In Ilopango, El Salvador, a truce between two violent street gangs is holding–thanks to a bakery. Approximately 20 members of the 18th Street Gang opened a bakery in the town, located several miles east of the capital. The gangsters-turned-bakers work out of a converted 400-square-foot home that has electricity but no running water. Agence France-Presse quoted one baker, Oscar Vasquez, as saying “By making bread, we have hope for a better future […] If you put an effort into it and work hard, you can help your family, even though it’s not a lot of money.”
The 18th Street Gang, also known as Barrio 18, entered into a truce with arch-rivals MS-13 in 2012; both organizations are violent multinational criminal enterprises with dual roots in the United States and El Salvador. Following El Salvador’s civil war, violent gang clashes took place both domestically and in the Salvadoran diaspora for years. In Los Angeles, a similar project called Homeboy Industries teaches baking and small business skills to hundreds of felons.
[Image: Flickr user Rapidtravelchai]