Introduction/Table of Contents

Recently, issues such as immigration and migration, drugs and crime, and the construction of a border wall at the US/Mexico border have occupied the attention of the US public, government, and media. The Trump administration has made the construction of a wall to keep drugs, crime, and unwanted immigrants out of the United States a key policy platform since the 2016 election. Examples of the perceived “crisis” at the border include migrant “caravans,” the flow of drugs into the largest drug-consuming market in the world, and criminal organizations and gangs like MS-13 that engage in horrific displays of violence. The Trump administration’s responses to this “crisis” have been quite controversial, the most noteworthy being the child separation policy pursued by the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 that separated mothers seeking asylum from their children in detention centers. While these issues have been publicly discussed and polarized by political bias, a distinct lack of historical context for the issues mentioned above permeates the public discourse. While people recognize the problems with the present circumstances, there is a gap in information with regards to the historical trajectory that has led to the present. Exploring more of this history has implications for how we interpret current political rhetoric and implement policy as it relates to immigration, crime, and the US/Mexico border.

This site attempts to provide an overview of recent Central American history in order to explain why the United States sees such a large number of migrants from these countries seeking asylum. Hopefully, readers will gain a sense of understanding for the magnitude of violence that these people experience in their home countries and along the way to the United States. This site also briefly explores the role of the United States government in the domestic affairs of these countries and attempts to explain why the histories of the United States and Central America are inextricably interwoven. From the various Central American Civil Wars to the War on Drugs across the American continents to the present-day gang and cartel problems across the region, this site seeks to provide readers with some insight into the traumatic experiences of Central American people who are seeking a new life in the United States. This site also seeks to distinguish the people who seek asylum at the United States border, often women and children, from the gang members and criminals that they are often portrayed to be. The people who make up the migrant “caravans” are not members of MS-13 and other Central American gangs, but, rather, often, they are victims to these gangs seeking refuge from the atrocious violence. This site also seeks to explain why the state apparatuses in these countries are ill-equipped to provide the necessary social services and protection for their citizens, which encourages people to migrate under extreme conditions to find a better life in the United States.

Additionally, this website briefly explores why the United States experiences so much crime related to drugs and drug trafficking. The website tries to separate those who smuggle drugs into the United States from the women and children seeking asylum. Drug profits are driven by the incessant demand created by the US markets, and the majority of drugs imported into the United States go through legal US checkpoints, undermining the rationale for border wall construction.

These issues are explored more in depth throughout the posts in this site. Below is a table of contents and a guide to navigating the website.

The site is organized thematically into Categories that are listed on the right-hand navigation menu and, also, below. The posts are also archived through tags that group together related ideas and events that do not fit easily into one over-arching category. It is recommended that readers begin with the recent history and civil war posts of the individual countries before moving into the present-day circumstances of gang violence in the region. After the histories of the countries have been read, readers are encouraged to read about United States intervention, US drug policy, and the evolution of the trans-American drug trade. After those background pieces have been read, readers should then be able to approach the modern-day circumstances of Central American gangs and violence across the region with an understanding of how history has impacted these circumstances. Throughout the posts, there are hyperlinks to articles and resources that provide more information about certain topics. Each section should also have an additional reading portion that is briefly annotated in case people are looking to do more in-depth research. Insight Crime and the Council on Foreign Relations databases are perhaps the most comprehensive resources consulted, but many sources from many different disciplines should offer a holistic range of perspectives. Visit the About the Site page for more information about the project!

-David Smith


Guatemala Recent History-Present and Civil War

Gangs in Guatemala

Violence in Guatemala

El Salvador

El Salvador Recent History-Present

El Salvador Civil War

Gangs in El Salvador

Violence in El Salvador


Gangs in Honduras


Nicaragua Recent History

United States-Latin America Relations

US Intervention in Latin America since 1970

US Drug Policy in Latin America

Overview of the Latin America Drug Trade, 1970s-Present

CIA-Contra Connection

Central American Gangs

Gangs in Central America

Central American Gangs and Women

Central American Gangs and Drug Trafficking

Mano Dura laws in Central America

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) – Overview

Barrio 18 – Overview

Migrant Experience

Dangers on the Migrant Path


Drug Trafficking in Michoacán, Guerrero, and Jalisco: Cartels and the Autodefensas

Narcotrafficking on the US-Mexico Border

The Mexican State, Police, and Cartels

Drug Cartels and Their Business in Mexico

Narcotrafficking Organizations in Mexico


Historical Background on Drugs in Brazil

Contemporary DTOs in Brazil

Militias in Brazil

Haitian Migration From Brazil: An Overview of Contributing Factors Part One

Haitian Migration From Brazil: An Overview of Contributing Factors, Part Two

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