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Chicano Gangs: One Response To Mexican Urban Adaptation In The Los Angeles Area

James Diego Vigil
Urban Anthropology
Vol. 12, No. 1 (SPRING 1983), pp. 45-75
Published by: The Institute, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40552988
Page Count: 31
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Chicano Gangs: One Response To Mexican Urban Adaptation In The Los Angeles Area
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Abstract

Mexican adaptation to urban areas in the United States has resulted in the rise of youth street groups and gangs. These Chicano groups/gangs are assessed within a framework which examines ecological, economic, cultural, and psychological aspects of that adaptation. Since the 1920s, Mexican immigrants and their children have typically settled in the poorer, neglected sections of the city, called barrios, and worked in menial, low-paid industries. Changing from traditional Mexican patterns to those of Anglo-America was made more problematic by these living and working conditions. Moreover, urban social institutions, especially the social control specialists, e. g., schools and law enforcement, often became sources of additional problems in the enculturation and socialization process of these immigrants' children. Urban adaptation was exacerbated by these factors, and affected cultural assimilation and acculturation. Many youths who were unable to find an identity in either Mexican or Anglo culture evolved a cholo cultural style which aided adaptation to the street. It is this cultural transitional phenomenon which aids our understanding of the formation of gangs, for through the decades what began as a "boy" gang problem eventually evolved into a gang subculture. For many cholos the gang subculture provides a source of identity and avenues for personal fulfillment. With continuing Mexican immigration, and the existence of a gang subculture with its own enculturation and socialization patterns, the whole process of Mexican adaptation to urban life requires reexamination.

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