This Prison is So Dangerous, Even the Guards Won’t Go In

Penas Ciudad Barrios in El Salvador is not an ordinary penitentiary… far from it. It’s basically become a small, contained city for members of the street gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS – 13).

This prison was built for 800 inmates but now houses 2,500 MS – 13 members, exclusively. There are so many members and they are so dangerous that the guards stay outside and leave them in charge of the hospital, rehab, bakery and workshops. They’re left to live their daily lives, which includes tattooing each other for the crimes they’ve committed and their commitment to the gang.

In a recent article by the Daily Mail, London photographer Adam Hinton, who photographed the inmates in 2013, described it more as a dumping ground. “The vast majority of the inmates [are] from the Barrios or slums… a place without hope or opportunity and the gang is the only real option,” he said. “If the authorities catch, you this is the place they literally dump you and forget about you.”
Read the full article here.

READ: A Mexican Artist Made Bear Rugs Out of Gang Members from MS-13

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Could the U.S. be Blamed for Gang Violence in El Salvador?

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Could the U.S. be Blamed for Gang Violence in El Salvador?


“It was Easier During the War.”

30 murders a day. Killers as young as 12. 80 percent of homicides gang-related. The violence in El Salvador is almost unfathomable…and in part, blamed on the U.S.

During the 12-year long civil war in the 1980s and early 90s, many Salvadorans emigrated to the U.S. and joined either La Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) or Barrio 18, both Los Angeles-based gangs. When the U.S. stepped in and started deporting gang members to their home country, all hell broke lose back in El Salvador.

READ: Rape, Murder, Kidnapping: The Reality of Teenage Girls in El Salvador

Photojournalist, Patrick Tombola, captured the deplorable state of the country during a recent. While documenting the lives of Salvadorans trapped in this violence, he heard something shocking: “One thing that people keep repeating is that it was easier during the war. At least, you knew who your real enemies were,” he said. “Today, anyone can be grabbing a gun and shoot at you without repercussions.”

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A Mexican Artist Made Bear Rugs Out of Gang Members from MS-13


A Mexican Artist Made Bear Rugs Out of Gang Members from MS-13

Have you ever seen a bear rug made out of cholo skin? Now you have.

Credit: Renato Garza Cevera / Art Mur

Here’s a close-up.

Credit: Renato Garza Cevera / Art Mur

Scary, right?

scary-ghost ms-13-scorpion
Credit: Renato Cevera / Art Mur

Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS-13, is a notorious gang with roots in Los Angeles. It has thousands of members in the US and El Salvador.

And another made out of an 18th Street member.

Credit: Renato Garza Cevera / Art Mur

18th Street, another gang founded in Los Angeles, was initially a Mexican-American gang but has since become primarily Salvadorian.

They’re the work of Mexican artist Renato Garza Cevera.

Credit: Renato Cevera / Art Mur

The bear rugs, created between 2005 and 2007, are a collection of sculptures from titled “Of Genuine Contemporary Beast.”

And he made them look scary for a reason.


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