Monday, August 22, 2005

Aspects of Salvadoran immigrant life in the US

The Washington Post has a lengthy story today about the impact of violent Central American gangs on the lives of Salvadoran immigrants living in the Washington, D.C. area. First and second generation Salvadorans living in the US must deal with the suspicion and fear of anglos in light of intense publicity recently given to the MS-13 gang activity:

As Latino gangs expand their influence in Maryland and Virginia, the consequences have rippled through the region's Latino communities. Many young people feel anger, humiliation and even self-loathing at the hands of those who assume that they are criminals. Parents struggle with puro miedo -- pure fear -- that their children will join or be harmed because they resist recruitment.

The pressures cross economic, class and generational lines. Latino laborers, whose wages support families here and in Central America, fear falling prey to gang crime. Second-generation Latinos of the middle class, seeking assimilation, speak of the "looks" when they stroll the malls. Some try to mask their heritage while others avoiding wearing baggy jeans and certain gang-favored colors, such as white.

"Kids have been stereotyped in schools. Police officers have stopped them because of how they were dressed or how they look -- 'Stopped while being brown,' as some Latino kids say," said Luis Cardona, a former gang member who teaches in the Criminal Justice Department of the University of the District of Columbia.

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