Some additional material (as well as some duplications.)
JOEL-NEWS-INTERNATIONAL-301 * 5 JANUARY 2000
"TEENAGE GANG MEMBERS COME TO CHRIST IN EL SALVADOR. Date: Mon, Oct
A teen-ager who braved a death threat to quit gang life to follow
Christ is making a big difference. Sixteen-year-old Elijah was
tortured for four hours, shot in the head and shoulder and left for
dead after renouncing his gang involvement--violating the group's
"leave and die" code. But the attack only made him bolder in leading a
revolution among other members of the violent gang scene reports
Assemblies of God missionary Don Triplett, who works with troubled
youth in El Salvador. At one church service as Elijah embraced a
former rival gang member at the altar to demonstrate their
reconciliation through God, another gang leader stepped forward to
shoot them. Instead he accepted Christ with his gun in his hand. More
than 60 gang members have come to Christ in the city of Armenia, and
plan to paint over all their old gang graffiti around the town. While
El Salvador's war is over, gangs are "destroying each other much more
violently than the war ever did," says Triplett. But the culture of
youth violence makes it an ideal time to share the gospel. "These
young gang members are so loaded with guilt, fear and pain that they
flock to our altars when they hear that God will let them start over."
Source: Charisma News Service"
On-line advertisement for a church-based community organizer. One duty
is to become familiar with the local gang leaders.
"Risks and Challenges:
The neighborhood has a "dangerous" reputation, mostly associated with
youth violence, but residents are rarely harmed by violence or robbery
within the actual community. None of the former MCC volunteers have
had a problem with this, although a non-European-American might face a
greater risk and receive less respect. In general, the community's
safety is dependent on good relations among friendly neighbors. There
is an occasional police presence, usually on bicycles on the lookout
for "suspicious" youth, with or without orders for arrest."
A Roman Catholic priest who supports evangelism is kidnapped.
Apparently this had nothing to do with religious works, however.
Charisma News Service
"A former Miami priest known for his evangelistic efforts was
kidnapped from his church grounds after Sunday's Mass. According to
"The Miami Herald," Rogelio Esquivel was abducted by three armed men
who waited for him in the parking lot at the Immaculate Conception
parish church in Santa Tecla, near the capital, San Salvador."
"A former Miami priest kidnapped earlier this month from his church
after celebrating evening Mass has been freed after family members
paid an undisclosed ransom. According to the Associated Press (AP),
Rogelio Esquivel, known for emphasizing evangelism, was released after
midnight Sunday near the city of Santa Ana, northwest of the capital,
There are two main Gangs in El Salvador. The largest is the "MARA
SALVATRUCHA TRECE" the 13 gang. The other is MARA 18. Gang rivalry is
fierce in marginalized zones. Although Gangs have been in El Salvador
for a long time; U.S. Gang influence came from the States starting in
1993. This brought 13 and the 18 gangs. Other smaller gangs are
Mau-Mau-and Mara Tikal. Gang fights in the "penales" or jails are
common. This happens when some stupid Jail keepers or Police put a
member in a jail cell with opposite gang members. Really stupid. The
poor member usually gets torn-apart. I think it may have to do more
with punishment than ignorance on part of the Jail guards. Most
gang-kids get a bad wrap by Salvadoran society and there are not a lot
of public or private institutions that help them out. There are also
gang-extermination Death Squads that work underground. The most famous
was "Sombra Negra" that came to the public eye do to extra-judicial
killings of some youth in San Miguel 1994."
May 2000 El Salvador: Let us see what becomes of the dream
"Aguilares is a violent place now, where the crime rate has soared,
where drug rings have sprung up, some of them spawned by the return of
Salvadoran gang members from the US under deportation orders from the
We met with three men from the organization UCRES, a community-based
network in the region working in a variety of areas, the newest being
There are three main problems, they said, family disintegration,
unemployment and poverty, and "transculturalization" -- the influx of
cultural values from the north through the media, especially
Among youth, they said, unemployment is nearly 100 percent. "There's
no money and they want to eat and dress" the way they see people dress
in the pop culture of the US -- "and that's why many decide to become
UCRES programs include dealing with issues of alcoholism, drug
addiction and gangs. Their work with youth emphasizes values, trying
to recover cross-generational respect, and respect for those who
suffered during the war, combating the "anti-values trap" into which
most youth have fallen."
A Publication of Christians for Peace in El Salvador, CRISPAZ
"El Salvador's two largest gangs began in and maintain direct links to
gangs in Los Angeles. Some of these gang members grew up in the United
States as children of Salvadoran refugees. Marginalized in their own
country and in their country of "refuge", they never found a path to a
constructive life in the U.S. As young adults, they were ultimately
deported due to their involvement in gangs and crime. Now they find
themselves in El Salvador once again, but an El Salvador that is very
different from when they left, and they themselves different people.
Upon return, many of these young people find familiarity only in
"A number of organizations, both church-based and independent, are
trying to create spaces that provide options for young people caught
in the crises of poverty, violence, and families that have been torn
apart. The Generation XXI Youth Movement is one such project.
Generation XXI provides a space in which young people in the urban
municipality of Mejicanos (on the out-skirts of San Salvador) can
search together for options in the face of these crises."
