As gang violence continues to rage in Central America, younger and younger teen girls are marrying into the gang life.
Aid organizations in Central America claim anecdotal evidence gathered in the past five years points to an increase in young girls marrying into the gang lifestyle, in order to escape drug-fueled gang violence and organized crime, Reuters reported.
“We are seeing and hearing that increasing numbers of girls are getting married and coupled to seek protection from gang violence and intimation from gangs,” Amanda Rives, Latin America advocacy director for the charity World Vision, told Reuters.
The countries noted in the article are El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, which have been overrun by brutal gangs like MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatruchas, as well as their rivals the 18th Street Gang, also known as MS-18 or Barrio 18.
The rivalry between these two gangs has led to an ever-rising death toll that spiked even higher late last year, when a gang truce ended, setting off hundreds of murders per month in those countries.
“Having a partner in a gang can be perceived as something that is much safer than being on the street alone. Girls do it out of fear,” Alejandra Colom, the senior director at the Population Council in Guatemala, is quoted by Reuters. “Dating the top dog, whether it’s the guy on the soccer team or the leader of the gang, gives a girl some status and this is related to protection and relative – and temporary – power.”
In a similar fashion, anecdotal cases from Mexico point to the narco life luring young girls into marrying or living with drug traffickers. Unlike the cases in Central and South America where the girls marry for protection, in Mexico it appears that the marriages are out of convenience, to strengthen alliances… and to acquire a fast, flashy lifestyle of luxury.
One of the most famous cases of an older narco marrying a young woman took place in 2007, when the world’s most powerful capo at the time, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, was believed to have been about 47 years old when he married 18-year-old Emma Coronel, the daughter of a top capo.