An Urban Ethnography of Latino Street:Gangs in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, Chapter 1: Introduction

Francine Garcia-Hallcom

Professor emerita of the California State University (Northridge)
First published on:
with a statement as “This website is no longer supported by Dr. Francine Hallcom. Feel free to use all the information found on this website.

First appeared: 1999 published at the California State University (Northridge),
First redistribution at MarkupDancing: 2010-10-05 00:10:18,
Last modified: 2020-02-18 21:56:49.


This is an on-going urban ethnography which began as part of a sabbatical leave from California State University Northridge in June of 1996, focusing on Latino street gangs in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Currently as of October 1999 it has expanded to Albuquerque and Phoenix hoping to find solutions, to share an ever expanding body of data and literature on Latino street gangs, and to locate successful strategies for prevention and intervention with at-risk youths.

The interviewing process continues although over 1200 young people both gang-affiliated and non-gang affiliated from the same socio-economic areas between the ages of 14 to 24 have already been interviewed so far. The interview examines their early school experiences between Kindergarten and 6th grade. It also inquires about their relationship with parents, why they dropped out of school (if they have), and why they think youths join gangs.

Another objective of this research is to discover turning points where intervention might prove useful. Are there crisis periods at which family members, sociologists, criminologists, law enforcement, and educators might step in? Patterns have emerged in the current study. Sadly, much of the problem points to a parenting crisis.

Dr. Francine Hallcom


これら一連の文書は、California State University (Northridge) の名誉教授で Chicana/o というメキシコ系アメリカ人の研究をされていた Francine Garcia-Hallcom さんの著作である An Urban Ethnography of Latino Street Gangs: Gangs in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties (Copyright in 1999 by Francine Garcia-Hallcom. All rights reserved) を転載したものである(Francine さんについて、B.A. 1962, M.S. 1970, Ed.D. 1981, University of Southern California という経歴と、何冊かの論文集に寄稿されていることくらいしか分からない)。僕が『アメリカの地下経済』を読んだ後で都市のエスノグラフィを調べていたときに見つけたページであったが、サイトのトップに、“ This website is no longer supported by Dr. Francine Hallcom. Feel free to use all the information found on this website.” と掲げられていたので、取り急ぎ当サイトに転載させていただいた。“all the information” の解釈によっては転載が許されていないようにも読めるが、どのみち放っておくとページは消されてしまう可能性が高い。


10年前に掲載しておいたコンテンツがそのままになっていたため、改めて掲載することとした。調べなおすと、ハルコム氏のページはオリジナルのまま残っており、それに当サイトで10年前に掲載していたページもオリジナルも にはアーカイブされていたため、ページがすぐに消えてしまう心配はしなくてもいいようだ。したがって、当サイトで掲載し続けなくても不安はないのだが、このまま掲載しておいても何らかの意味はあろうと考えた。


The desire to provide safe schools for the nation’s youth is high on the list of priorities for every educator in the country. Yet in the last few years, law-enforcement and public schools everywhere have experienced a virtual epidemic of youth violence that is rapidly spreading from the inner cities to the suburbs.

Gang tumult has become a nationwide catastrophe not only in the country’s large metropolitan centers, but in the small urban and rural areas as well (Kantrowitz l993:40-46).

Gang activity not only means unsightly graffiti, but accelerated crime and dropout rates, the deterioration of neighborhoods, parks, and playgrounds, and wasted human resources everywhere. Gangs are no longer just the problem of those who live in the crime ridden neighborhoods where the gangs thrive; they are now everyone’s problem.

Los Angeles is regarded as the nation’s gang violence capital. And an important first step toward solutions that work is understanding the forces that cause youths to join gangs.

The research conducted in this study focuses on Los Angeles and Ventura County’s lower-socioeconomic neighborhoods, the typical Wilsonian “destructive environment” (Wilson 87).

Most of the literature reviewed here is limited to Latino gang members, male and female, and to non-gang affiliated youth from the same barrios. African-American and Asian gangs are undeniably prevalent in the same and near-by areas. However, the scope of any investigation must have parameters.

Additionally, Latino youths, whether first or fourth generation, are swayed in one way or another by a different culture, one that functions unlike the other two in its philosophy and general ties to family. Therefore, there are definite aspects of Hispanic street gangs that distinguish the members from their African-American and Asian counterparts. Curiously enough, this rings true even in the perpetration of their most grisly deeds.

All three engage in antisocial behavior–about that, there is certainly no doubt. However, gangs differ sub-culturally in their behavior. For example, homicides among Latino gangs are often near-ritual exhibitions of manhood according to Wes McBride of the L. A. Sheriff’s Department. In contrast, Black gangs typically fight over drug trade transactions, pay-offs, unmet expectations and similar “business” disappointments. On the other hand, Asian gangs’ bedrock crimes are extortion and home invasion (Mydan 1995: A12).

In the current investigation on a number of occasions, one male gang member reprimanded another (sometimes in jest, sometimes rather seriously) if cursing and profanity became too intense in the presence of the principal female investigator–a woman about the same age or older than their mothers. Other same-aged female graduate assistant researchers also reported the same curious etiquette.

In Mexican culture, behavior and respect is prescribed for elders as well as for “Mom,” culturally necessitating different linguistic tools in their presence. Clearly an ironic gallantry exists among Latino gang members. Other studies concur (Mydans 1995). In addition, different issues concerning extended family are also culturally germane here even among the worst of them further differentiating, though by no means absolving their conduct.


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