Saving Souls Transnationally:
Pentecostalism and Gangs in El Salvador and the United States
"In this chapter, we compare and contrast the ways in which gangs and
Pentecostal churches help young Salvadorans to respond to dislocation
resulting from war, migration, and economic change. After a review of
recent social changes in El Salvador, with special reference to the
evolving situation of young people, we turn to the issue of youth
gangs (maras, as they are known in the country), which, according to a
study sponsored by UNICEF, are the "most important and complex
cultural-generational problem in the country in the decade of the
"In light of these contradictions, evangelical Protestantism has
emerged as an alternative space, where the synthesis between self and
community that Erickson saw as key to the successful negotiation of
adolescence can take place. Although Pentecostals are often locked in
a battle for young souls with gangs, the two groups share striking
similarities in terms of their practices and the unintended
consequences of their actions. Both Pentecostal churches and gangs
operate through transnational networks leading to a re-inscription of
locality through the creation of tightly-knit community and a strong
sense of individual identity. Moreover, both groups, perhaps
unintentionally, are implicated in reproduction and expansion of
larger hegemonic dynamics, such global crime syndicates and
"The case of Agustín, a former gang member from Morazán and now a
theology student at the Assemblies of God, is typical.
'I begun my life in the maras when I was twelve. I was looking for
something that would fill the void left in my heart . . . you see, I
come from a family that has experienced a lot of hardship. My father
died when I was seven years old, when the war started. He was a
soldier in the army, and was killed just like one of my older
brothers. Then, there was a void in my life and knowing that my father
could not fill it, I tried to look for friends. I began to drink with
them, to do drugs and to look for the money I needed to satisfy my
"There is no doubt that the work of Pentecostal churches among
transnational youth gangs is helping to reweave the moral fabric of
post-war El Salvador. Here our findings are in line with a growing
literature that points toward the transformative potential of
Pentecostalism in the Americas (Garrard-Burnett and Stoll1993, Cleary
and Stewart-Gambino 1997, Shaull and Cesar 2000). With its emphasis on
the collective and personal experience of the sacred rather than on
high theology and its capacity to address the most pressing problems
of the poor (i.e., illness, alcoholism, and the violence of everyday
life), Pentecostalism is a truly a grassroots religion. However,
Pentecostalism among Salvadoran youth gangs is not without
contradictions. Pentecostalism offers mara members a disciplinary and
bellicose articulation of self and space which may hinder the
production of a truly participatory and deeply rooted democracy in El
"Eladio, a former gang member in the Assemblies of God in Gotera,
offers a good example of how the notion of the Kingdom of God operates
among mara converts. When asked about his future, he states: 'I dont
know where I will be. If Jesus Christ has not come yet, maybe I'll
studying in another place or at the university. I really dont care.
I'm in the things of God [las cosas de Dios]. If God wants something
to happen in my life, it will happen. He is all-powerful in his
majesty. Only that which pleases him happens.' Eladio's sense of fate
is predicated on the surrender of his agency, the exercise of which
has, in his view, only brought him trouble. Eladio sets a sharp
dichotomy between his free will, which has led him to drugs and
suffering, and God's will, which has given him peace and joy. In his
words: 'I lived in the world [anduve por el mundo], but God rescued
me. I saw the things of the world and they were a hell, they were
rotten [podridas] to the core. The world is the path of death [el
camino de la muerte]. But now I abide [persevero] in the God's way
[las cosas de Dios] and fulfill his commandments and his laws
Some works cited in the above:
Alder, Daniel. 1994. "Crime Gangs Replace Death Squads in El
Salvador." San Francisco Chronicle (August 23): A9.
Cleary, Edward and Hannah Stewart-Gambino, eds. 1997. Power, Politics,
and Pentecostals in Latin America. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Danner, Mark. 1993. The Truth of El Mozote. The New Yorker (December
DeCesare, Donna. 1998. The Children of War: Street Gangs in El
Salvador. NACLA Report on the Americas 32/1: 21-29.
Farah, Douglas and Tod Robberson. 1995. "U.S.-Style Gangs Build Free
Trade in Crime." The Washington Post (August 28): A01.
Garrard-Burnett, Virginia and David Stoll, eds., 1993. Rethinking
Protestantism in Latin America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Instituto de Opinión Pública (IUDOP). 1997. Sondeo sobre la juventud
organizada en pandillas. San Salvador: IUDOP/UCA.
Martin, David. 1990. Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism
in Latin America. Oxford: Basil Backwell.
Smutt, Marcela and Jenny Miranda. 1998. El fenómeno de las pandillas
en El Salvador. San Salvador: UNICEF/FLACSO.
Wallace, Scott. 2000. "You Must Go Home Again: Deported L.A.
Gangbangers Take over El Salvador." Harpers Magazine (August): 47-56.
3.3 Agency, Identity and Youth Violence: the Gang Phenomenon
"Since it is the ubiquitous gang culture that is the most visible,
often the most brutal, but least understood, manifestation of
post-conflict violence in Central America, it is important to provide
a separate section on this phenomenon. Gangs, or maras as they are
commonly called, epitomise the causes of much contemporary violence in
Central America, and reflect the particular frustrations of youth
"The main perverse organisations were those linked to gangs (maras),
bars (cantinas) and brothels (bares/bordellos). Levels of trust in
local institutions were generally low. The most trusted membership
organisations were youth, sports and recreation groups (with 82 per
cent receiving a positive ranking), followed by religious groups (79
per cent viewed positively). Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres
primarily Alcoholics Anonymous received the highest percentage of
positive rankings among service delivery organisations."
"In terms of youth violence specifically, an interesting case is the
approach to gangs taken by the Evangelical church. Evangelicalism is
rapidly expanding throughout Central America, and the church has had
some success with 'reinsertion' gang members (as has the Catholic
Church). In Guatemala, for example, a number of young Evangelicals are
involved in outreach work to 'convert' the gang members of their
neighbourhoods. Indeed, it is at times one of the only acceptable
methods of leaving a mara. While this is a positive outcome, the
sentiment expressed by one young Guatemalan member of 'Youth for
Christ' is worrying: 'God, not political movements, solves problems'
(AVANCSO, 1996). What, it must be asked, is it teaching them?"
CrossSearch: Charisma News Service Online