MS-13: The Making of America's Most Notorious Gang

November 1, 2020
MS-13: The Making of America's Most Notorious Gang

"A remarkable feat of reporting."—Rachel Louise Snyder,author of No Visible BruisesWINNER OF THE LUKAS PRIZEThe definitive account of the most notorious street gangin America—the MS-13—as seen through the lives of gang members andtheir families caught in its malicious webThe MS-13 was born from war. In the 1980s, El Salvador wasenmeshed in a bloody civil conflict. To escape the guerrillaassaults and death squads, many fled to the US and settled in LosAngeles. Among them were Alex and his brother.There, as a survival instinct, Alex and a small number ofSalvadoran immigrants formed a group called the Mara SalvatruchaStoners, a relatively harmless social network bound by heavy metalmusic and their Salvadoran identity. But later, as they brushedagainst established local gangs, the group took on a harder edge,selling drugs, stealing cars and killing rivals who threatenedtheir territories. As authorities cracked down, gang members likeAlex were incarcerated and deported. But in the prison system, thegroup only grew stronger, and in Central America, the gangmultiplied, eventually spreading to a half-dozen nations in twocontinents.Today, MS-13 is one of the most infamous street gangs on earth,with an estimated ten thousand members operating in dozens ofstates and linked to thousands of grisly murders each year in theUS and abroad. But it is also misunderstood—less a drug cartel andmore a hand-to-mouth organization whose criminal economy is basedmostly on small-time extortion schemes and petty drug dealing.Journalist and longtime organized crime investigator Steven Dudleybrings readers inside the nefarious group to tell a larger story ofhow a flawed US and Central American policy, and the exploitativeand unequal economic systems helped foster the gang and sustain it.Ultimately, MS-13 is the story of the modern immigrant and theperennial battle to escape a vortex of poverty and crime, as wellas the repressive, unequal systems that feed these problems.