#15Girls: 15yr old girls seeking to take control and change their fate
October 9, 2015 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Refuse to share a pencil, reject a boy, say no to your imprisoned dad — all of these can get a teen girl killed in El Salvador's gang war - "Aby, whose best friend disappeared, is still staying at home. Her latest aspiration is to be the director of NASA." Warning: Some of the depictions and images in this story are graphic.
If you were standing at the U.S.-Mexico border two summers ago during the so-called "surge" of unaccompanied minors trying to come to the U.S., you would have seen thousands of young girls from El Salvador.

If you had asked them why they came, they would have told you the answer is simple: gangs. Back in the 1980s, during El Salvador's civil war, many people migrated from El Salvador to the U.S. On the streets of cities like Los Angeles, they formed gangs.

Then, many of them were deported back to El Salvador. And they brought the gangs with them. Now, El Salvador's two main gangs — Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 — control much of the country. There is so much violence in El Salvador that someone dies there, on average, every hour.

Much of the killing is over turf or revenge. And sometimes people are just caught in the middle. Many times, those caught in the middle are girls.

We went to El Salvador to talk to these girls, to understand why they would want to make the perilous journey to the U.S., why they would ever want to leave home. This is the story of four of those girls.
posted by kliuless (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Remember all those bad decisions you made as a kid in junior high? Maybe sneaking out, meeting up wth people you should not have been, doing crazy things...and most importantly...most of those leading to bad consequences.

I seriously believe there is nothing scarier in the world than a 15 year old who considers himself a killer. The Method you used to decide on whether to eat the lunch your mom packed or ditch with your friends to wolfies..is the same method he uses when determining whether he will end someone's life because of any of the factors that bothered each and every one of us in the junior high years.

Damn.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:02 PM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a very old book, from 1991, but I just bought it to try to get some context on this type of thing that I can't grasp, fully. I have minimal knowledge of the wars in latin america, but for the effects to linger like this is just...I can't explain. Hopefully this author can.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 11:49 PM on October 9, 2015


I heard this on the radio on the other day. Horrifying stuff... I teared up while listening to it.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:34 AM on October 10, 2015


There are local affiliates here of both MS13 and Calle 18; mostly they just spray paint their names but they do shoot each other (or some poor random person on the street) a few times a year. On the one hand it seems almost goofy to have local kids connected with gangs that are headquartered thousands of miles away, but it also illustrates how hard it is for the girls in the story to fully escape -- even if they are successful in coming to the US, chances are good that wherever they land there will be local affiliates of the gangs from back home and they will always have to worry that their troubles will continue.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on October 10, 2015


MS13 is no fucking joke, even the folks in the US.
posted by corb at 5:56 AM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"economic migrants"
posted by threeants at 6:26 AM on October 10, 2015


These people get turned down a lot for asylum in the US, too.

Of course, the death squads in El Salvador during the war were backed by the US, like most of the other right-wing regimes in Central and South America. No regime too bloody, no crime too foul, as long as it kept, say, a legally elected moderate reform socialist like Salvador Allende out of power.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 AM on October 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I read this a couple days ago and haven't been able to get it out of my head. How horrifying to know that the most inconsequential actions could get you killed. The story of the girl who's father threatened to have her raped and killed if he didn't get $50 on his release from prison...sickening.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2015


Also, when I first read the story (web version) they actually had a picture of a girl, shot in the head, laying on a curb. I don't see it in the mobile version, but there are no words.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:50 AM on October 10, 2015


Bullshit article/story framed to pull the heartstrings of progressive "America," but completely misses the real story.

The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:23 AM on October 10, 2015


AElfwine Evenstar, regardless of what other causes and circumstances may exist, the lives these girls are living are a real story, and their experiences matter. It's extremely offensive to suggest otherwise.
posted by Andrhia at 11:00 AM on October 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. Aelfwine Evenstar, don't derail this thread by insisting people have to talk about what you want to talk about, and don't accuse other people in the thread of "not giving a shit" just because they're trying to talk about the actual link.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:54 AM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


There is a line from the USA to Mara Salvatrucha, but it's largely the deportation policy of the US that in effect exported this organized gang violence back to El Salvador.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2015


Mimi sounds amazing. But I imagine that her choice to help people who have been hurt by gangs is far from consequence free. I hope she'll be okay.
posted by lollusc at 7:36 PM on October 10, 2015


It's extremely offensive to suggest otherwise.

No one has. If you read what I wrote you will notice that I call the article bullshit not the suffering of the girls.

regardless of what other causes and circumstances may exist, the lives these girls are living are a real story, and their experiences matter.

Yep, and more importantly context matters, because without it there is no hope of changing the status quo and actually, you know, helping the girls in the article. The article itself does a disservice to the victims it details by not giving us that larger context. That's my only point.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2015


If you read what I wrote you will notice that I call the article bullshit not the suffering of the girls.

> "Bullshit article/story framed to pull the heartstrings of progressive "America," but completely misses the real story."

If someone intentionally burns down a house and kills a family, both the arson and the deaths that resulted from it are "real stories." In this case, the article talks about the arsonists, but you're telling us to focus on the people who supplied the gasoline and matches. That's a perfectly fine aspect to add to the existing discussion, but calling the story "bullshit" because it leaves those details out is unnecessary. You don't get to decide what the "real stories" are just because you believe one aspect of it is more important, and when you do so with phrases like "pull the heartstrings" and "progressive America", you are the problem.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:57 PM on October 11, 2015


Mod note: Let's take a breath and pull back from the personal stuff please. AElfwine Evenstar, please take a break from this thread altogether.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:07 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]




« Older HUNTING THE DECACORN   |   The Rhythm of Life Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments