Symbol of survival

Women in El Salvador dye their hair to escape gang violence

El Salvador, a country plagued by drug-related gang violence, might soon surpass neighboring Honduras as the most dangerous peacetime country in the world, as violence peaks there. In May alone, 635 people were killed in the country, and in the first 10 days of June, 240 homicides were reported. The horrific state of affairs is captured in a new series of photos by Pulitzer-winning photographer Manu Brabo, published this week by The Associated Press, showing how everyday life continues under this constant pressure. One detail that is revealed in these images is the rumor spread on the streets and on social media that only girlfriends of gang members are allowed to have blonde or red hair. Many of the photos show women in a hair salon. Police and gangs denied these rumors, but many women aren’t taking any chances and have started dyeing their hair anyway to avoid any risk or confrontation. Talking to the AP, Maria Jose Estrada of San Salvador said she had dyed her blonde hair dark, because “you don’t wait for clarifications,” as “these people are crazy and they will kill you.”

Read the full story at Quartz.

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