Images of the gang body. Representations of identity from a collaborative dialogue

Received: May 3, 2017

Acceptance: October 30, 2017


The text sets out the general conditions and some of the findings of three investigations with violent gangs in the Guadalajara metropolitan area carried out between 2013 and 2016, in order to contextualize the identity representations of the gang body by young people belonging to these groups of corner. Based on a collaborative dialogue, carried out through group interviews and jointly building the central ideas presented here, issues related to masculinity, emblems of power, physical appearance and gang fidelity are highlighted, as well as those agreements to which we arrive in the joint construction of their conceptions of the body and its use from the gang. It is considered that, although this represents constant dangers and aggressions, their bodies must always clearly state belonging to a group and a cultural ascription, the strength for direct physical confrontations, the potential to protect their own and the demonstration that they are He is a man above all things.

Keywords: , , , ,

Images Of Gang Bodies: Identity Representations As A Product Of Collaborative Dialogue

The essay presents the general conditions as well as some of the outcomes of three investigations into violent metro-Guadalajara gangs, undertaken in 2013 and 2016, designed to contextualize identity representations of the gang corps on the part of young adults that belong to these street- level groups. Collaborative dialogue is the point of departure, via group interviews, that jointly construct the main ideas here expressed, notably, questions of masculinity, emblems of power, physical appearance and gang loyalty as accords reached in the shared construction of body concepts and their use within gangs. With an understanding that this phenomenon gives rise to constant dangers and aggressions, gang bodies must always clearly enunciate group membership as well as cultural adscriptions, strength for direct physical confrontations, the capacity to protect one's own kind and, above all, demonstrate what it is to be a man.

Keywords: gang members' bodies, identity, tattoos, violence, Guadalajara.

Initial words

Between 2012 and 2015 I was contacted by the Crime Prevention authorities of three of the four suburban municipalities of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area ( zmg)1 to carry out an investigation on the experiences of violence and its increase in some of the most marginalized neighborhoods of these municipalities. The objective was to design intervention activities with young gang members to reduce the rates of violence and prevent these young people from becoming involved in organized crime activities, whose operations had already been identified in certain areas. Several were the things that had to be considered. In the first instance, the requirements of the subsemun indicated that the colonies2 in which the investigation / intervention work had to be carried out had to be defined by the Public Security and Crime Prevention offices according to their own indicators on the presence of violent gangs;3 the indices of domestic, street, school and neighborhood violence; cases of criminal acts that affected people and property; the presence of organized crime; the negative conditions in the provision of urban services (pavement, public lighting, drainage, scarcity of urban transport routes and recreational spaces; the weakness of the ties of the so-called social fabric; the lack of educational centers and sources of employment, among others things more), and so on. From there, the neighborhoods of San Juan de Ocotán, Santa Ana Tepetitlán, Lomas de la Primavera and Mesa de los Ocotes (Zapopan) were defined for these works; Los Puestos, Francisco Silva Romero y Tateposco (Tlaquepaque); and Oblatos, Santa Cecilia, Lomas del Paraíso, Miravalle, El Sauz and El Zalate (Guadalajara).

The results of the investigations and interventions with young gang members were published in Marcial and Vizcarra (2014, 2015 and 2017) for the case of Zapopan and Guadalajara; while what is referred to Tlaquepaque, in the report Demoskopika (2015). But these academic publications were supported with campaigns to influence the levels of youth violence in the municipalities through cultural and recreational activities (concerts of hip hop, Recording of CDs of this music from projects of young people from the intervened colonies, recording of video clips of some songs and their dissemination on Facebook, radio broadcast of musical projects, graffiti samples, dog expos pitbull, preparation of manuals and workshops, photographic exhibition, linking young graffiti artists and rappers with possible sources of employment and the recording and dissemination of two feature films, as a documentary, about the experiences of the intervention).4

Immersion in the field: in the epicenter of the neighborhoods

The field trips by the research team in the chosen neighborhoods of the Guadalajara metropolitan area to carry out these studies were the basis for contact with key informants (gang members, young non-gang members, institutional representatives, members of civil associations and neighbors), whose objective was to collect their opinions on the problems they identified in their neighborhoods and the possible alternatives in this regard. Another way to convene and specifically contact youth belonging to gangs to conduct a survey and look for youth who could be leaders in their neighborhoods was to hold outreach events in each neighborhood. We define the theme of these events according to what the young people of the neighborhoods told us. The rap,5 mostly, but also graffiti, dogs pitbull, music circuit6 and the regaetón, as well as the practice of the call full contact or mixed arts,7 they were what they preferred. The call to these events, in addition to the direct invitation during our field work in the colonies, was made through posters on fences and poles. One of these events consisted of the presentation of professionals in the care of dogs pitbull belonging to the association abkc Kennel Club and Magazine Editors Atomic Dogg.8 A contest of canine specimens was held with them in each colony, a contest for adult males, another for females and a third for puppies from two months to one year of age.9 The males that won the first three places in each colony obtained the registration in the Association abkc Kennel Club, whose recognition allows them to obtain a kind of pedigree,10 the recent issue of the magazine Atomic Dogg, a collar for the dog of high commercial value and a sack of 25 kilos of croquettes. Subsequently, a workshop was worked with the owners of the dogs to make them aware that with the registration of abkc They could offer their males as breeding stock and sell their cubs at high prices, thereby turning an illicit activity that they like into something legal, ethical and productive, and, at the same time, not putting their animals at risk. It goes without saying that these young people use their dogs as weapons, either to assault passersby, for clashes with rival gangs and even for clandestine fights where gambling exists.11

