La vida loca


A work by Christian Poveda


The Salvadorian street gangs are, first and foremost, an image, a précis of contemporary history, a doctored picture of a locality in a world that’s become global. It’s a memory of the gang, the fundamental myth of organised crime.
Children of the Bloods and Crips, the gangs made famous by the Dennis Hopper film Colors, these gangs were born in the Hispanic ghetto of L.A. Now traditional enemies, they are engaged in an all-out suburban war that started in the streets of Los Angeles, spreading to numerous North American cities and prisons in which hundreds, and now thousands of gang members are incarcerated.
Serving long, if not life sentences for homicide, robbery with violence, drug trafficking and carrying arms, the gangs that “controlled” the ghettos took possession of the prisons. Coming from all over Central America, over a ten year period confused teenagers, economic and political immigrants, and, in particular, hundreds of thousands of children of Salvadorians fleeing the civil war, formed themselves into well-structured criminal organisations, killing their enemies both “inside” and “outside” the gangs.
The gangs are known as maras, after the marabuntas, the carnivorous ants of Central America that destroy all life in their path, thus giving rise to the Mara Salvatrucha (literally, “Salvadorian ant”), also known as the MS-13, after 13th Street in South Central Los Angeles. This organisation was soon followed by another mara, the  M-18, taking its name from 18th Street where it held sway.
The national maras of the southern States are sub-divided into pandillas (sets) at a regional level and cliquas (cliques), a kind of base unit for a neighbourhood or even a street. The gang members, tattooed from head to toe, are called pandilleros or homeboys. The tattoos not only serve as identifiers, but provide a visible sign of their voluntary exclusion from society. How can you get a job with the number 13 or 18 tattooed on your forehead and your cheeks adorned with teardrops, representing the number of enemies you’ve killed?
Writing a new chapter in the history of gang warfare in Los Angeles, the story could have remained concentrated in the United States of America. But that was without taking Washington into account…
In 1996, the American government simultaneously decreed the Illegal Immigration Reform and the Immigrant Responsibility Act, in other words the adoption of a ferocious “double penalty” legislation allowing the authorities to send more than 100,000 gang members detained in the United States straight back to Central America. With frightening consequences: this flood of delinquents corrupted the order, social stability and economy of the countries of origin, Panama, Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala, Costa-Rica, and Nicaragua… And the relocation of the gangs triggered massive paranoia regarding security in the local states.
In one decade, the United States succeeded where it had previouslyfailed, keeping the local dictators in power and financing civil wars and Coups d’Etat!

la vida loca film

la vida loca

Social theatre
The story of the maras is also that of the megalopolis-towns, the world-suburbs, the mega-cities, the incredible makeshift modification of town and countryside, the perfect illustration of the latest best-seller by the social commentator, historian, political activist and urban theorist, Mike Davis, Planet of Slums.
The suburbs of San Salvador are clones of shanty-towns and social policy programmes on the edge of the “big nothing” that separates the capital from it’s volcanic range. A no-man’s land, the ideal topography for blatant violence.
We are on the edge of the municipality of Soyapango. Two precipitous back-streets, la Campanera and San Ramon, form a dead end, a bus terminus at the bottom of a canyon. A dead end for the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants, trapped in the desperate struggle for survival.
For the young people, divided between two rival gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18 Gang, the future holds either imprisonment or death or, as often as not, both. On the 6th January 2007, for example, a riot in one of the overcrowded prisons in the west of the country resulted in 21 dismembered and decapitated corpses when five hundred MI8 members confronted the other inmates.

Camera position
Filmed in close-up using a hand-held camera, this will be La vida Loca, the crazy life, as the pandilleros say. In the background, the film will faithfully chronicle the hopes and fears of the inhabitants of this new tropical suburb of Los Angeles, the periphery of San Salvador. Twenty years after a revolutionary war that devastated the nation, a new civil war, just as terrible, is pitting the poor against the poor. A “perfect crime of globalisation”, as the philosopher Jean Baudrillard would say.
“ A story without a plot”, wrote the black Jamaican novelist and hero of the Harlem Renaissance Claude McKay in his cult book, Banjo. A novel that relates the fortunes and misfortunes of a gang of “Negro” musicians, sailors, demobilised infantry men and dockers in Marseilles at the end of the 1920’s. At the height of the Great Depression of 1929 and the attack on the Komintern. The Marseilles pandilla decided, despite everything, to enjoy this “bitch of a city” and make the most of it.
This concept of a story without a plot might well be applied to Christian Poveda’s film, the self-fictionalised chronicle of a gang of adolescents who’s only hope is to have a bit of fun before meeting an early death.

