U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Gang Violence: Mara Salvatrucha --"Forever Salvador"

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: Winter 2004 Pages: 29-36
Andrew M. Grascia
Date Published
8 pages
This paper traces the history of the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, which originated among illegal Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980's and then spread to other regions of the country, notably the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
In the course of El Salvador's Civil War, kids as young as 11 and 12 years old were trained and used as soldiers. The war devastated the small nation and displaced approximately one million Salvadorians, most of whom came to the United States. Many of the youth who came to America had received military training in El Salvador, including training in explosives, booby traps, small arms, and hand-to-hand combat. El Salvadorian youth were not accepted by many of the Hispanic groups in Los Angeles and other American cities. As the youth became marginalized, they banded together for protection and formed what is now known as Mara Salvatrucha, which would later become known as MS 13. This paper describes MS 13 gang symbols, the violence that is committed by gang members, and its financing through various criminal activities. The two largest rivals to MS 13 in the gang world are the Latin Kings and 18th Street. There is reliable documentation that members of MS 13 have made contact with the larger drug organizations in Latin America. Also, links between MS 13 "cliques" on the West Coast and East Coast have facilitated some retaliatory violence against rival gangs. The gang has thus increased its expansion and coordination of criminal activities in America. 12 references


No download available