Living in a War Zone: El Salvador

Gangster Zone

Some countries are not in wars with other nations, but have war in its own country, like El Salvador, who is plagued by gang violence and drug trafficking.

El Salvador’s high rate of murder is due to constant fighting between gangs and government forces.

According to Vice News, there are 60,000 gang members in El Salvador. Nearly 500,000 people depend on gang life because of the high unemployment rate. One in 12 people in the country have ties to gangs.

There are two main street gangs, MS 13 and 18th Street. They have been fighting battles over territory for decades.

Junior Johnny Umanzor, an ELL student from Olocuilta, El Salvador, came to the United States two years ago looking for safety, running from deadly life in his town.

Umanzor lived in a city full of gang members. Gangs use boys ages 16 and 17 to deliver drugs and weapons to other members so they won’t be taken by police because the police do not arrest males and females who are under age 18, according to Umanzor.

Gangs usually ask poor, young boys to work for them in return for  providing food and shelter.

“There are no jobs, no government to protect you. You do not have a choice,” Umanzor said.

Many students drop out of school at a young age and join a gang. Umanzor said, ” Gangsters will call you at any time during night asking you to transfer drugs and weapons for them. Students are not able to focus on school. They decide where you go and how you live.”

After forcing poor, young males to join them, gangs test their bravery. “They ask you to kill a person before you join them, to prove that you can kill and follow orders,”  Umanzor said.

After a member becomes older than 18, they give them different tasks such as collecting taxes from local stories and getting more young people to join the gang.

The number of gangsters are adding up each year in El Salvador. People are living with constant shouting and murder.

Even though Umanzor and his family have moved to the U.S., he still does not feel safe because there are members from both gangs here. “Many gang members live in the U.S. today and try to [recruit] other people into the group,” Umanzor said, “These people threat to kill your family if you did not join them. I am not sure if people surrounding me have ties to gangs or not and that what make me nervous all the time.”