Illuminati reference - in fact, it's the cover of a game named... Illuminati. The speaker mentioned the Illuminati several times. There are enough eyes-in-pyramids scattered thru the rest of the presentation.”

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28. Otter said... on Aug 31, 2012 at 03:25AM

“Yup, I was banned. After walking out, disgusted, I was banned. I certainly hope that when someone in the group decides to apply his Sovereign Rights to a cop, the grand jury takes into account that I left the organization long before. :)”

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29. Anonymous said... on Sep 1, 2012 at 03:09AM

“Otter here again, showing how I can post anonymously, or with any other name I'd like to use. If I was using it to make people think I was someone else, I'd be 'sockpuppeting'.”

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30. Anonymous said... on Feb 14, 2013 at 03:18PM

“ Fernando arrested recently. Traces of explosives in his car.”


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