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July 11th, 2006
18 with a Bullet
Introduction

ABOUT THE ISSUE

In San Salvador, El Salvador, 2,000 miles from Los Angeles’s Eighteenth Street, a gang known as “18″ governs its territory like an armed militia. In the mid 1990s, thousands of Salvadoran nationals living illegally in the U.S. were deported to their homeland. Some brought L.A. gang culture back with them to a country beset by poverty and awash in arms. Organizing support for gang members in need, meting out justice to those who would defy the gang’s code and waging an endless vendetta against its enemies, 18 is helping to make El Salvador one of the most violent and crime-ridden countries in the world.

ABOUT THE FILM

WIDE ANGLE’s film, 18 with a Bullet, follows the life of this notorious Central American gang for six months. By the end of the film, most of the gang members profiled – Slappy, Sochi, and 18-year old Travieso – are in jail serving long sentences for their crimes.

For the summer 2008 re-broadcast, WIDE ANGLE follows the film with an update that tells another side of this transnational story. Like many Salvadoran gang members, Travieso was separated from his mother when she went north to find work in the United States.

Today, she runs a successful cleaning business in the U.S. and holds a temporarily legal immigration status, but her sacrifices and the remittances sent home have not managed to give Travieso the better life she had dreamed for him. This mother’s story paints a nuanced portrait of one immigrant’s experience and the sometimes heartbreaking difficulties of life stretched across borders.

  • bush will

    its good topic to generate new idea, gang culture back with them to a country awash in arms – remnants of a recently-ended civil war. By recruiting thousands of local small age.
    _______________________
    bush
    Wide Circles

  • ashu

    This is really interesting some of the returnees brought L.A. gang culture back with them to a country awash in arms.

    ————————————————–

    animesh

    Wide Circles

  • Vonnie

    …brought LA gang culture back with them…I thought it was the other way around. Organized crime, terroist groups, GANGS did not start in LA; what saddens me is that local law enforcement seems to be playing catch-up. I’m a transplant from the west coast and now live in the midwest…brown gangs are quietly growing while law enforcement concentrate on the black gangs. While I lived out west-the brown gangs were always complaining that the black gangs got all the press..which is still true today. The young lives that these gangs destroy is truly a threat to national security. Where are the missionaires when u need them

  • max hess

    this is one of the saddest things ive seen.kids are learning to be killers!

  • Lisa

    In response to Vonnie. LA may not have started gangs but let’s not be oblivious about the reality. Gangs are a result of social alliances not race. There are gangs of every “color” Black, Latino, and Asian gangs as well as White (yes). If we focus on what the roots are, economic and social factors, we can understand how to fix the problem.

  • Jon

    No one should ever feel sorry for any gang member. When these gangs get press; the viewers see ignorant children running around without parental care. They need to start treating them like terrorists. Waterboard and torture them to get infomation to bring the gang down.

  • miriam

    Oh I can’t wait for this one to air. Sounds interesting.

  • Gerri in DC

    “Many of the gang members grew up without their parents” and that is the problem!

    This is what immigrants pick up when the come to the US – black gang cultute: beating up and killing people. They don’t pick up something good, no. This shows how the majority of the human race is composed of idiots who do Monkey See Monkey Do. Even though the behavior is immoral, evil and sick they do it because that is what sick black people do in the US. All followers with a pea brain. No leaders and no intelligence. Just follow the crowd, evil idiots going through the motions. Really depraved!

  • Jan

    In response to Gerri:
    There are gangs of every color and culture in the US, including white. Seems that you need some education about what is going on in the US. The reality is that having a callous attitude toward life is not confined to one cultural group.

  • Pep K

    Geri in DC gangs are not a black thing, there are gangs worldwide and gangs of all races here in the United States you just don’t hear about them as much. Gangs probably have been in the world since time immemorial when one group of humans fought power against another.

