I am not talking here of the famous, and in El Salvador revered, Salarue's Cuentos de Cipotes. I am writing about cuentos or stories penned by cipotes, kids, who for innumerable circumstances have been dragged into La Vida Loca or life in the infamous Salvadoran gangs. As such these stories and poems are as valuable as Salarue's stories in capturing life, raw, as is, on the streets of El Salvador.
I discovered the work of the Cuentame Project from New America Media. The project describes their work as, "an initiative focused on improving the emotional health of incarcerated girl in the youth detention center in Ilopango, San Salvador, El Salvador." The writers come from the "Rosa Viginia" Juvenile detention center in Chalatenango for young women and El Centro Espino in Ahuachapan for young men.
"Cuentame con quien andas y te dire quien eres," goes the popular saying. In English that is something like, "Tell me who you hang out with and I'll tell you who you are." The cipotes on the pages of the Cuentame blog tell us exactly who they are and who they hang out with and why.
They write about their lives surviving the streets, trying to find love and respect in gangs. These youth might otherwise be called a "lost generation." But they are not lost, they are very much part of every day life in El Salvador. This is the first time I read about them not as a number, a statistic on some report about the debilitating gang issue in El Salvador, instead here I read their own powerful voices full of longing and truth.
I am including a link for the article in New America Media and a link for the Proyecto Cuentame blog.
New America Media. Voices of El Salvador's incarcerated youth
Blog del Proyecto Cuentame/ The Cuentame Project