La Mara Salvatrucha

Croteau defines ideology as “a system of meaning that helps define and explain the world and that makes value judgments about that world”.  It relates with values and beliefs of the world or a specific group. Marxists define ideology as a belief system that helps justify the actions of those in power by distorting and misrepresenting reality. Additionally, James Davis Hunter believes that media is the center of what he calls “culture wars” since ideologies are communicates through the mass media by the use of media technologies. Heremony is a contemporary study of the ideology of media, and it states that ruling groups can maintain their power through force, consent or a combination.

The terms ideology, “culture war”, and heremony can be related to a criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles but has spread across North America and South America. The gangs are mostly composed of Central Americans who organize child prostitution, drug trafficking, human trafficking, murder, kidnapping, and abusing women or children. This gang is called Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13; they are known for being very violent and having revenge and cruel retribution with others that cross their way. La Mara is able to distinguish themselves by tattoos that cover their face and whole body. Although their ideology does not have a positive effect in society, I consider this gang to be part of the “culture war” because the members use a form of art (referring to their tattoos) to distinguish themselves from others. Through the technology of tattoos, they are able to see who is part of their gang and are able to express their story. Their tattoos represent who they are; they each have different meaning to the gang member. Furthermore, they are known for having tear shaped tattoos in their face which represent the amount of people they have killed. Not only they are able to express and distinguish themselves through their tattoos, but they have a hand sign for purpose of identification and communication; this hand sign represent the devil’s head.

The Mara Salvatrucha uses different form of communication to express their ideology; hence, their beliefs and background story. Members from the gang Mara Salvatrucha follow and ideology through the media of hegemony because their beliefs and symbol operate at a level of common sense in the assumption of what each member makes out of life. La Mara is able to display a range of behavior and lifestyle through the use of tattoos, which are considered to be a media since they express an idea or belief, and serves the purpose of communicating who they are.


Here you can see the trailer of a movie called “Sin Nombre” that is about a boy who is becoming a member of the gang Mara Salvatrucha, but then he is able to leave it behind: 


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