The Barrio Gangs of San Antonio, 1915-2015

The Barrio Gangs of San Antonio, 1915-2015

The Barrio Gangs of San Antonio, 1915-2015

The Barrio Gangs of San Antonio, 1915-2015

Synopsis

Barrio Gangs is the most comprehensive academic case study of barrio group dynamics in a major Texas city to date. This is a sociological work on the history of barrio gangs in San Antonio and other large Texas cities to the present day. It examines the century-long evolution of urban barrio subcultures using public archives, oral histories, old photos, and other forms of qualitative data. The study gives special attention to the barrio gangs' "heyday," from the 1940s through the 1960s, comparing their attributes to those of modern groups. It illustrates how social and technological changes have affected barrio networking processes and the intensity of the street lifestyle over time. Intergenerational shifts and the tension that accompanies such changes are also central themes in the book.

Few other places are so conducive to such historical exploration as is San Antonio. Street ignobility in the barrio no doubt mirrors processes found in other Chicano communities in Texas and the Southwest. The gang contexts in major Chicano population centers have lengthy historical bases rooted in weak opportunity structures, oppression, and discrimination. This work shows that participation in street violence, drug selling, and other parts of the informal economy are functional adaptations to the social structure; the forces propelling the formation of barrio gangs are not temporary social phenomena.

Excerpt

Mexican Americans (Chicanos) are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, and San Antonio, the nation’s seventh largest city, is one of the group’s biggest population hubs. Where delinquent subcultures are a salient aspect of their communities, the Chicano case has been a significant part of the country’s criminological landscape for some time. Yet this particular group is seldom analyzed critically in mainstream crime research. Several exceptions include writings on the pachuco genre that developed in the 1930s (Bogardus 1943; Vigil 1988) and the bandido subcultures on the Texas-Mexico border that preceded such urban formations (Mirandé 1987). the sociological research on barrio gangs is mainly focused on Southern California groups, without much written on those abundant in Texas. Notable exceptions include the works of David Montejano (2010), and of Avelardo Valdez and coauthors (1999; 2004; 2005; 2009), whose work I draw on here. the current work focuses on urban barrio networks in San Antonio to help fill this gap.

This book examines the genesis of street-corner barrio gang formations going back to about 1910, giving special attention to these groups’ heydays from the 1940s through the 1960s. It uses varied qualitative research methods to offer a deeper understanding of barrio gang life than most studies on this topic. It is informed by nearly two decades of field observations, including gang intervention, work experience, and other types of formal study of Latino criminal subcultures in San Antonio. It examines the form and function of delinquent and criminal groups at various stages in their historical development. the intensification of drug trafficking in recent decades provides the modern setting for the growing violence associated with these groups, once thought to be rather normative street-corner societies.

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