Issue - July 2010

July 2010


In this edition, Jamie Bassett uncovers the history behind Mother’s Day celebration in Cochabamba, William Dowling discovers the reason behind one of Bolivia’s biggest festivals, Lauren Rutter profi les Olympic Stadium and reviews La Chirola, Floriane Guyot tries to explain the urban gang phenomenon and Walter Sánchez describes the structure of Bolivian families. read more...

July 2010

The urban gang phenomenon

Floriane Guyot gives details about the situation of street gangs in Cochabamba, and explains the reasons for the dangerous trend.

Floriane Guyot
Projects Abroad
Nantes - France

Criminal groups have been a part of history for thousands of years and their roots run deep into America’s past and culture. Gangs are not a new phenomenon and neither are the problems associated with them. However, they have never affected a greater portion of society as they do now. The phenomenon of urban gangs is not confined to Bolivia, or America; it exists all over the world. A gang can be defined as a resilient, mainly street based group of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a notorious group and who engage in a range of criminal activity and violence. They also have a territory, operate within a certain area, have some sort of gang structure and often fight with other gangs.

Let’s look at it in our local area. Street gangs in Cochabamba have increased in terms of number and danger. According to the “Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Crimen” (FELCC – Special Force for the Fight Against Crime), in the town of Cochabamba there are about 80 street gangs which are considered of high risk, since they lead criminal acts at gunpoint.

Young people are also fighting for territory and searching for easy money and popularity by punching, kicking and killing. The streets are not very safe and local newspapers report daily with news about murders, thefts, and robberies.

  1. Neighbourhood watch schemes;
  2. Social intervention, especially youth community projects and work with street gangs;
  3. Funding for social and economic programmes, such as special school and job placements;
  4. Gang infiltration, reduction and imprisonment;
  5. Organised development strategy, such as police gangs and specialized release procedures.

Dangerous gangs act in Cochabamba, among them are the “Chip Toys”, “Chuquis”, “Vatos Locos”, “Los Rojos”, “Los Gigolos”, “Los ADX” and “Los Mentes Peligrosas”. Most of them operate in the urban zone of Cochabamba, Sacaba, Cercado, Colcapirua, Tiquipaya, Quillacollo, Vinto and Sipe Sipe.

Psychologists and sociologists have often tried to explain the problem by blaming the parents. They also highlight the responsibility of the State because they are not getting to the root of the problem and dealing with it from there. Rapid urban population change, a break down in the community, increasing poverty, and the members of the gangs feeling alone are all factors that contribute to the youth gangs’ growth.

Most of the young people who make up the gangs do not count on the support of their parents. This can be because they are divorced or because they spend a lot of time working and cannot give their children the care they need. Daily psychological and physical violence at home can also generate a vicious cycle of violent behaviour. The breakdown of the family is one of the main reasons that the teenagers join gangs. Young people enter gangs hoping it will help them end their problems. They feel they are part of a team and they are wanted and/or needed in a gang and it gives them the sense of protection they lack at home.

Indeed, reasons for joining gangs include a need or wish for recognition, status, security, power, excitement, and a new experience. Teenagers raised in poor conditions are particularly drawn to gangs. Many of them view joining a gang as normal and respectable, even when the consequences are a series of immature and violent acts. Joining a gang may make up part of an expected/customary process in certain communities when they appear to have values such as honour, loyalty, and alliance.

The gang is seen more as a family than a group of teenagers. For some youth, joining a gang may be a rational choice where the reasons for joining are for security reasons or making money. Besides, although being a member of a youth gang may not be widely acceptable, it may be traditional among certain inner-city families. The extent to which some families favour or actively approve participation in the gang may be another factor, particularly if the teen or the gang contributes to the family financially.

As the threats posed by gangs extend to a greater number of cities and to smaller communities, the need for better community efforts to address emerging and ongoing gang problems increases. The basic problem seems to be that society does not know how to confront and clear up this situation. Gangs are a complicated problem and solutions are often difficult to find in the midst of popular myths and stereotypes.

Five basic strategies have been created to deal with youth gangs in the United States. They can be used and adapted to face the problem in other countries like Bolivia, even if some sort of change is used to match the specific Bolivian problems.

Most of the young people who make up the gangs do not count on the support of their parents.

These strategies are often mixed and have to be in order for them to be a success.

Police led reduction and development strategies are often the most popular. This is due to several factors: the ineffectiveness of the neighbourhood watch and social intervention schemes at least involving the youth gang problems; the lack of measures that mainly target or change gang structures; the changing structure of a labour market that can no longer accept unskilled and uneducated older youth gang members; and the increase in the danger that of youth gangs pose and their complexity.

Youth gangs are increasingly viewed as dangerous and evil. Community protection has become a key goal. Vigorous law enforcement is required. Gang members, especially leaders and serious offenders, are arrested, prosecuted, and removed from the community to serve long prison sentences.

The role of prevention is important too, schools are potentially the best community resource for the prevention of and early intervention into youth gang problems. Facing the problem from the beginning might be the best weapon to stop the problem from spreading.

Patriarchical Structure of Latin Families

In the literal sense, the Castilian Word “patriarca” comes from the Greek patriarques term compound with two words: pater which means “father” and arques which means “head” or “founder”. So, the patriarch is the head of a house or the founder or ruler of an ethnic group, family or clan. As a sociological category, this concept has been used to denote a type of socio-cultural and political structure, widespread in South America, in which the man/father/ patriarch exercises the power and authority, and in which family is the key institution in which lays down this authority.

read more ...

Archive Issues

2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010