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September 20 , 2010

I'm Still Here


A refugee from civil war in Central America becomes the leader of a gang “clique” in Los Angeles. An American girl falls in love with him and follows him back to El Salvador after he’s deported.

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With realistic descriptions of scenes from life on the fringes of conventional society in California and El Salvador, the life of a boy is imagined who survives a death squad massacre, is rescued by guerrillas, sheltered by women in a brothel, taught how to launder money by nuns in a poor San Salvador parish, who at last escapes from the chaos of war-ridden El Salvador to El Norte on the roof of a train, age 13.

There he survives, then thrives after joining a Mara Salvatrucha “clique,” eventually becoming its leader and the manager of its profitable operations. When a court date throws him into contact with a privileged young American woman an electric moment passes between them. She becomes his protector and supporter, and their romance ignites after she follows him to El Salvador when he is deported.

The tale is informed by incidents of El Salvador’s civil war of the 1980’s and 90’s, when a flood of refugees from violence and conflict fled to El Norte. Over time the younger generation in California formed the parallel society of the Mara Salvatrucha and its rivals and affiliates. Initially local clubs, these groups have since morphed into organized crime units that have spread through Central and North America and Europe, an unanticipated after-effect of the Cold War politics of the 1980’s. To develop the story, Potter Wickware established contacts with people in and close to the gang life in El Salvador and Los Angeles. 90,000 words.

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