Guatemala: Mara 18, Mara Salvatrucha Gangs Creating Major Problem
By Dialogo March 01, 2011I only ask God to watch over and protect the PANDA chis, they risk their lives for usâ€¦and may the terror of Jehova fall on the extortionists..! I just hope that when these gang members decide to repent, it's not too late. I got out in time. the truth IS that I am impressed by how united the gangs are. if this was like this in our lives we would not be like this... I am glad that many gang members changed their way of seeing things and by not being gang members we can help more people....!!!!! the truth is that I am impressed by how united the gangs are. If it were the same in our lives, we wouldn't be like this...I am glad that many members of the gang change their way of seeing things and not being gang members we can help more people....!!!!! Only the eternal Father can change their minds and hearts. It is necessary to continue praying so not only them but the world can have love and thus everything can change. Blessings friend reader. This taught me a lot, but more than everything I have to be cautious and always smile so that nothing happens to me. what happens is that sometimes people ask why is there a lot of crime, and it is because there is no work, there is crime because of need, there are many deaths for lack of jobs, and car theft is because people don't know what to live on. the people in charge of crime do not end it but rather become part of that group of gangsters. But anyways, they are part of their group and that harms us all. It will be useful in the study on gangs for the Doctorate degree I am pursuing. I LIKE STORIES ABOUT GANGS. Guys who flip out who don't even have the filming done...and there's no doubt they won't do it or they'll do it wrong, which is why they pass it off when they're 25 or they ruin their lives forever. I like this story This is how people survive in Guatemala. I like this story very much Something really has to be done to make the gangs disappear now from the area of Guatemala. We should all help each other so this doesn't grow anymore and goes away A tough guy is tough with or without tattoos. Well the story is true. Many youth enter gangs because they donâ€™t know what to do with their lives nor do they have anyone to counsel them to lead a better lifestyle and the only consolation they find is on the streets and then they join a gangâ€¦.
GUATEMALA CITY – Agustín, 27, left the street life five years
He departed upon realizing “his life was going nowhere” after 13 years in the
Mara 18 gang.
His skin still has the markings of his years with the gangs, an indelible
stain in an otherwise clean life.
“You get tattooed to remember your loved ones that died,” said Agustín, who
preferred not to use his full name and who now works with an organization that helps
rehabilitate former gang members. “But some get tattoos to let the other members of
the gang know how tough they are. The gang boss doesn’t allow you to get tattooed
because you want to or because he wants you to. You have to earn the right.”
But tattoos are not the only means of communication used by the gangs, who
rely heavily on them to coordinate their crimes. Words and signs, conveyed by hand
signs or by graffiti, are selected carefully, as a misunderstood message can cost
somebody’s life, Agustín said.
The nation’s media frequently shows detained gang members making hand signals
directly to the TV camera.
The National Action Unit Against the Criminal Development of Gangs (PANDA),
which is part of the National Civilian Police of Guatemala, said this form of
encoded communication enables gang members to coordinate their crimes, whether they
are in society or behind bars.
“Once we realized what the gang members were up to, the authorities began
handcuffing them in the back,” said officer David Boteo, 30, who has worked in PANDA
“It’s a clear act of defying the authorities,” says Nidia Aguilar, who
directs the Childhood and Adolescence Defense office at the Attorney General Human
These cryptic gestures are not simply a way for gang member to identify
themselves as members of a specific gang, Aguilar said. The gestures contain encoded
messages for their “homies” (fellow gang members) to understand so they can carry
out crimes. Gang members have been known to use hand signs to convey the name of the
police officer who arrested them to fellow gang members, who can seek retribution.
“Each generation has its own way of expressing inconformity with society,”
said Aguilar, adding the members of the youth gangs, also called “Maras,” come “from
marginal neighborhoods that are surrounded by extreme poverty and offer no
The gangs use their secret language on the streets – and many go as far as
inking its symbols in their skin, Aguilar said.
Street gangs have at least 12,000 members in Guatemala alone, according to
the Guatemalan government.
Their members commonly are known as “mareros,” but there’s a difference
between gangs. The only gang who rightfully can claim the name “mareros” is the Mara
Salvatrucha, whose territory, as well as their members, are marked with the initials
MS, authorizes said. Mara Salvatrucha originated in El Salvador in the 1980s.
Their rival gang, the Mara 18, really can’t be considered “mara,” and to call
one of them a “marero” is an insult in the eyes of the Mara Salvatruchas, Agustín
said. The Mara 18 was formed by Hispanic immigrants in Los Angeles, during the same
decade. But the Mara 18 established a presence in Central America when its members
were deported from the U.S. to their native countries.
Members of the Mara 18 often can be spotted by the many tattoos, which
include the number 18, that cover their bodies. Mara Salvatruchas are harder to
identify because most choose to get their tattoos from the waist down, according to
law enforcement officials.
“[Mara Salvatruchas] can’t be made out by people because they’re less obvious
and dress inconspicuously,” said a police officer in Guatemala who spoke only on the
condition of anonymity because he feared he would be targeted by gang members for
speaking publically about them. “The leaders drive late-model cars with all the
proper documents, they don’t carry weapons. They’re into trafficking weapons, drugs
and people, as well as kidnappings. The other ones (MS) are easier to recognize and
they’re associated with more routine acts of delinquency.”
Tattoos have meaning
Gang members’ tattoos are filled with symbolism. They can pay homage to a
deceased gang member or family member, murders they’ve committed, their girlfriends
or wives, or as a reference to the gang in which they belong.
The territories occupied by the Mara 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha gangs are
sprayed with graffiti that allude to their activities or memorialize those “fallen
in combat” (homies who have been killed), according to the Guatemalan police
“It’s a form of communication and a way to express their defiance of
society,” said Marco Antonio Garavito, director of the Guatemalan League for Mental
Hygiene. “They’re saying ‘here we are’ and ‘we’re the product of you.’”
Garavito acknowledges these messages have an intimidating and aggressive
impact on the communities because these gangs have used their violence, robberies,
extortion plots, and the sale of narcotics to take over neighborhoods.
The Guatemalan government attributes 60% of the violent deaths that occurred
last year to organized crime, and a fourth of these resulted from territorial
rivalries among the gangs.
Samples of the gang slang
Clica (Clique): the cell or neighborhood corresponding to a “mara” or a “Mara
Brincar (To jump): To comply with the requirement to become a Mara
Chimbas: Makeshift weapons
Grapearse (To staple onself): To take drugs
Hommies or Jomi: Friends of the maras or their gang “brothers”
Jura: The police
Luz verde (Green light): Sentenced to death
Redra: Crack rock (drug)
Rifa (Raffle): To face a rival gang member
Tirar Barrio (To “show hood”): To give signals or identify oneself with a
Ranfla: “mara” or gang
Ranflero or Palabrero (The one with the words): Mara leader
Segundas Palabras (Second words): Second-in-command
Encargado de Tributo: Hitman
Cabecilla de Cancha (Head of the court): Clique leader
Jugadores o Soldados (Players or Soldiers): Members of the Mara
Perros (Dogs): Rivals
Fanta: Family member
Paro: Someone on the outside who does favors for those incarcerated