Mara Salvatrucha - ms 13 gang
In 1982 escaping from the civil war in El Salvador I came to the United States at the age of 12. A tiny country in the map, this country was overwhelmed with violence. From what I know now, there was a lot of violence because of political issues, none of them which I had control of. My mother feared for my life and she sent for me to take a trip from El Salvador to the Mexican border. It took us three months. During those three awful months, there were days we had to literally beg for food on the streets because we had no money to buy food. The churches were the only places where you could always get food.
Those were tough times for me. I did a lot of growing up during that time it taught me to appreciate the blessing of food on the table. Every day I prayed to Jesus to protect us from the immigration police in Mexico. We met some very good Mexican families who provided shelter for us when we had no place to sleep. As the days went buy, the journey seemed longer as we approached the border between Mexico and the Us. Finally the day came when it was time to cross the border. It was scary, I remember all I wanted to do was to go back home. Even though we were poor in my country I missed my friends and family. But I also remember those days when our school was taken by the guerrillas and killed so many children and teachers for no reason at all, or the day when I was walking to the market to buy flour when the soldiers and the guerrillas starting to have their war in the middle of the streets and I had to run for my life while bullets flew over my head. My mother had said that once I got to Los Angeles, my life was going to be different. I wouldn't have to worry about people shooting at you, that I would feel protected.
The first day I arrived in Los Angeles, My mother took me with her friend for a drive around the city. It was amazing. I've never seen so many different people. We lived in a neighborhood in Hollywood. During those times, all the kids at my school were scared of the "punk rockers". These were gangs made up of white teenagers. We used to feel intimidated with their spiky hair and make up (yes - the men wore make up), some would carry knives and wrist bands with metal spikes. My friend told me to run whenever I saw a group of punk-rockers because they were mean. I listen to him.
When I got to Junior High, life got more complicated than elementary. It wasn't until I started to go to middle school, or how it was called before, "Junior High" my school was called "Le Conte" in Hollywood California that I became aware of how many different gangs were in the neighborhood. But being in Junior High was an exciting time for me, I felt like I was growing up. As a quiet and shy boy, I always feared "Los Cholos" (the gangsters).
They were many different gangs back then. The ones I recall the most are:
* 18th Street Gang (Los Angeles)
* White Fence Gang (Los Angeles)
* TMC Gang (The Magicians Club) (Los Angeles)
* Valerio Gang (San Fernando Valley)
* Blyth Street Gang (Van Nuys)
I associated with some kids who claimed they belonged to a gang, but I never was pressured by any of them to join their gang. I always knew I had a choice. And I knew the consequences as most gangs are related to drugs and violence, but I also respected my friends decision to join a gang.
Back in the 80's, Much less was known about "La Mara Salvatrucha" as most of the Mexicans where into the gangs. And if they knew you were not Mexican, they will for sure tried to harass you. Back then, everyone fraught with their bare fists. It wasn't until later that everyone started to use guns. Growing up in L. A. meant that you could expect a "Drive By". But it wasn't until I was in High School that I experience a "Drive By Shooting". I went to Belmont High School in Los Angeles. The worst drive by was when I was attending school at James Monroe High In Granada Hills (San Fernando Valley). Those were times I wish I never go back to.
At my senior year, I had to quit school. My mother had cancer and she had surgery. It was only my mother and I in this country (my father left us while my mother was pregnant). We were both Illegal Immigrants, she worked cleaning houses for the rich people in the "Hills". I had to look for a job. I didn't realize the difficulties I was going to encounter looking for a job without a Social Security Number. Jesus heard our prayers and in 1986 the government passes a law to give amnesty to illegal immigrants.
I shared my story because a lot of kids like me who came from El Salvador had to grow up fast. Some of us made some bad decisions along the way and some follow the path of Jesus. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn't have Jesus in my heart. He looked out for me and that's why I am here today sharing my story with you.
Thank You Jesus.