Crime & Justice

From spies to objectification, the plight of girls in Spain’s Latin gangs

By Karla Vanessa López

Madrid, Jul 4 (EFE).- Karina was 12 when she joined the Trinitarios in search of protection and out of love for her gang-member boyfriend.

Now 25, she tells Efe of her traumatic experience inside an organization that treats young girls and women as sexual objects and forces them to spy on rival gangs.

Touching the tattoos on her left arm, a vestige of her past, Karina tells Efe how she attempted suicide five times before she sought help at a Madrid church on the recommendation of a friend.

“In the gangs, the girls are spies and girlfriends. Many are forced to have sexual relations with members of the gangs and they are prohibited from speaking to men from other organizations,” she says.

Spanish security forces have registered 90 Latin gang organizations with an estimated 400 members in the Madrid region alone. New recruits are getting younger, with some aged just 11 or 12.

Gang activity spiked in Madrid after the end of lockdown, prompting police, charities, educational institutions and former gang members to organize a flurry of outreach programs and other initiatives to persuade youngsters to avoid the gangs.

Karina says she had difficult upbringing and was mistreated by her mother.

“I found a family in the Trinitarios. But later, I realized that, just like with my mother, I was just being abused.”

As a gang member, Karina was forced to take drugs, commit robberies, assault drunken men in nightclubs and become friends with men from rival gangs to extract information.

She was 17 when she sought a way out of the gang, following an abortion at home that almost killed her.

There is no verified date on the number of women in Spain’s Latin gangs, which are most active in Madrid, but estimations suggest there are at least dozens.

Two of the prominent active gangs in the region are the Trinitarios, a prominently Dominican organization, and their rivals, the Latin Kings.

Mónica Cubillos, a psychologist and local police officer in Torrejón de Ardoz, a town just outside Madrid, warns of the entrenched sexism in the gangs.

“Inside the gangs, the women are known as ‘cueros,’ which in their language means ‘putas’ (“prostitutes, or whores,” in English), and they are not considered a part of the structure,” she tells Efe.

The local police officer, who has a wealth of experience working on gangs, said women are often used as informants and to transport drugs and weapons.

She says minors “normalize having sexual relations with the gang leaders while under the influence of disinhibitive substances.

“Furthermore, they are under the perception that they are doing it from a position of freedom.”

The Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia, an NGO that has been campaigning against violence in Spain for 30 years, has criticized the lack of action on the part of the official administration to stop the spread of gangs in the country.EFE


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