This one from San Antonio, Tx.
This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang
By Samuel Logan
By David Hendricks
One of the most frightening true stories you’ll read this summer begins close to home in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Carrollton.
In the first chapter of Samuel Logan’s “This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13,” a book that chillingly illuminates the gang threat in the United States, a teenage girl leads an innocent friend to his brutal murder at the hands of her gang-leader boyfriend just before Christmas 2001.
Brenda Paz of Honduras was horrified by the death, but not so much that she was deterred from seeking membership with MS-13. Paz is a 21st-century version of another Dallas-based outlaw: Bonnie Parker. Both are worthy of great empathy and maddening in their repeated bad choices.
Paz grew up in California and returned with her family to Honduras. But when her mother became ill, her father sent her to the Dallas area to live with her uncle. The uncle never paid any attention to Paz. She found school boring, so she turned to street life. Her personality sparkled enough that she was accorded access to the highest levels of MS-13, territory almost exclusively reserved for males.
After her Dallas boyfriend was arrested, Paz left Texas and ended up in northern Virginia, starting a relationship with another MS-13 leader and murderer. They were arrested trying to steal a car, and that is when Paz decided to become a police informant, violating the cardinal rule of the MS-13, never to “rat.”
Paz struggled with her decision to give police and the FBI information about gang activities, and when she entered the FBI’s Witness Protection Program as its first teenager, Paz emotionally was unable to deal with the isolation.
She developed father-daughter relationships with law enforcement officials who tried to help her make the transition to a better life, and our empathy for her grows. But Paz chose gang life.
Logan, a Latin American-based investigative reporter, develops back stories as he narrates Paz’s life. The MS-13’s roots go back to the impoverished neighborhoods of civil war-torn El Salvador. The gang formed among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s; extreme violence was a response to rivalries with other gangs.
Through Paz, readers can visualize how children easily become gang members: Immigrant parents arrive in the United States and work long hours, leaving neglected children to develop their own “families” on the street.
Readers are left with the awareness that gangs are everywhere among us, that many members have jobs and families, that they can be invisible to the non-gang population and that violence is never far away.
David Hendricks is an Express-News business writer and columnist.