Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.

cpb-logo

‘They Immediately See Gangs’: From El Salvador To Boston, Helping Young People Shake Stigma And Feel Safe

Volunteers for Glasswing International lead members of the Glee club in a dance routine at a school in Las Palmas, San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

Volunteers for Glasswing International lead members of the Glee club in a dance routine at a school in Las Palmas, San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

President Trump has referred to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the gang is infiltrating the U.S., calling unaccompanied minors from Central America “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” There’s been a strong focus by the administration on legal crack downs but less talk of how to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place.

For two organizations working thousands of miles apart, that is their shared goal: to show young people a vision of their futures beyond the gangs.

‘You’re Being Watched’

It’s only a 10-minute drive from the four-star Sheraton Hotel in San Salvador, El Salvador, to the neighborhood of Las Palmas. Celina de Sola is our escort into the community which is known throughout the city as a territory of the 18th Street gang.

“The reason we can’t take pictures and all that stuff is because, you know, there’s always people watching,” de Sola says. “Everybody knows exactly who comes in, exactly who leaves, what they’re here for and so, even if you can’t see, you’re being watched.”

Visit WBUR for the full story.