  • Sam

    @ Gerri

    What do you mean “black gang culture”??? 18th street gang doesn’t have anything to do with “black gang culture” in the U.S. it was formed way back in the 60’s…I don’t even know how to make sense of your comment really…and except for that one guy none of those other guys has ever stepped foot in the U.S. in fact the documentary is not even filmed in the U.S…in your eyes I would imagine the Italian mafia also picked up on “what sick black people do in the US” as well…there are gangs all over this world.

  • Catherine

    A fascinating documentary in exposing the tragic consequences of historical colonialism and capitalist imperialism that has cursed Central and South America for decades. The bleak and painful reality of today’s El Salvador, where parents are forced to travel to faraway places to seek work, while they leave their children behind, is a shameful reminder of the grotesquely uneven distribution of wealth in the developed world and an unfortunate widespread acceptance to blame the victims of poverty and despair rather than tackle the causes of poverty. When watching this documentary, the young men all seemed like young lost boys who were trying to create a different reality then the one that was painfully familiar. These poor boys were trying to be like the adults who were missing in their lives, by making up rules and codes of conduct and disciplining those who broke those rules. The most heartbreaking realization for me was that the boys were willing to go along with killing, if it meant that they got the attention and admiration of their peers. Even when Slappy was arrested he was upbeat because he was in jail with his buddies. My fear for Slappy would be that he would find out sooner or later that he couldn’t rely on his friends for support. I got the impression that Slappy was resigned to his life of crime and despair. It seemed that these boys were trying to gain a sense of self worth, belonging and love by becoming part of a gang and its particular brand of fraternal and familial bonding. What was very devastating to watch was the phone call made by Diego to his mother, which clearly showed how much Diego needed a real adult, his mother, to take care of him. Also Slappy’s attention to a respectable haircut as a way of fooling the police, was a sad portrayal of an impressionable naive yet charming young man who you know is going to get caught eventually. Despite their outward bravado and reckless and violent behaviour, these boys seemed acutely vulnerable. I don’t know how anyone watching this couldn’t feel enormous empathy and sympathy for these boys and outrage for those circumstances that led these childern to join gangs, as a subsitute for the love and nuturing they deserve and need from caring adults. I applaud all those who reach out to help these boys and I thank the documentary makers for putting a spotlight on an issue that demands alot of attention.

  • Craig

    I have friends heading to El Salvador as missionaries, and this film made what they are facing all too real. Where is the future for El Salvador with a post-civil war generation with no moral compass? They talk about respect, but only after they beat the snot out of someone (at best), or after they kill someone (at worst). Children having children, and children growing up without families. Eventually one of the gangs will get big enough to buy or take the government, then use the army to try to wipe out the other gangs, leading to yet another civil war.

  • lydia

    All the comments are interesting,after watching this documentary for the first time last night,I perceive the root cause of what is happening in El Salvador and around the world,as the destruction of humanity that began the Garden of Eden. The same enemy of mankind,satan himself is still waging war and using the tools of his trade to destroy as many as he can,poverty and hatred are his common weapons that spawn all kinds wickedness. With the deconstruction of the family unit over the generations for prime example: By the removal of a strong Father figure gone of to war, and the removal of a loving nurturing mother who now has to find work in the absence of her husband.This trend set in place through generations,ultimately chipping away at the stability,and structure of family.Often times ,leaving vulnerable children to grow up without any nurturing adult supervision, these children in turn because of the empty void inside seek a means to fill what was stolen from them,the comfort,love,support and stability of a family.
    They find this in their gang family and their “homies” with this counterfeit family they have adopted the strategies of satan,which are to crush, kill,and destroy.
    And now we have humans hating humans and killing each other For the sake of the “Family”. satan doesn’t care who wins he is only concerned destroying and his desire ,which is death to all mankind.
    This is a spiritual war that is being waged, satans goal is to undermone humanity by any evil means necessary and ignorance of the truth is what keeps the killing wheels turning, as mankind ignorantly and unwittingly continues to offer up plenty of it’s young boys and girls, men and women as misguided martyrs.

