“And when man faces destiny, destiny ends and man comes into his own.”

– André Malraux, The Voices of Silence

Destiny’s Children: A Legacy of War and Gangs by Donna DeCesare follows the lives of four young people marked by an experience of war and its aftermath.  As each struggles with circumstance, the lure of gangs and the challenge of limited opportunity, the question of fate looms.

Told in images with bilingual text, the site adds layers to the narrative structure. One can scroll progressively through a story or disrupt the linear sequence. Hyperlinks make it possible to move from the narrative to the issues or an historical timeline. One story includes the voice of protagonist Carlos Perez that can be activated or silenced by cursor placement as one navigates.

The primary purpose of the site is to educate and inspire action. To that end, “How to Help” directs site users to organizations in need of resources and volunteers, or those that promote activism. “Need Help” guides young people seeking assistance to appropriate programs in their geographical area. The resource pages are formatted to appear on a cell phone connection, or may be downloaded and printed for use as handouts in barrio classrooms and community centers without web access.

In the second phase of this project there will be a wiki to enable users to build out information on service providers not currently included. A blog will provide a space for news and information as well as a location for image and text stories created by young people.

The majority of the many hundreds of people and organizations that contributed to my thinking and my well being as I worked on this project over many years are too numerous to thank by name here. However I wish to recognize a few who were absolutely critical to the project.

First, I want to thank those who opened their lives to my camera and presence. Edgar’s mother Ana Bolaños, and Carlos Ingles’ brother Rogelio generously shared many insights as well as their sorrows. Early on Jessica Diaz, her mother Carmen and sister Sonia helped me recognize the role of childhood trauma in the lives of Salvadoran gang members. And my thanks to Carlos Perez for his courage, openness and inspiring tenacity.

Many grants and fellowships helped support this work over years but in particular I want to thank the Open Society Institute for a very generous Independent Project fellowship in 2001 which supported fieldwork as well as time for selection and scanning from among thousands of negatives.

My deep appreciation and thanks go to Fred Ritchin at Pixelpress for friendship for challenging my thinking, and for assistance with the final image edit. I am indebted also to Zohar Nir Amitin for her graphic design concept and original web architecture first done in 2003-2004.

After a hiatus in which I focused on teaching and other projects I was ready to resume work in 2008 but much had changed in both the gang world and digital landscape. I am thankful for the assistance of a Mellon Faculty Research grant in summer 2009 which enabled me to update the site with new reporting and images from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. My final thanks go to my former student Jose Castillo who adapted the graphic design and foundational html architecture to Flash and Wordpress and to a current student Eduardo Gonzalez who translated many pages of the support sections into Spanish.

To contact Donna DeCesare, email her at