History of Gangs in Central America

Central America is a region that has been plagued by violence and social unrest for decades. One of the primary drivers of this violence has been the presence of gangs, which have proliferated throughout the region over the past several decades. In this blog post, we will explore the history of gangs in Central America, including their origins, evolution, and impact on the region.

The Origins of Gangs in Central America

Gangs in Central America can trace their origins back to the civil wars and political upheavals that swept through the region during the 1980s and 1990s. These wars displaced millions of people, many of whom migrated to the United States to escape the violence and poverty of their home countries. Over time, many of these migrants formed loosely organized groups as a means of protection and social support.

The seeds of modern gangs in Central America were planted in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s. The two most notorious gangs to emerge from this era were the Bloods and Crips, but many other smaller gangs also emerged. These gangs were predominantly made up of young men from Central America, many of whom had been forced to flee their homes due to political and economic instability.

The Evolution of Gangs in Central America

As the Central American diaspora expanded throughout the United States, so too did the influence of gangs. These loosely organized groups began to take on more structure and hierarchy, ultimately evolving into the highly organized and violent gangs that are now prevalent throughout the region.

One of the most notorious gangs to emerge from this period was MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha. MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s and has since spread throughout Central America and other parts of the world. The gang is known for its brutal tactics, including murder, extortion, and other forms of violent crime. Over time, MS-13 has become deeply entrenched in many Central American communities, wielding significant economic and political power.

The Impact of Gangs on Central America

The impact of gangs on Central America has been devastating. These groups have been responsible for thousands of deaths and have contributed to a climate of fear and violence throughout the region. Gang violence has also had a significant economic impact, with businesses and individuals routinely extorted by gang members in exchange for protection.

Furthermore, the presence of gangs has contributed to widespread migration from Central America. Many people leave the region to escape the violence and poverty associated with gang activity. This has had a ripple effect on the social and economic fabric of Central American countries, leading to brain drain and a lack of economic development.


The history of gangs in Central America is a complex and troubling one. These groups have emerged as a response to social and economic marginalization, but have ultimately contributed to a culture of violence and instability that continues to plague the region. Addressing the root causes of gang activity is crucial to addressing the issues that have driven so many people from their homes and communities. Without a concerted effort to address this issue, the cycle of violence and instability in Central America is likely to continue unabated.

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