Going down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change

Going down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change

Going down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change

Going down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change


In this illuminating look at two Chicano gangs in East Los Angeles, Joan W. Moore examines the changes and continuities among three generations of barrio gangs. As a sequel to the author's award-winning study, Homeboys (Temple, 1979), this book returns to the same neighborhoods to chart the development of gang behavior, especially in terms of violence and drug use, and to compare experiences of male and female gang members. In a remarkable research collaborative effort, Moore and gang members worked together to develop an understanding of both male and female gangs and an internal vision of gang members' lives. By using excerpts from individual interviews, the author depicts more about the gangs than simply their life together as a unit; she gives them a voice. Gang members discuss their personal reaction to violence, drug using and selling, family relations and intra-gang dating; they share intimacies that reveal varying levels of loyalty to and dependency on their affiliations, which often become a family substitute. After maintaining neighborhood ties for 17 years, Moore's research group has established a relationship with these communities that gives her a rare perspective. This is a fascinating and informative book for anyone interested in sociology, criminology, youth behavior and deviance, and ethnic studies. Author note: Joan W. Moore is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.


Both of our barrios are small pieces of an area known generally as East Los Angeles. During the entire period of our study Los Angeles and certain surrounding areas housed the largest single concentration of Mexican Americans in this country--a sort of Chicano capital, unmatched anywhere except perhaps in certain areas in Texas. inside this concentration, the White Fence gang lives in a city neighborhood known as Boyle Heights. Just east is the cluster of neighborhoods known as Maravilla, in an unincorporated part of the county known more specifically as East Los Angeles. There are several gangs in Maravilla: the one we studied calls itself El Hoyo Maravilla.

In this chapter I am concerned with the economic and social conditions of these two neighborhoods during the periods when our respondents were actively involved in the gangs. These include the late 1940s and the 1950s, and the late 1960s and the 1970s.

Los Angeles and the Two Neighborhoods in the Early Years

Both of these neighborhoods have a long history, by Los Angeles standards. Boyle Heights (where White Fence emerged) was developed before World War I as an exclusive suburb on the heights east of downtown and across the Los Angeles River. in the 1920s, cheaper housing attracted an extraordinarily heterogeneous population. It was the heart of Los Angeles' Jewish community, and there were also Armenians, Italians, Japanese, and members of a Russian pietistic sect, the Molokans. Mexicans began building shacks in the ravines and hollows (Gustafson . . .

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