Salvadoran Gang Members Seek New Life — With A Farm

Part 5 of a series on gang violence in El Salvador and those fleeing it to Massachusetts

Marvin Gonzalez is the shortest mob boss I have ever met. But he’s imposing in other ways.

“If I was a gun for hire, if I was telling people to go out and commit crimes, that’s what they would do,” he says in Spanish.

And what he says goes in the community of La Selva in the municipality of Ilopango. On the wall at the neighborhood’s entrance, big black letters announce the gang Mara Salvatrucha.

It’s a public place, of course, but you need the gang’s permission to be here. And that comes from the short, clean-cut boss wearing a Marilyn Monroe Statute of Liberty shirt, with Marilyn holding a smoking machine gun.

“We’ve been recognized worldwide for our violence, not because we’re productive people,” Gonzalez reflects.

In a society long bent to authoritarian rule, staggering economic inequality and less-than-full citizenship for the poor, this contemplative authoritarian may be traveling a path that can take his gang members out of the life.

He says he’s looking for a way.


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