Review: This is for the Mara Salvatrucha – Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang – by Samuel Logan
The Mara Salvatrucha is a street gang formed in 1980s Los Angeles, by Salvadoran immigrants. From its outset it has had to be lethally violent and this book details the story of the gang as it migrates across America, through the eyes of traitor and informant, 16 year old Brenda Paz. Brenda was jumped into the gang after falling in love with a local leader. Her bright charisma and personality, earning her the nickname ‘Smiley’, mean that her conscience struggles to deal with some of the more horrific elements of gang culture and after being picked up for a misdemeanour and interrogated about her then boyfriend’s activities, Brenda decides to back out of gang life and turn state informer. She details everything from the gang’s hierarchy, to covert hand signals, to its involvement with many crimes, including murder and agrees to betray the high level men that she has romantic liaisons with. But all is not good in protective custody and Brenda cannot escape the high’s of gang culture. the camaraderie, this Latino street family that gives her all she needs. She slips back into association with the gang, hoping that her betrayal will not be discovered but ultimately she pays the highest price and becomes yet another sacrifice in this brutal gang’s spiral of violence.