Adam Hinton: The gangs of El Salvador

El Salvador has been the second most murderous country in the world for a number of years.

The two main gangs, or maras, facing off in the poor barrios of San Salvador and other cities, are the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and the Barrio 18 (M18). Both originated in the poor Latino neighbourhoods of Los Angeles in the 1980 samongst young Central Americans who had escaped the incessant warfare in their home countries. When they were expelled from the US, they took their gang allegiances and turf wars with them back home.

Adam Hinton travelled to El Salvador, meeting ordinary Salvadorians whose lives have been affected by the gang warfare and some of the thousands of heavily tattooed gang members serving long sentences in the country’s overflowing jails.

MS-13, Adam Hinton’s book of prison portraits, is available through