When Waldo Martínez left Sensuntepeque in the early '90s, escaping El Salvador's civil war, he never thought he'd be back 25 years later with an American wife and four Las Vegas-born kids.
Sensuntepeque is a picturesque town about two hours from San Salvador. Cobbled streets weave around the mountain; old stone buildings dot the bustling town center. Yet, despite the quaint charm, Sensuntepeque is also fraught with gang rivalries and tensions.
When Martínez and his wife, Andrea Hernández, started a food business here last year, within a short period of time there were calls from gang members demanding payments. (Martínez was born Waldo Hernández, but elected to take his mother’s surname, Martínez, after he was deported. His wife and children still use the Hernández name.)
Martínez said "gangsters" have swooped up children at pick-up time from right out front of their school, so they arrive early every day and wait for their girls to finish school.