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July 11th, 2006
18 with a Bullet


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.


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.

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