Oswaldo in El Salvador

What Oswaldo wants more than anything is to win back the mother of his son. She left him because, as a former gang member, he struggled to find a job that could keep them afloat. For a while the only work he had was to walk the streets selling toothbrushes in open-air markets. On the hardest days she told him she regretted ever falling for him. Oswaldo sought advice from a pastor who supported him through his transition; the pastor suggested he apply at a factory that hired former gang members, the company in whose conference room we sit speaking now. That an employer hires people like him was something beyond Oswaldo’s imagination. But, miraculously, what the pastor said was true. It worked. Two years later, now with a steady salary and pride in his career, Oswaldo asked his ex-wife to come back to him. But she told him she still can’t. Now there is a new problem: the police are killing perceived gang members and their families, she told him, and although Oswaldo is far from gang life, she knows he will forever be a gang member in the police’s eyes. Oswaldo is still a risk to love.

– Danielle Mackey