Nannies of El Salvador
The investigative journalists at Revista Factum are reporting on anther way that gangs intimately control the lives of people who live in gang controlled neighborhoods. Young women are being forced to raise the children of gang members who are in prison. They are involuntary "nannies" raising children not their own, on pain of death if they do not obey.
A shortened form of the RevistaFactum article was translated into English at InsightCrime. Here is an excerpt:
Tony’s “nanny” is very young. She has to care for a child of the gang who is already behaving like he’s part of it. She never wanted to have him in her care, but now has to raise him as her own son while following the rules of others.
Marcela can’t speak freely. If she wants to move to a new house, she has to ask the gang for permission. If she wants to take Tony somewhere far away, she has to inform the “palabrero” or gang leader for the area. If Tony goes out to play with the gang members, she can’t do anything to stop him.
Marcela lays Tony down in her lap and puts him to sleep. She strokes his hair and fans him with her hands to cool him down. She concedes with a smile that one of the things he likes most is hearing stories about his father from the gang members.
Of all of the children the gang has assigned to “nannies” in this neighborhood, Tony is the clearest example of the problems these children can have after being abandoned by their parents and left under the care of a stranger.
Tony at four years old does not have documentation. No birth certificate or any other paperwork. His only identification is the name that Marcela and the homeboys call him. Faced with this, his new mother doesn’t know what to do.Authorities in El Salvador want to argue that they are winning the battle against the gangs because homicide totals in El Salvador have declined somewhat the past two years. But this emphasis on the body count is overly simplistic. If the gangs are not warring against each other, but are instead concentrating on exercising their control over their own individual territories, the death toll declines, but the terror and the intimidation that people in marginalized communities feel continue and may even be increasing. As long as neighborhoods exist throughout El Salvador where young women can be forced to act as gang nannies, where gang boundaries are enforced by pain of death, and where each little home-based tienda must pay "la renta," the battle to provide security for struggling communities of El Salvador is not being won.