Our cast is made up of a handful of heroes and their companions in misfortune. They are hostages to the paradoxical adventures that lead some to evangelistic redemption, while others pass through the film like meteors to end up dead with a bullet in the head, laid out on the cold steel table in a forensic science laboratory. Or, for the lucky ones, in the furnace of the overcrowded prisons, living on the very ground in their hundreds, sleeping head-to-tail, like the prisoners in the holds of the slave ships.
If only for the gravity of the subject, Christian Poveda’s work and commitment makes one think of Jean Rouch, filming at close quarters, capturing the hopes and the fears of the young city-dwellers of the post- independent megapoles of Abidjan and Accra of the 1950’s.
The violent and tender chronicles of “Moi un noir” and “Maîtres fous”.

(La Femme Endormie)


maras en el salvador

Christian Poveda

Durante casi un año y medio, el director Christian Poveda se infiltra en una de las llamadas maras salvadoreñas, pandillas que se enfrentan entre sí con gran violencia, integradas por jóvenes tatuados de la cabeza a los pies que se dedican principalmente a la extorsión, al robo y al tráfico de drogas. En la colonia La Campanera, en Soyapango, “La vida loca”, filmada con cámara al hombro, recoge la cotidianidad de miembros de una de las principales agrupaciones pandilleras de El Salvador, La Mara 18, que se caracteriza por tener su propio lenguaje, tatuajes, códigos y elevados niveles de agresividad, violencia y criminalidad. Esta pandilla y la Mara Salvatrucha, iguales una y otra en crueldad, impulsadas por la negación de todo y la muerte, viven una guerra sin piedad. Algunos de estos jóvenes fueron asesinados en el transcurso de la grabación, tal y como muestra el documental. En América Central se les llama maras y son una copia del modelo de las pandillas de Los Ángeles creadas por los salvadoreños que emigraron durante la guerra civil a principios de los años 80. Allí surgieron la Mara Salvatrucha y la Mara 18, las dos principales pandillas que se enfrentan hoy día y entre las que no existe diferencia ideológica o religiosa que pueda explicar esta lucha a muerte, esta lucha que enfrenta a pobres contra pobres. (parte de la sinopsis en español)

El director Christian Poveda fue asesinado a tiros meses después en El Salvador, se presume a manos de una de las pandillas que retrató en su documental.
la vida loca

la vida loca

¿Quién mató a Christian Poveda? (Artículo)

“El fotógrafo y documentalista franco-español Christian Poveda murió el 2 de septiembre de 2009. Le dispararon dos veces en el rostro a muy corta distancia. No le robaron nada, algo casi inconcebible en un país como El Salvador. Cuando lo hallaron estaba solo, tirado a tres metros de su Nissan Pathfinder plateada, junto a la sinuosa y solitaria carretera sin asfaltar que une los municipios de Soyapango y Tonacatepeque, en el área metropolitana de San Salvador. Acababa de salir de una colonia llamada La Campanera.

Tras un impasse de dos horas por un malentendido con su nombre, a las 5:30 de la tarde la Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) tenía ya la certeza de que la persona asesinada era el director de La vida loca. La noticia tardó poco en propagarse, como si fuera una epidemia, y en cuestión de horas supo encontrar al escritor salvadoreño Horacio Castellanos Moya en su minúsculo apartamento del barrio Sangen-Jaya, en Tokio. Se enteró mientras navegaba en internet, con un titular de la Agencia Efe que dejaba poco margen para las ambigüedades: “Asesinan al fotógrafo Christian Poveda, director de un documental sobre pandillas”. Los 14 husos horarios que separan Japón y El Salvador habían convertido el miércoles en jueves, el hoy en ayer, el presente en pasado. Pero no amortiguaron la conmoción.”

Tomado del artículo “¿Quién mató a Christian Poveda?“, posteado por Roberto Valencia en crónicasperiodí         leer mas…

Post relacionado  La vida loca (Christian Poveda, 2009)    por camadorz

Haz click sobre la primera imagen para ver la película

Click on the first image to view the movie


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