  • Travis

    Why does social responsibility end when one is making a documentary? The death of the fruit vendor at the end of the film could have been entirely avoided had Mr. Pollack put down his camera and acted as a human being, not as a documentary filmaker. Ricardo Pollack, you are just as guilty in that man’s death as the people you were filming. Shame on you!! You could have prevented it.

  • A Self Educated-Filipino

    ” It’s Unfortunate, But The Bottom Line Is, It’s Human Nature… We Are All-Guilty…

  • marta

    well i am from el salvador i was borned their but raies here in the u.s.a. and i do not know alot about in el salvador but i think that us like people we should not be judgement to people we don’t know because some of them come to change like better jobs,& to be better for there family.the goverment should help the people who kids to come to the u.s and do better for threr kids so the violences can st stop .& the gangs wouldnt have kids in there beause it just cause them prison,& death. & for those parent who come to the u.s and make a new family here and forget about there kids in el salvador is not right you should feel a shame of your self because all kids need the same love form here and there too.

  • the rational animal

    to Travis: I remember there being a caption reading ‘police video’ when they showed the incident of the food vendor and Slappy. Meaning that Mr. Pollack was not there or in any way involved (or uninvolved as you put it). Accusing somebody of something like that is very serious, be careful.

  • lydia

    To Travis and myself: It is easy to say what should have been done,in the absence of actually being there,and not knowing all the facts.It is easy to judge someone else for their actions or lack of,but how often due we check ourselves in any given situation and our moral/social/conscience involvement in the moments of everyday living? For example what if the scenario was different;, Instead of a food vendor being shot on the streets of El Salvador. How about right here on the streets of America. (I have seen this often), A young Mother,or Father usually around 18 -24 years old, with a small child anywhere from toddler to age 5. In a supermarket, parking lot,local street or local park,or just about anywere. The child does something minor to irritate the parent, and out the parents mouth spew a litany of profanity,all hurled at this small child,usually ending with a sure guarantee to inflict physical harm.I am sure I am not the only one who has witnessed this and heard parents cursing their own children,but how many people have stepped in and intervened on behalf of this child,during this public assault?A crime has been committed and their are dozens of eyewitnesses. This may be viewed as no where near the scale as an actual shooting and murder,but it is.And we the viewer how willing are we to get involved? Are we innocent bystanders in this trajedy? I think the majority of us,internally are appalled,but that doesn’t translate into action.Instead we turn and walk the other way.It is easy in retrospect,and in the comfort of our living rooms to say what someone else should have done. We all need to practice the right attitude and actions in the little things, so that when the big things come along we are more apt to do the right thing. I know for a fact,it is difficult at the end of the day to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our own actions when we haven’t been practicing what we preach.

  • Roselie

    Hi I was in a hurry from work to go home to watch the Series but couldn’t find the channel who knows if they will replay it again and when. I found this topic very interesting but miss it. I have Rocky Mountain PBS Denver Colorado channel only. Help thank You.

  • rich

    “Gangs” Why is there not a law against being in one? I know it sounds simple, but is it? To be in a “gang” basically means this person has lost all regard for what is good, so why wait until he kills someone to realize that? Get all the people that are convicted of gang crime put them all on one island with one fully loaded gun each and let them shot each other to death, it sure bets letting them run in the streets of our cities because they do that as it is.

  • Jessica

    I have not seen the documentary but as often happens, some of the comments I see are disparaging because of the ignorance they display. I’m no preacher but I can’t bite my tongue.

    To Catherine: You are absolutely right about everything you wrote in your comment. I couldn’t agree more.

