Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as MS-13, is widely thought of as the most dangerous gang in the world. Formed in the 80s with mostly Salvadoran immigrants who came over seeking refuge from their own nation because of the civil war, their motto is “Kill, rape, control.” If that isn’t scary enough, just think about the fact that a lot of them have tattoos, not only all over their bodies also but all over their faces. They are known to be horrifically violent, both in the United States and in Central and Southern America. They prefer to use machetes and knives over guns so as to make their victims die a more painful death.
So in case you’re not quite getting what I’m saying, these guys are just freaky as all get out. They would not be scarier, in fact, if they were to meet up with a bunch of Crips and Bloods; there is no way that MS-13 would not be walking away as winners in a fight. I guess what I’m saying is, in a world of bad people that do bad things, these guys are pretty much the worst. So, of course, you probably want to know a bit more about them if only so you know who to avoid if you see them coming down the street.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About MS-13, the Most Dangerous Gang in the World
15. They Formed To Protect Themselves From Other Gangs
MS-13 started when a bunch of immigrants from El Salvador came to the United States in the 80s because of the civil war going on in their homeland. Many of them came to Los Angeles. These guys came from a lot of violence in their homeland, so they sure were not freaked out by the ghettos in California. There were a lot of Mexican gangs around that did not welcome them, so they had to prove how tough they were. They sure did. Mara means “gang,” Salva means they came from El Salvador, and Trucha means “clever.” They basically started their own gang and then got in tight with the Mexican mafia, and before long, everyone in Los Angeles knew who they were, which was not a good thing.
14. There Are 50,000 Gang Members In Multiple Countries And 42 US States
You might not think that there are any members of MS-13 living near you, but you would probably be wrong. The FBI says the gang has around 50,000 members worldwide and in 42 states. I have to tell you, that’s something that gives me a little pause. Are you kidding me? There are 50,000 of these dudes roaming around the world? I can tell you one thing right now: I am probably not going to leave my house until I know for certain that there aren’t any of them living anywhere near me — although I live in Maine, so a Salvadorian guy with a face tattoo would stick out here more than they would in most places. No matter how you slice it, these are scary dudes, and there are a lot of them.
13. They Made El Salvador the Murder Capital Of The World
Violence is what MS-13 is all about. People simply do not mess with them. As previously stated, they go by “mata, viola, controla” or, kill, rape, control. They don’t roll around with guns shooting at people from cars; they get out of the car, walk towards you, and hack you down with a machete. This is meant to be personal, and also, machetes cost way less than guns. There’s another gang in El Salvador called Barrio 18, and between the two gangs, they made El Salvador the murder capital of the world. Some people think that things are violent in the United States — while that may be true, the homicide rate in El Salvador is 22 times what the murder rate is in the United States. This is truly terrifying to think about.
12. They Focus On Human Trafficking
While they do a lot of dabbling in drugs, most of that is street level stuff. Where they really make a lot of their coin is through human trafficking as well as prostitution. They either recruit young female immigrants or runaways, or they just ship some women in from Central America and make them work for them as prostitutes. Nice guys, huh? While it may seem to be a lot of work, the whole thing is actually some pretty easy money for them. They spend nothing because they bring the girls in for free and pretty much keep them as slaves, so they have an enormous profit margin. While a lot of people don’t think that human trafficking is something that goes on very often, the reality of the situation is quite different.
11. Their Initiation Ritual Is Brutal
So you want to be a member of MS-13? Well, it isn’t easy. First of all, you have to murder a member of a rival gang. Even after you do that, other members still have to vote to decide whether or not you’re allowed to get in. Then, if they do decide you can be in the gang, they all beat you up while they slowly count to 13. So you know, you could kill someone to get in the gang and still not be allowed in. Sounds like quite an exclusive club, one that you probably don’t want to be in. Even after becoming a member, things can be rough. You can get a serious beating for small offenses, such as being drunk in public. And if you don’t backup your fellow gang members in a conflict, you get killed by your former homies.
10. They Went On A Killing Spree In Long Island
In Long Island, two teenage girls were murdered in a case that had something to do with the gang. They were beaten to death, and their bodies were found close to an elementary school. Local officials were a little freaked out. “The Suffolk County Police Department has announced its response: the arrest of what it said were 35 members of MS-13, a gang with roots in El Salvador and Los Angeles that has long been terrorizing the Long Island town. ‘It’s a significant percentage,’ Timothy Sini, the Suffolk police commissioner, said in an interview on Friday. ‘This is not 1 percent — this is a major shot against the criminal enterprise.'” These guys all over Long Island is not something that residents there want to think about.
9. When Some Gang Members Were Deported, It Made Them International
Ironically, the reason that the gang spread throughout the world was in large part because so many of them were deported back to their own countries. After committing so much crime here in the United States, our government decided to send them back to their countries of origin; they deported over 20,000 of them. Of course, when they went back to their homelands after growing up as kids together in the United States, they tended to stick together when they got back home. And when I say they “stick together,” what I mean is that they just continued their gang activities back home. This makes sense because when they all arrive back home together, they need some protection, of course.
