In the Honduran barrios crime carries a permanent stigma – gang members are indelibly tattooed with their histories of violence. Desperate to escape their past, some have begun a painful path to rehabilitation.
Gang activity has taken its toll in Honduras, the country recently classified by the UN as the most violent in the world. Around 20 homicides occur every day, totaling almost 7,000 a year. In capital city Tegucigalpa, members of the 18 and the MS13 are marked men and women, their violent pasts charted from head to toe across their bodies. For those trying to quit, these markings are an inescapable anchor to gang life. Former “bandida” Sherry explains, “here, for wearing a tattoo, youngsters die on a daily basis. This tattoo could lead me to the grave”. There is only one expert in tattoo removal in Honduras, but he has provided hope to thousands trying to escape their past. For Sherry the motivation to break out of the cycle of violence is the fear of passing on a violent legacy to the next generation. “My kids should not have to endure what I have endured.”