    I’ve grown up and still reside in a neighborhood where gang activity goes on. From what I see, it is tame compared to the documentary, but it is still a problem, and I have learned from experts that many gang members suffer from learning disabilities or learning difficulty. I had no idea, but it appears to be a large determinant of gang involvement. Added to well documented factors like socioeconomic status and dysfunctional family life. When people join gangs they do so out of a desire to belong to a family of sorts where the welfare of each other is looked out for and academic merit is not a determinant for approval. I think that by labeling members as evil or by reducing them to the crimes they’ve committed we fail to understand the larger context of their lives and effectively -dehumanize- them. Since those coming from a privileged position in life can only limitedly comprehend the oppressive circumstances -almost entirely out of their control- that lead them to imprisonment and worse.

  • Max

    Men from a young age need to be taught self sufficiency skills through small scale farming and construction. The problem of gangs will only get worse in all cities of the world until men are taught these skills and encouraged to move back to country areas all over the world as was society for thousands of years. CITIES ARE GOING TO BE THE FINAL DOWNFALL OF ALL MANKIND unless people reverse it and move out into the country and go back to small scale farming, construction and self sufficiency skills.

  • Cali

    YAY!!! i cant wait to see the updated documentary and see what happened after the film stopped rolling. and the travesio’s mothers story. i’ve been waiting to see what happened to them and i am from new zealand but now living in australia, and have watched all the storys from duke,charlie and traveiso n co, and slappys. and cant wait to see this one!

  • C.E

    I would like to congratulate you on a honest and very educational program. I really do not watch much television but when I do I like take advantage of this time and try and get the most of it. “Wide Angle” has always provided a very in depth look at our current issues, providing a true an honest perspective to the current problems affecting our society.

    The episode “18 with a bullet” is very troublesome and discouraging to me. Both my wife and I are first generation American’s, our parents were born and raised in Mexico. They came to this country, like many other nationalities looking for work and a better life, opportunity and thru many struggles and hard work they realized their dream and gave their children (My Wife, her siblings, my sister and I) a gift (educational opportunities) that we could never have reached in their home country. Mexico is no different that any other third world government; only the rich can afford to be educated. Obviously, I don’t have to tell you that is to their best interest .

    But, thru the hard work and the sacrifice of our parents, determination and the dedication of my wife and I were able to get an advanced degree’s. There are very good odds, we could have never done this on our parent’s home country of Mexico. So when I see my follow Latin/Haspanic country men throw away their life and talents is very trouble some and discouraging scene.

    There is no doubt that there are many other factors that contribute to this behavior (I have lived thru some it myself) but our great nation and mother land provides opportunities for all. It is us as individual to make a conscious decision towards our future. I still see a waste of human penitential, life and contribution to society. I am 40yrs old Hispanic and I understand there are no easy answers but individual attitude and determination is still a powerful that moves mountains or obstacles in your way to a productive life.

    Again, great program!

    Texas

  • ce

    I would like to congratulate you on a honest and very educational program. I really do not watch much television but when I do I like take advantage of this time and try and get the most of it. “Wide Angle” has always provided a very in depth look at our current issues, providing a true an honest perspective to the current problems affecting our society.

    The episode “18 with a bullet” is very troublesome and discouraging to me. Both my wife and I are first generation American’s, our parents were born and raised in Mexico. Like many other immigrants, they came to this country looking for work and a better life, opportunity. Thru many struggles and hard work they realized their dream and gave their children (My Wife, her siblings, my sister and I) a gift (educational opportunities) that we could never have reached in their home country. Mexico is no different that any other third world government; only the rich can afford to be educated. Obviously, I don’t have to tell you that is to their best interest.

    But, thru the hard work and the sacrifice of our parents, determination and the dedication of my wife and I were able to get an advanced degree’s. There are very good odds, we could have never done this on our parent’s home country of Mexico. So when I see my follow Latin/Haspanic country men throw away their life and talents is very trouble some and discouraging scene.

    There is no doubt that there are many other factors that contribute to this behavior (I have lived thru some it myself) but our great nation and mother land provides opportunities for all. It is us as individual to make a conscious decision towards our future. I still see a waste of human penitential, life and contribution to society. I am 40yrs old Hispanic and I understand there are no easy answers but individual attitude and determination is still a powerful enough to move mountains or for that matter any other obstacles in your way to a productive life.

