Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gangs and those in relationship with them

Two stories were in the press this week about the impact of the maras, Salvadoran gangs, on the lives of those in relationshp with them .   One story involved the murder of French documentary filmmaker Chistian Poveda.   A Salvadoran court convicted 10 gang members from Mara 18 and one policeman for complicity in Poveda's murder.  Poveda produced the documentary La Vida Loca which sympathetically, but unflinchingly, looked at the lives of gang members in one neighborhood of Soyapango, outside of San Salvador.   Despite his relationship built up over many months with the gang clique, Poveda could not avoid being another victim of El Salvador's gang violence.

Another story about relationships with a gang tells the story of what happens to the families in a gang-controlled neighborhood when police arrest all the men in the community:


After putting her four children to bed, a mother retreats to her bedroom and lies down. She silently weeps and caresses the cold spot next to her, where her husband once slept. 
A woman stands behind the counter at a bodega, carefully kneading dough in preparation for the day's tortilla sales. A toddler grasps her leg. 
A little girl climbs into a city bus stopped at a red light. She hopes to trade her small smile for some spare change.
And inside a dirt-floor shack, a boy feeds his baby sister a morning bottle while their mother works another 12-hour shift.

That's how Daniel Menijvar describes the daily lives of women and children in Duarte Melendez, a small community in El Salvador.

Two years ago, an estimated 85 percent of the community's men, many of whom were associated with MS-13, one of the most violent gangs in the western hemisphere, were jailed on charges of murder, robbery, extortion and the sale of illegal weapons and drugs, Menjivar said. Their children were left fatherless, and many women were left without financial stability. Read more.
The number of gang members in El Salvador may be between 10,000 and 20,000 (counting membership is notoriously difficult) but their impact far exceeds their numbers. Loving a gang member, filming a gang member, living next to a gang member, or just knowing a gang member places you within a circle filled with tragedy.

1 comment:

steve said...

You make it sound so sad for the families, granted the childen suffer but a good number of the wives are also gang members and they bring the sorrow upon them selves.