Only the Good Die Young

I grew up in Northern Virginia, in a town right next to Alexandria and gang violence was always in the newspaper, on the evening news broadcast, or talked about in schools. That is why this article, “Simmering Gang Feud Erupted in Va. Teen’s Slaying,” hit home for me. Starting in the early 1990s, gang violence among Salvadoran refugees in Alexandria became an increasing problem, ultimately leading to Kelvin Alvarez’s death. In this Washington Post article, the fight was said to be between two different Salvadoran groups, one from Alexandria and one from Washington, DC.[1] Alvarez’s father left El Salvador because of the political situation, bringing his family with him.[2] Alexandria was a hot spot for immigrants coming from El Salvador because of the job market, affordable housing, and pre-1980 arrivals. Many immigrant men found work in the food industry, just like Alvarez’s father, and many women found work in house cleaning, like Alvarez’s mother.

I find this article especially interesting because of our class discussion on Wednesday about gang violence and the connection to immigrants. When people, especially young boys, feel like outsiders and need a group to fit in, it is easy to turn to a gang. They feel like they have friends and are a part of something bigger than themselves, a feeling that being a sports team gives people. Our discussion on Wednesday explored how the language barrier also plays a role, both in alienating teens and giving them a sense of community.

In Alexandria, there were attempts at giving Salvadorans–and other marginalized youths–a sense of belonging and accomplishment.  Another article I just have to comment on is Where Hope Floats. It is not only for Salvadorans, but the program and idea is top notch. Where Hope Floats is a program where kids in Alexandria can build boats, while learning math, reading, writing, and English language skills.[3] This program is made possible by the non-profit organization Alexandria Seaport Foundation.[4] This foundation works to put troubled youth, who do not fit into the traditional high school system.[5] Upon graduation, they finish high school and gain marketable skills.

For young Salvadoran immigrant men, especially those who are drawn to gangs, Where Hope Floats program is a great alternative.

[1] “Simmering Gang Feud Erupted in Va. Teen’s Slaying,” The Washington Post, February 5, 1990.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Alexandria Seaport Foundation,” Alexandria Seaport Foundation, accessed November 13, 2015,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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