    Again, great program!

    Texas

    *************grammer correction***************

  • cestrada@live.com

    Aaron

    I’m not sure if you read this directly or you have a staff to this weed this out, or for that matter you don’t my suggestion posted but here but I think you should look into what happening with the Juarez cartel.

    I live in the border of USA and Mexico (Juarez). In 2008 there has been a turf war between the drug cartels from Juarez and Sinaloa, affecting both commerce (NAFTA) and lives on both sides of the border. Over 900 lives have been lost in a matter of 9 months (do the math). The Mexican government is helpless and can not deal with the cartels. Obviously, who over controls the border, controls the distribution into the US. I would like to know both sides and perspectives to this issue. This is not related to street gangs but the impact to our future generation, productivity and security is crucial. How will each presidential candidate deal w/the reality of the situation? Can it be stopped? Who has more to gain by the current actions? Can the distribution of narcotics from Mexico be controlled or reduced? Are the Mexican authorities doing everything they can or they part of the problem and involved?

    The Mexican armed forced have brought to Juarez several months ago but there has been little to no impact or change, the violence continues … why? Is Felipe Calderon loosing the battle against the Cartels? Are there reasons why the Mexican Government can’t bring closure? (who else is involved). What is the US (home land Security doing to protect us… you and I and our children..etc).

    What is DEA saying, what are they planning? Again, I’m Mexican/American but there is WAR on our backyard. Do we just watch and do nothing? We went Iraq, why wouldn’t we defend our borders?

    A thought.

  • walter

    This is a reflection the world’s society. People here in America should be proud of how are government is for the most part. All these kids are doing in this video is surviving. This is how it is in Africa, Europe, and Asia. People need to open their eyes to the real world not everyone gets welfare in other countries. This video only was a small window to a more corrupt world out there. This should make some people appreciate what they have. The human mind is all about survival and this gang is demonstrating how any person can revert easily to this instinct. This gang is all that these kids know they have no been else to go. They even said their tattoos will not get them a job anywhere if they wanted to get out. These young kids mind are still developing but their hard life style is a hole they can never get out of once they are in it. These kids are look by society as evil so they are going to live up to it. This film is what more people need to see just how real life is and not some fantasy of a person with a nine to five job and having a nice house. the gang knows that they might only live till they are twenty because if they weren’t in a gang who will protect them from getting killed by both gangs. This whole video is about survival.

  • Petar

    In the 1-st part of th emovie (about the youngest member of 18)at the end there is an instrumental, a bit jazzy, rhythmic.. cool stuff. Can you tell me who plays this track?

  • m.s.g.

    many people dont understand this. but i do. i came from this. my family has gotten into lots of trouble. it isnt just because of the color. but because of what they went though and for our family it was generation to generation

  • Jason

    Another example of how pathetic people are. I really don’t care what the gangs do to each other in the other countries. If they make it our problem then we send in the troops. I also think the U.S. is to soft in dealing with that type of problem here. Shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to them. They don’t need to be in jail they need to be destroyed. I had some gang member try and intimidate me once. I just told him I had been in the Army and there was no “gang” bigger or badder than mine. He could mess with the best and die like the rest. He was no different than any other type of terrorist as far as I am concerned. Maybe worse because he was an American.

