Violence Across Two Countries

in The Word is Text by


When will our world be free of violence and tortures? Why can’t individuals feel safe to walk on their lands without someone wanting to hurt them? We all ask this questions, but our world is full of hatred that peace is not the answer for many. Peace is what many hope on obtaining, but there are many individuals out there in the world who destroy the only hope many carry in their hearts. When will the world be at peace? When will harsh, cruel and bloody violence stop? Around the world, countries face brutal violence that we yet have not opened our eyes to see. Above all, many wake up in the morning hoping that today will be the day that the sun will shine peacefully and that nothing will get on its way. El Salvador is a small country whose people are facing a tremendous amount of violence through gangs who are an organized group of criminals known as “La Mara Salvatrucha.” This dreadful violence is bringing the country to the ground and leaving the people who live there wanting peace for their country because they are tired of not living in peace. La Mara Salvatrucha has affected every individual who lives in El Salvador, but people hope for tomorrow to be the day were men, women, children and animal find unity and love towards their country.

When El Salvador Civil War occurred, many individuals migrated to the United States in hopes of a better lifestyle. Nevertheless, they found themselves a different place they called home. La Mara Salvatrucha was founded in the barrios of Los Angeles of Pico Union neighborhood composed by Salvadorians, but other refugees as well such as Guatemala, Honduras and more joined in the 1980s. The terms “Mara” means group or gang, “Salva” means El Salvador and “Trucha” means clever. Not only is the gang name “La Mara Salvatrucha” but the gang members also write it as MS13 because when the Mara Salvatrucha allied themselves with the Mexican Mafia, they adopted “13” as part of their name out of respect. Since the “M” is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, they add it to the name. Towards the end of the Clinton presidency, the government sends refugees from Central America back home. About 20,000 Central Americans returned home between 2000 to 2004. Moreover, it has extended to El Salvador, Mexico, USA and Canada because of deportation.

Today, about 60,000 to 80,000 are estimated to be involved in the most horrifying and violent gang. The members of the gang make money through extortion, kidnapping, controlling their neighborhood, drug trafficking robbing and more. One of their most opposing gang is called “Barrio 18” in which constantly, there is a great amount of number of deaths every day due to their violence against one another.

It wasn’t easy trying to interview individuals who have been and keep being strongly affect by the Mara Salvatrucha. I interviewed an elderly woman who visits the United States. She has family here. She loves El Salvador and she wouldn’t trade it for any other country, but sometimes, she doesn’t feel safe. She believes that the country is facing something similar to the Salvadorian Civil War because of the number of deaths, the awful violence and the awful feeling of being frightening if tomorrow they will be alive or not. Members from the Mara Salvatrucha have approach her for money although they know that she hardy has money for herself. She pointed out that people in her “Pueblo” can’t walk around with phones or else the gang members steal it from them. Moreover, she explained that when the people in the “pueblo” find a dead body in the street, no one says who it was because they perfectly know that the Mara Salvatrucha did it due to the victim not minding their business or for other reasons.

She went on by stating that La Mara Salvatrucha has affected her and her family members because they can’t be walking around the streets with stuff that may appear that they are wealthy. To some people, the gang members ask for monthly money (payment) if they don’t do as they are told to, they suffer the consequences. Families that live in the United States can’t travel back to their home land because they are afraid of what can happen to them due to what they hear in the news and what the family say to them. The elderly woman worries that when she is dead, the future of the new next generation will be awful and that the country will fall to the ground. Furthermore, one of her sisters told me that she loves El Salvador, but she wouldn’t go back at least not right now due to the situation that the people are living in. She wishes that everyone would be free of violence and be able to walk the streets peacefully how they did before.

Moreover, a young woman by the age of 25 never thought she was going to fall in love with a member of the Mara Salvatrucha. When she met the father of her daughter, she didn’t know he was one of the main rulers from the gang. Eventually, she found out and couldn’t walk away from the relationship that easily. The Mara Salvatrucha affected her because to begin with, she couldn’t let go of her boyfriend easily. Her boyfriend didn’t allow her to break up with him. Throughout the time they were together, she experiences a life that she will never forget. She pointed out that she saw many gang members die in front of her something she never wish she would have witness. She lived a different life that from what a normal person lives. She wasn’t allowed to walk the streets without his permission nor visit her family because her boyfriend had her trapped in a room. Recently, she moved to the United States with her daughter and her boyfriend is locked up in prison and sentence for life. She feels safe out here in the United States and knows that they have a better future for both of them.

Nevertheless, the Mara Salvatrucha has affected her and everyone else who lives there because no one feels safe. It’s a war against the police and the gangster. There is no security and no one to fully trust for their lives. Many die from the enemies from the gangs or by police officers. Everyone can’t wait till the day they can walk feeling peacefully in their lands. “It seems as if “La Mara” is watching our every day move” the elderly woman words shocked me because no one should feel powerful enough to control others around them to create evilness around the world. I want to see families safe. It is the hope that one day the violence stops and that the Mara Salvatrucha stops messing with their own people. But, in addition, as the mass deportations that have now focused on Central Americans, people must be made aware that as the US begins to expel families, they are expelling them to a place of violence and hopelessness. This is violence not manifested by a particular street gang, but a state sponsored violence where government agencies send back families to violent places and spaces.


The El Popo Newspaper was first published in 1970 by students concerned about the lack of a Chicana and Chicano perspective in newspapers. As a result, students called the newspaper, El Popo. The paper was named El Popo after the volcano El Popocatepetl. Involved in Chicana/o Movement of the 60’s and 70’s, students saw a connection between the smoke spewing volcano ready to erupt and the student movement ready to engage. Thus, throughout the El Popo’s forty-six years, the name continues to symbolize and to represent the spirit of each generation of students that contribute to the pages of the El Popo Newspaper. Faculty Advisor/Publisher George Sanchez, MA Carlos R. Guerrero, Ph.D., 1992-2021