The story of Mara Salvatrucha, the fearsome gang that was born in the U.S.

Although there is a perception that the MS13 had its origin in El Salvador, its members began to organize in the early eighties in Los Angeles.

The story of Mara Salvatrucha, the fearsome gang that was born in the U.S.
Members of the MS13. Image: Reporte Indigo

The members of the band, MS13, the mere Mara Salvatrucha, which is cataloged as a transnational criminal organization by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, become visible in one corner of Los Angeles, California, as well as in one of Mexico City, Chiapas, El Salvador or Guatemala.

Although the MS13 is perceived to have originated in El Salvador, a country currently governed by Nayib Bukele, the truth is that its most veteran members, most of them already dead, began to organize in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, where they arrived in search of "a better life.

The members of the fearsome band, whose pioneers were considered metaleros de a devis, who venerated Black Sabbath and Metallica, in comparison with the cholos, who currently move the clica, who like hip-hop, came from the so-called golden triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Origin of Mara Salvatrucha

The origin of the words Mara Salvatrucha does not have its origin in Latin, much less in Greek, but in the dusty streets of El Salvador, or perhaps Los Angeles. Nobody knows for sure. They tell anecdotes that are narrated with a touch of mota and a loggerhead among "los connoisseurs," which mara is synonymous with the gang, of the gang because, especially in Central America; Salva is an abbreviation has to do with the country where the majority of its members are from and Trucha means what it means: abused, get ready. The 13 is the number that the M occupies in the alphabet.

From the U.S. to Central America and backward

Migration is innate to the human being. The path through unsuspected territories in search of better food, shelter, better living conditions has been given from its very origin. Frontiers have always been broken and will continue to be broken. In the mid-nineties, when Bill Clinton's presidency in the United States was gradually overshadowed, a campaign was launched to confront the fearsome gangs in that country that ravaged businesses with quotas, killed each other, and already generated terror among society, one was the Mara Salvatrucha, the other was Barrio 18.

The plan was simple, and it continues to be applied: to deport to their countries of origin all the gang members who had been imprisoned for the crimes of "pandilleros". This led to more than 20,000 gang members returning to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala between 2000 and 2004. According to the crime site, the United States deports to El Salvador 100 ex-convicts per week.

In the eternal wheel of fortune that is migration, most seek to return to Los Angeles. Some, who don't stay in Mexico, where along with their former rival partners, the M18, they generate terror in Chiapas, specifically on the Guatemalan border. In 2017 alone, as part of the immigration strategy of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, 148 MS13 and Barrio 18 gang members were arrested in Chiapas for crimes such as murder, extortion of migrants, and rape. Although the number would seem tiny, it represents 10 times more than what was reported in 2016.

What about the authorities

El Salvador has a new president, the young and charismatic Nayib Bukele, in whose security plan to face the biggest problem his country has, that of gangs, it can be read that the problems of criminal groups that threaten public security cannot be treated from a single point of view of fighting crime but as a social problem. In the so-called Cuscatlán Plan, which can be consulted on the Internet, it is specified that the appearance of gangs and the consequent crime they generate have their origin in the lack of opportunities and life options, in poverty.

"We know that society demands a change of paradigms in the fight against crime; mainly because it has witnessed how criminal groups have grown and strengthened, in spite of all the plans of hard hand, super hard, truce and extraordinary measures that have been carried out by the previous administrations", reads the document.

In this sense, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agrees and has allocated $30 million to the country governed by Bukele to support economic and social development and thus try to alleviate the problem of immigration, one of the demands of his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, not to impose tariffs on Mexico. The destination of resources is not new and follows in the footsteps of the Yucatan Fund, that program created by then-President Felipe Calderon in 2011 whose 160 million dollar purse was destined to support the infrastructure of countries in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. We will have to wait for the results.