  • upstate california

    WELL THIS IS FOR THE IGNORENT PPL WHO THINK THEY KNOW WHAT GOES ON IN THESE PPL’S LIVES… TRY TO TALK TO ONE TRY TO BE THERE BECAUSE THEY END UP THIS WAY FOR A REASON… THEY LOOK FOR LOVE THAT IS NOT GIVEN TO THEM WHERE THEY FIND IT IN THE STREETS WITH MEMBERS WHO HAVE THE SAME PROBLEMS OR HAVE BEEN IN THEIR SHOES KNOW WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH, THATS WHEN THEY START TO GET DEEPER INTO THE GANG BECAUSE THEY START TO CARE FOR EACH OTHER NOT ALL ARE LIKE THAT MOST ARE ONE MAN FOR HIM SELF AND DONT CARE ABOUT THE REST THESE KIDS LOOK FOR ATTENTION, THEY WANT TO FORGET ABOUT THE EMPTY SPACE INSIDE IF WE HAD PEOPLE WILLING TO KEEP PUSHING AND HELP THESE KIDS MANY WOULD BE SAVED BEFORE IT GETS TO LATE GIVE THEM A REASON TO DO GOOD GIVE THEM MODIVATION AND THEY WILL WORK FOR IT! UNFORTUNATLY WE HAVE TOO MANY PPL IN THIS WORLD THAT THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN THE REST AND THAT THESE PPL ARE BAD DEEP DOWN INSIDE THEY HAVE FEELINGS TOO THAT THEY HAVE BEEN SHOVING DOWN TO PROVE THAT THEY ARE STRONG. IF WE WERE TO PUNISH THE ONES THAT DO THINGS WRONG OR HURT PEOPLE IN SOME WAY EVERYBODY WOULD BE PUNISHED NOBODY IS INNOCENT IM NOT TRYING TO DEFEND GANG MEMBERS BUT THEY ARE HUMAN TOO YA MANY HAVE BEEN IN IT SO LONG THEY KNOW NOTHING ELSE THEY ARE SICK IN THE HEAD BUT THATS BECAUSE NO ONE WAS ABLE TO HELP THEM “THEY ARE HARD HEADED” THEY WILL PUSH YOU AWAY TO SEE HOW FAR YOUR GOING TO GET WITH THEM TO SEE HOW FAST YOU GIVE UP ON THEM!

  • george from L A

    poor travieso’slappy’sochi’hey thank you for the great job you did’can u please tell me what ever happen to DUKE another thing be carefull when u r filming remember what happen to christian poveda the juy that film VIDA LOCA”good luck to you and keep up the good work”

  • George Washington

    The US government created this monster by waging a terrorist campaign against El Salvador in the 80’s. Before you assume the US was justified in its tactics, learn more about what was done to the people: it crosses into the demonic. The US is responsible, but that does not address the issue at hand, which is ‘What is to be done?’.

    Educate yourself, face your fears, learn and change yourself, knowing about these atrocities helps me make educated choices, and sometimes there is no easy answer, but there is something each of us to do, and that is become the best person you can. Facing these things is motivation. If you don’t educate yourself, at least understand that you are in a weakened condition, and that your opinion mirrors that weakness.

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Chomsky/ChomOdon_ElSalvador.html

  • igor

    do enybody know what the last song is on this documentary,i ma looking for this thing very long time

  • hank rivra

    Well in the streets were enemies but there also a lot like my friends.we all talk the same feel the same act the same morn the same,and its true that the life we lead is one out of the ordinary.

  • Day-Day

    I heard that Travieso from the documentary was shot and killed about a year or 2 ago near Chalatenango, El Salvador….it sucks because of his situation..he might of been a gang member, but all he wanted was to be w/ his mother….my thoughts and prayers to his family…there should be more documentaries done to see how they are doing..

  • nicole

    o my god are you sure travieso is dead where did you read that or hear that plz give me the link so i can read it to
    i feel so sad for this boys they where just children

  • nicole

    are you sure travieso is dead where did you read that or hear that can you give me the link from the site where you read that i feel so sad for his familie o my god

  • Enrique

    For Igor:

    Last song is on the documentary is: Brian Eno “An Ending (Ascent)

  • Dennis Cañénguez

    What is Charlie & Sochi up to nowadays?

  • bon

    what happened to charlie, sochi,and diego-travieso,,i really think we neeed another 2011 update there is alot of people interested to know about them nowdays,,,

  • doc.fan

    Does anyone know the name of the song they were singing for the dead member ?

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