San Salvador's Millenial Mayor

New Market

Nayib Bukele plans to transform this empty building into a bustling, 21st century market place—moving city vendors from the crammed, crime-ridden informal market place to a state of the art center. Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

Nueva Cuscatlan library

When he was mayor of Nueva Cuscatlan, Nayib Bukele's first and only political post prior to serving as mayor of San Salvador in 2015, Bukele leveraged public funds to build a library in the town center as a safe space for young people. Here, before school, a young mother reads a novel while her two children read books on their own. Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

San Salvador del Mundo

Once he was elected mayor, Nayib Bukele tweeted that he would order the city's police force to allow skate boarders to skate in public plazas such as the iconic San Salvador del Mundo, pictured above. This further galvanized his youth support. "What's better for our young people?" he tweeted. "A skateboard or a gun?" Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

Romero Statue

Nayib Bukele's plan to revitalize the city center means dismantling the crammed, gang-controlled central market place and opening up the historic monuments and spaces to new businesses, safe public gathering areas, and even tourism—such as this iconic statue of beloved Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated during the Civil War. Pictured above cordoned off by municipal construction signs blocking unauthorized commerce. Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

Revitalization of the Historic Center

Nayib Bukele has a background in PR and specializes in branding—which he has brought into his new role in municipal politics. Bright blue is his signature color; these blue laminate sheets mark the places where his administration has moved market vendors, blocking off these areas from unauthorized market stalls. Among many of his slogans that emblazon walls all over San Salvador is that pictured above: "Revitalization of the Historic Center." Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

Dismantling the Marketplace

Municipal workers help dismantle the unauthorized market stalls in San Salvador's city center, much to the cheers of may San Salvadorans who feel that the congested market is bad for business, travel and safety, and to the fury of long-time vendors, who, as poor Salvadorans, don't trust that the options being offered to them will prove to improve their situation. Nayhib Bukele, however, insists that the new formalized market places he is planning will be a boon for the vendors. Image by Lauren Markham. El Salvador, 2016.

San Salvador’s upstart mayor, Nayib Bukele, has promised a new way forward for a city besieged by decades of violence. His biggest obstacle, however, may not be the city’s gangs, but the city’s idea of itself. Can Bukele’s outsider status, his popularity among youth voters, and his unconventional development and crime-fighting tactics make lasting change in one of the most dangerous cities in the world?