8. Their Rivalry With Another Gang Resulted In 16 Murders A Day
As I previously mentioned, the one group that messes with MS-13 is a gang called Barrio 18 in El Salvador. Now, let’s think about this: why would you possibly want to be in a gang war with these guys? I mean, I guess it would be better than just letting them slaughter you and murder you all the time, but still, I think I would just get as far away as possible from these guys. At one point, the two gangs called a truce, but that didn’t last particularly long. One brutal period of battle between the two gangs lasted for a month, and 16 people were murdered a day. Let me repeat that: every day for a month, 16 people were murdered. That’s a crazy amount of violence; no wonder they’re so feared.
7. Many Are So Violent Because They’re Trained in War
A lot of the members of the MS-13 gang trained for and fought in the civil war in their homeland before coming to the United States. This is, in part, what made them so tough and so hard to deal with. The level of violence perpetrated by gangs in the United States was nothing to them; they had seen so much worse where they were from initially. To them, walking right up to someone and killing them was really not that big of a deal. Los Angeles gang members would roll all around, acting tough and posturing, while these guys were already used to killing people and not even blinking an eye. It’s no wonder that they soon became one of the scariest gangs in the history of the world.
6. They Have Their Own Prison
So this is when you know that the gang that you’re a part of is truly tough — when you get your very own prison. There are no guards whatsoever inside of the prison as they would all be killed. They just throw a bunch of members of MS-13 inside, and the Salvadoran army guards it from the outside. The gang has its own prison because they would just kill any other inmate as well as any guard that was put inside. It was built for 800 inmates, but there are close to 3,000 that live there. Inmates in the prison all have certain jobs, such as cooks, carpenters, and nurses. So basically, your punishment as a gang member is to live in a prison with other gang members, which isn’t all that fun, of course, but for these guys, not too bad.
5. They Get You Back if You Rat on Them
It probably should go without saying: do not rat on these dudes. If you do, things will come back to you rather quickly and in a really bad way. Brenda Paz ran away to join the MS-13 when she was a teenager; that was her first mistake. She later testified against them in a murder trial and was put into the witness protection program. For some reason, she decided to leave that and went back to hang out with friends. Soon, her body was found next to a river. It really makes one wonder why anyone would ever snitch on these guys. The old saying “Snitches get stitches” is one thing, but when these guys come at you, the odds are you’re going to get a whole lot more than stitches if you rat on them.
4. They Treat Women Awfully
It probably already goes without saying that these dudes are not that cool to women. With a motto like “kill, rape, control,” that’s kind of a given. Women don’t get beaten up to be in the gang; they just have to sleep with everyone. Once in the gang, their primary role is to carry drugs as women are not as suspicious as men when it comes to such things. Still though, it seems that 20 percent of the members of the gang are women. Of course, if they try to leave, they usually are murdered, although now that I think of it, the gang probably murders guys that try to leave as well. At least in this one way, there’s no discrimination between men and women in MS-13
3. Their Tattoos Have Meaning
So, what’s up with all of those tattoos? While, of course, a big part of it is to make them incredibly freaky-looking, a lot of them also tell a story of who the person is, both as an individual and as part of the gang. There are lots of spider webs and symbolisms that are supposed to show the conflict inside the good and evil sides of the members. The number 13 is also pretty symbolic. So in reality, these guys are not all that different than the tattooed hipster in your local coffee shop, the one you see in the morning making your latte; they both have tattoos to show the world who they are. The only real difference is that the hipster will almost certainly not kill you.
2. They Want To Phase Out Face Tattoos So The Cops Won’t Know Who They Are
There’s one rather obvious question about all the tattoos, though: if you’re running a criminal enterprise of any sort, do you really want to make a huge point out of the fact that you’re a criminal? Apparently, not so much anymore. According to dailycaller.com, “Numerous interviews on the ground in Central America suggest that MS-13 and other groups are limiting their tattoos and even encouraging some members to avoid them now. As the groups have ‘professionalized’ and are less focused on the community element of local gang membership. This pragmatic step of avoiding tattoos has made the gangs more difficult to detect.” Makes sense. What’s the use of looking all tough if the cops suspect you of everything all the time?
1. They Use Devil Horns Because Of Metal
Do MS-13 members really make these hand gestures because of metal? Well, obviously not, but still, the gang sign of the devil horns is a result of the fact that early members of the gang were just a bunch of dudes hanging around on street corners throwing devil horns around. Once the ultra-violent young guys showed up from the Salvadoran civil war, things changed a bit. The old guys are not around anymore, but one thing that has not changed is the devil’s horn symbol. What’s kind of funny about that, I mean, if anything about this gang could be considered funny, is that symbol has long been thought of as kind of a cheesy way for white kids at the mall to show how tough they are. Let’s not confuse these guys for them, though. Members of MS-13 really are tough.