24 Hours On Tinder: El Salvador

Imagine wandering out of your house and every so often seeing police tape wrapped around an area, people gathering round the tape, police all over the scene and that one necrophiliac being quietly turned on, all by the sight of a dead body. Imagine this wasn’t an uncommon, once in a life timehorrifying scene but instead a semi regular event.  Imagine being able to easily meet someone who has had someone they know be murdered or killed in the crossfire.


For quite a lot of people in El Salvador this is common, with the country being at the top or in the upper echelon of countries with the most murders per 100,000 people. Currently, according to worldpopulationreview.com, El Salvador has a rate of 82.84 murders per 100,000 people in 2020 so far. Now this rate could go down, as at the time of writing it is only mid May and our pal Corona Virus is taking more lives than wee Sally from El Salvy with her shotgun. For now though, El Salvador is the country with most homicides per 100,000 this year, but let’s not be throwing a party with cake, balloons and pass the parcel. 


86159200-e61d-40bd-ab4d-1f8c2c5cbffcNow it may seem like I’m painting a picture that El Salvador is a a highly murderous country where you’re going to see dead people all the time, and that you have more chance of getting killed than dying in an old folks home smelling like piss and a charity shop. These rates just show that the county has its dangerous parts and that you should be more careful, especially at night. El Salvador will most certainly have parts that would be amazing to see and will have the South America charm that draws so many people in. The biggest problem El Salvador has with regards to the high homicide rate and crime rate in general is due to two major gangs: MS-13 and 18th Street.


MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and 18th Street are scary bastards, as scary as people who have Coulrophobia would find watching IT the movie, sandwiched between two Pogo the Clown look a likes. They are your typical gang you see on TV with all the tattoos of tear drops, their gang name, my little ponies and other stuff all over them, including some members who subtly have MS-13 on their foreheads. The most intriguing thing is both gangs actually started in the USA in Los Angeles in the 70’s/80’s, as a means to protect Salvadorian immigrants from the numerous other gangs in LA. 


Despite both being formed in LA (18th Street is a Street in LA), their boom within El Salvador and South America in general really happened after the end of the Salvadorian Civil War in 1992, when numerous members were deported to El Salvador. The mass deportations after the end of the Civil War really sparked the high murder and crime rate within the country, which has lead to them being a staple part on the upper echelon of murder statistics since. Now this hasn’t entirely been the countries fault as, as of 2017, our pal Donny in D.C. has been mass deporting members of the gangs, primarily MS-13, even if they were born and raised in America and have never stepped foot in El Salvador in their lives. So it can be argued that the country has been constantly dealt the worst cards, giving them a huge disadvantage in tackling crime. 


With all the murder and crime rife in El Salvador, how would one find dating and the use of Tinder in this country? 


Well from a personal perspective prior to using the app to find out, I wouldn’t think it would be that simple; I would think that meeting strangers off an app would be a lot more dangerous than in say Boston, Massachusetts where yes, you would take precautions when meeting a stranger but you wouldn’t expect them to be in a gang or potentially murder you, as you possibly would in El Salvador.


However for residents of San Salvador, the Capital city of El Salvador, and where this edition of 24 Hours on Tinder is located it, it may not be an issue at all. For them it’s the same as any country with a lower crime rate, and maybe the gang and homicide issue isn’t a worry when it comes to meeting strangers for a date (or let’s be honest sex as it is Tinder) through Tinder. Let’s take a look then shall we fellow humans and psychopaths, who put milk in their bowl before the cereal. 


I had a few conversations with El Salvadorians, primarily with one legend Seb who had some insight knowledge into all that’s going on due to his mother being a lawyer and conversing a few times with gang members as a result. Seb is a gay man and made it apparent that there’s still quite a bit of homophobia in El Salvador, so it’s best to live in the closet thou you can still date and meet up with fellow queers, and anyone in general. Meeting up is just a case of being really careful about who the person is and meeting in a public place in one of the safer areas. Not all the areas in El Salvador and the capital San Salvador are unsafe; the touristy areas are the safest places to be whilst the poorer areas are not safe at all; they (the poorer areas) are filled with the largest population of gang members and have the most crime.  Many of the gangs lurk around poverty stricken people and recruit young people in their early teens to join the them.


In my conversations with Seb, it came across that he doesn’t really fear the gang members and just goes about his life normally. Yet he stressed to me he doesn’t represent the whole of El Salvador, and there are many people who fear the gangs which would definitely impact their dating. He recognises the issues the country has, but told me that is has got much better. A lot of the issues, he feels, stems from poverty, inequality and corruption but he believes that the current President, Nayib Bukele, is tackling them better than any other President.


From talking to Seb it’s apparent that the issues in El Salvador are massive, but it doesn’t stop people from living and being able to have a dating life. It really comes down to the person and what they’re comfortable with. Seb doesn’t fear the gangs and goes out at night, but many people would rather do a Brennan and have a bunch of 12 year olds force them to lick dog shit than go out at night. The thing our new pal Seb said, and which I really agree with, is if more people went to El Salvador and tourism numbers were raised the misconceptions and the overall image of the country would change, which in itself could lead to a lot of change in the country. Yes there is a big issue with gangs, crime and killings but El Salvador isn’t just all about that, there is a lot more to the country.

Swankie – 24, Scotland. Loveable Loser.

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