It is illegal to carry a knife in public without a reasonable explanation.
I was 16 and had just been initiated into the most powerful gang, MS-13. My family came from Guatemala, and I lost my mother to cancer when I was 6.
I gritted my teeth so I didn’t scream out in pain while they beat me. When they find your weakness, they go all the way in. My father died of cancer when I was 14 going on 15. I was back and forth between their houses and after a while, I just really wanted to be alone. Before MS-13, I belonged to a clique called Latinos For Life.
Stabbing others became something very normal for me. At the beginning I felt bad but then I got comfortable with my emotions.
We knew when people who worked in the vineyards or farms would get their paychecks and we went after their cash.
If any one of us ever felt that we were in danger from another gang, such as the Bloods, help was only a phone call away. Sometimes when we wanted to find out if people were snitching on us we would summon the devil. I had the opportunity to take care of those who snitched on me, but I didn’t want to.
I never got to the point where I wanted to kill anyone.
Moments later, I was in so much pain I could barely stand up. Hurting others made me feel invincible, like nothing is against you. My younger sisters — they were 10 and 14 at the time — were put in foster homes. That’s when MS-13 said, “Come join us.” I knew who they were. They knew my parents were dead, and they started to hang out with me and made me feel good. We started it in middle school and we got so big that the MS-13 guys said we had to join them or be against them.
If you have sadness inside you, it makes you happy. I actually wanted to join because I felt that I would have more power in MS-13. We used violence to send a message, to make it known that we were in control, to tell you not to step on our turf.
Your child child might feel pressure to follow friends who are in a gang. By recognising the signs and seeking help, you could take a positive step towards changing the course of your child's life.