A visual journey into Central America’s gang violence

Photojournalist Donna De Cesare documents the impact of a 30-year struggle in Central America.

Award-winning photojournalist Donna De Cesare has been documenting the gangs of Central America for the past 30 years. The works now make-up a bilingual book titled “Unsettled Desasosiego.” In it, she uncovers the effects of decades of war and gang violence on the lives of youths in Central America and in the refugee communities in the United States.

Decades of civil war, violence and an illegal drug trade have created a culture that allows gangs to flourish in Central America. De Cesare began documenting the social impact during the 1980s. Her photographs document a history of repression, violence, and trauma, in which gangs are as much a symptom as a cause of trauma, trapped as they are by social neglect.

After José Balaños, the original “Shy Boy,” was murdered, his youngest brother, Edgar, tattooed a tombstone memorial on his back and began hanging out in gang crash pads.
During the rebel offensive in November, civilians in a zone held by insurgents flee their working-class barrio after three days of aerial bombing and strafing by the Salvadoran air force. Soyapango, El Salvador, 1989
In the 1980s El Salvador had one of our hemisphere’s worst human rights records. This victim was allegedly murdered by government death squads for violating curfew during the guerilla offensive in November. San Salvador, El Salvador, 1989