Her name has been changed to protect her identity. Marina is a friend of ours, and related to my husband as a 2nd cousin. Her boyfriend, we’ll call him “Juan,” was relatively new to the neighborhood, having lived there only about 6 months. He and Marina lived in a small house, without electricity or water. They brought their dishes and clothes to the river for washing. Juan was once a gang member, so it is said, and used to steal cars. No one in our neighborhood understood why this was so, since his father is a lawyer, and had the money and desire to help his son continue schooling and become a professional. It was probably his way of rebelling, not the best choice considering the outcome. Looking at him, one didn’t know he was once in a gang; he dressed fairly clean-cut, had no visible tattoos, and no apparent scarring or weathering on his face from a “rough lifestyle” attributed to gang members. But at this point he had quit the gang, met Marina, and started a quiet life in Jicaron. They talked of plans to marry within the next year or so.
Until today, a sunny day far into the country, when three shots were heard by the neighbors, who wondered if they were hunting shots, goofing by a drunk, or the worst case scenario, as was today’s result. As we came back from our trip to the hospital, our car packed full, my husband and 3 others raced by on bikes, and said “Marina’s boyfriend was just killed by the river!” Carmen and I walked over after parking the car to investigate. We must have gotten to the river not long after the shooting, as the police still hadn’t taped off the scene. We were within several feet of Juan’s body, limp and folded over like a mannequin, with marks and blood streaming from one side of his neck and his face. A hat was discarded part-way through the river; we didn’t know if it was Juan’s or the shooter’s. A pair of sneakers sat at the river’s edge, he never go to wash them. When we walked up the hillside to where Marina was sitting, a group of women around her, all crying, she was beside herself. Later, we walked her up to the house, where for the first time she saw his belongings after learning of his death just two hours before. I’ll never forget the feeling I had seeing a pair of his sneakers near the front door as we walked in. How many days or hours before had he worn them? And now he was dead, gone.
Some people thought Juan was killed for defecting from the gang. But another theory regarding Juan’s death circulated around the neighborhood afterward; some people thought a jealous ex love interest in Marina was behind the killing, because this “dissed” interest is the brother of a particularly malicious entity from the nearby town, who wouldn’t think twice about shooting someone or sending someone over to do it. But rumors and previous gang membership are all we will know; this death will likely go uninvestigated unless someone in the police force is given special treatment (private compensation). With 11 murders a day in El Salvador, it’s just a number added to the body count.