The MS 13 Gang has become one of the most notorious street gags in the United States. Like most gangs, MS 13 has a number of distinguishing features which can identify the gang and separate it from the various other gangs that exist in the modern urban landscape. The average age of an MS 13 gang member is 16. This comes as a shocking fact to many people since that would peg the gang as primarily a teenage gang. While the average age of the gang may be 16 there is a great deal of diverse ages throughout that gang as a whole. That is, there are members of the gang who range in age from 13 – 38. Many of the older members are those who have been gangs for life. The gang is also well known for its propensity to cover themselves in tattoos. However, there are those who are moving away from this because the tattoos have a tendency to identify members of the gang easily. MS 13 also uses a hand sign known as the "devil's head." This is similar to forming an upside down letter "M" with the fingers. The gang's colors are blue and white which are in honor of the flag of El Salvador. The hierarchy of the gang is well organized having a number of chapters all over the United States. This shows significant growth from the early days when the gang was initially only based in California. This shows that the stage the gang is in is that of one that operates internationally as it has a presence in the United States and Latin America as well. MS 13 stands for Mara Salvatrucha which essentially means Salvadoran Gang Member. The number 13 is used because it is representative of luck. The gang has become one of the most powerful and well organized of all the gangs in the United States. The roots of the gang in the United States date back to the early 1980's. There was a major civil war occurring in El Salvador and during this time period many Salvadoran immigrants fled their native land during the war torn unrest that was occurring in their home country. There are two origins for the gang's early days. One version states that the Salvadoran immigrants mixed with the other Hispanic gangs at first. Later, they would eventually form their own gang – one which more clearly displayed their country of origin's roots. The other version of the origin of the gang centers on the notion that the Salvadoran immigrants formed their own gang so as to protect themselves from other gangs in their neighborhoods. MS 13 is heavily involved involved in drug trafficking and immigrant smuggling. The gang is also involved in protection rackets, contract killings and other criminal activity. The revenue fueled by these pursuits has allowed MS 13 to grow in numbers and influence. This has occurred despite significant efforts by law enforcement to curtail the gang's activities and growth. The gang's primary geographic strongpoint is southern California where it has always maintained a strong presence. The gang, however, has grown in numbers and influence and has spread to many other regions of the United States. It is believed that the total number of MS 13 members is roughly 130,000 Bibliography Walker, Robert. (2004) "MS 13" GANGS OR US. Retrieved April 12, 2008 from