DURATION: 66 min.
“Children of a rape” tells the story of El Salvador’s two biggest gangs, mainly made up of teenagers. The 18 and the MS13 have turned the country into a war zone, as they relentlessly clash over the control of the weapons and drugs markets. In their words, actions and bodies tattooed with their gang’s symbols is written the contemporary history of a country which was raped by the 12-year-long civil war, a war which might not yet be over…
Written, Produced & Directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos / Research Coordinator: Angelos Athanasopoulos / Production Manager: Anastasia Skoubri / Director of Photography: Alexis Barzos / Editing: Yiannis Biliris / Original Music by Yiannis Paxevanis / Graphics: Sakis Palpanas / A Small Planet production for Greek Public Television ERT © 2007 – 2008
Original shooting format: HD 1080p25 / Languages: Spanish / Subtitles: Greek, English / Available Versions: Greek, English, International
At the beginning of the 80s, the newly elected US president Ronald Reagan had another big headache to face: popular revolution in El Salvador. The left-wing guerilla fighters of the Farabundo Marti were a threat, not only to the extreme-right, US supported government of the country, but to the whole of Central America. The “Communist weed” had to be eradicated before it spread, and the superpower was already facing problems with Cuba and Nicaragua. US soldiers and agents began to finance and train defenders of the regime. These defenders quickly developed into death squads which tortured, murdered and caused the “disappearance” of 80,000 Salvadorians. The dirty war in Salvador forced a million people to emigrate to the US as refugees. Their children have the leading parts in the following story…
Criminality in El Salvador has taken the proportions of an epidemic. Ten murders a day, 3,600 deaths per year, in a country that has no more than 5.5 million inhabitants.
Two big gangs, the 18 and the MS13, have divided the country into control zones. Their relentless clash over the control of the drugs and weapons market spreads death and terror.
The victims and perpetrators are mainly children and teenagers, boys and girls that make up the shock troops of gangs. To these children, whose families died during the war or were separated during the massive emigrations, the gang… is a family. With the drug, weapons and protection money they can survive. At least until they get shot on the streets by members of the rival gang, end up in jail or find themselves stuck in a wheel chair, paralyzed…
- Walter: That son of a bitch walked into our territory and he had to die.
- Did you see him or did someone send you to kill him?
- Walter: I personally saw him and killed him.
- How did you kill him?
- Walter: I shot him.
- And him?
- Walter: he screamed, the son of a bitch.
- How did you feel then?
- Like a maniac. Great!
- Great? Why?
- Walter: Because I defended our gang. They’ll vanish from here. We’ll still be here. We’ll kill them. All of them.
The 18 and the MS13 (Mara Salvatrucha 13) were not created in Salvador but in US Los Angeles. The 18 was created by Mexican immigrants who lived on street 18 of the North American megalopolis.
When the refugees of the Salvadorian war got arrived, they began to enter the gang in order to protect themselves from other ethnic groups (Chinese, Italian, etc.), who had their own gangs. The difference is that Salvadorians brought with them the violence of war, but also their knowledge on the handling of weapons.
“I left for the US in 1980, along with my family, because of the armed clashes”, Viejo Lin (Old Lynx) says, the reported leader of the 18 that Avgeropoulos meets in chains in Salvador’s high security prison. “Just like I emigrated, so did many others. Almost a million. Many of my relatives went north. We went to live at the Latino neighborhoods. And as we grew up, we entered the gangs.
It was “la raza”, we had to search for our own…”
Soon there is an oversupply of cheap labor force. The competition between the until then dominant Mexicans and Central Americans in the services sector, on who will clean the streets, who will work at a hotel or wash the dishes in a store, gets bigger. That soon leads to the creation of the 18’s opposite, the Mara Salvatrucha 13. “Mara” means “Union”, “Salva” stands for Salvador, “Trucha” means “Smart”, while “13” came from L.A.’s street 13, where the gang was born.
When the war in Salvador ends in 1992, the L.A. police massively deport thousands of Salvadorians. And they return to their ravaged by poverty and destroyed by the war country even more savage and educated in violence and weapons…
“So we brought back to Salvador what we did in America”, says Viejo Lin. “We brought our modus vivendi. We came to win in the postwar period, with many weapons on the streets. The kids of ex fighters were also many. With no mother and no father to feed them. We could do nothing. No jobs, all you could do was steal and break the law.
Now, according to the FBI, the Mara Salvatrucha is the fastest developing and most dangerous gang in the world. Along with the 18 gang, they make up the biggest “multinational gangs”. Their members have extended to the whole of Central America, the US, even Europe. There is an estimated 140,000 members in total and their main characteristic is extreme cruelty…
“Children of a rape” tells the story of Salvador’s two big gangs, mainly made up of teenagers. The 18 and the MS13 have turned the country into a war zone, as they relentlessly clash over the control of the drugs and weapons market. Yorgos Avgeropoulos manages to access both gangs and follows the life of kids who kill without a second thought. In their words, actions and tattooed with their gang’s symbols bodies is written the contemporary history of a country which was raped by the 12-year-long civil war, a war which might not yet be over.