We also hold contests in each music colony rap, with the presentation of local rappers recognized at the local level, such as the Aztec Black and Push the killer.12 For the concert of rap They were asked to present their proposals with two characteristics: that they be their own creations and that the young people bring their own musical tracks.13 The theme of the songs was free, but it was announced that for the contest the creations that did not talk about violence, illegal substances or explicit sex would be taken into account. Each winning project obtained the professional recording of four songs, with professional sessions in a photographic studio for the packaging of the CD, as well as the reproduction of 1 000 copies completely free for them to spread their music. They were also given a workshop to learn how to make professional digital recordings with low-cost equipment. Finally, the dissemination of their projects was supported through their personal and group Facebook pages; We collaborate in linking these young rappers with radio stations, government agencies (Youth Institutes, diff, etc.) and cultural promoters to be hired for live presentations, as well as we followed up on some initiatives to equip recording studios in their own homes (very basic) so that they could carry out more musical projects among the members of their own groups. corner or, in a few cases, inviting rappers from other gangs to perform "trailers."

The graffiti contest worked to also summon gang members in these neighborhoods. Personal or team projects were allowed and the most outstanding were awarded with instruments for drawing and painting. They not only received cans of spray, but also sketchbooks, colors, brushes, etc. We worked with them in workshops to carry out comics, airbrush and spray paint, and were linked to potential businesses to be hired, such as auto paint and laminating shops and others that make street signs, posters, flyers, and so on. Music circuit and the regaetón were only preferred by young gang members from Guadalajara, in addition to the rap. In Tlaquepaque and Zapopan there is only taste for the rap. Thus, we carry out dance competitions of these genres, since for these cases there were no projects that had to do with the creation and recording of music.

However, the issue of martial arts had no chance, given the refusal of the municipal authorities to encourage this sport because it was considered "violent". The idea that we developed was to create low-cost gyms for them to train, putting them in contact with registered instructors and enabling some spaces within the municipality's own facilities or looking for some alternatives. We recognized that this practice is closely linked with the possibility of developing skills for direct physical confrontations as a form of self-protection against the unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods, but as a sport it could be an activity that would lead them to a discipline and to be able to dedicate themselves to her professionally. We remind the authorities of the history of the Mexican box, dating back at least half a century and where world champions came from precisely many popular neighborhoods with similar situations of street violence, and they were told that this experience would be sought to emulate in the case of this sport. Unfortunately, the conception about the violence of this practice and that this was what was wanted to avoid caused that this alternative was not supported with the corresponding resources. Finally, we gave other workshops on raising awareness of the negative of violence, the importance of human rights in daily life, training on their sexual rights, the construction of alternative masculinities and fatherhoods, education for peace and forms to resolve conflicts through dialogue, respect and peace.14

In this way, and along with these cultural activities, field work was developed in the selected colonies from permanent visits and ethnographic observation and analysis work. Members in each gang range from 25 to 150 members.15 They are between 12 and 32 years of age and, by their own denominations, there are significant rivalries between "Northerners" and "Southerners", as well as between the affiliations to the gangs originating in Los Angeles and formed from the mm, nf, the B-18 and the B-13. The division between "norteños" and "southerners" comes from the history of cholismo 40 years ago, and has to do with two large criminal organizations of "gangas" or "gangs" of Mexicans commanded by their leaders from the Californian penitentiaries, the Mexican Mafia (mm) and Our Family (nf) (Marcial, 2011). A similar case is that of Barrio 13 (B-13) in Los Angeles, which in El Salvador and after being deported thousands of young people back to their country from California would make up what is now known as the Mara Salvatrucha; and their rivals to the death of Barrio 18 (B-18) (Valenzuela, Nateras and Reguillo, 2007; Nateras, 2011 and Cerbino 2011). Although the names, numbers and colors do not necessarily imply a direct link with these criminal organizations, they are retaken as distinctive symbols in confrontations for territory and prestige. During the musical, graffiti and dog events, the presence of these groups was evident from their clothing in red (northern) and blue (southern) colors. Of the young people surveyed, about 70% agreed to belong or to have belonged to a youth neighborhood group known as a “gang”, “neighborhood” or crew. The participation of women in this type of group is very low, and it tends to disappear when they reach 20 years of age. According to our ethnographic work, this reality responds to several things. In the first place, it is common that within this type of neighborhood groups the female presence is merely "decorative." The women who approach and coexist with the men in these groups, in most cases, are not considered by these young people as members (with full rights) of the gang. Certainly their participation is much less than that of their male colleagues, but even more so, they are largely invisible by them since they are only considered as “sexual resources” for some members of the group. In this way, many of these girls do not consider themselves to be from the gang even if they live with them, since membership is not so easy to obtain as a woman. It is also noteworthy that there are cases in which, faced with this reality of exclusion, women form their own groups in which men have no participation. We learned about the case of Las Zorras 14, from Santa Ana Tepetitlán, as the only case of this type that we have accurately detected.16 On the other hand, the arrival of children, mainly due to unplanned pregnancies, is one of the strongest causes that, at an older age, women stop participating in these groups.

The use of time among young people in these neighborhoods is mostly dedicated to work, secondly to going to school, and on very few occasions both activities are carried out. The percentage of young people who work is very high, specifically between 16 and 20 years of age, and work activity is present during youth life (from 10 to 36 years). School is the main activity between 10 and 15 years of age, but after 16 years it disappears among the young people of these neighborhood groups. Finally, inactivity (neither school nor work) disappears after the age of 20, when all of these young people have some type of work activity, especially in the informal sector and in the paralegal. With regard to studies, school dropout has a crisis during high school, when about 70% of these young people drop out. Regarding the arrests by the police, 37.7% of the young people surveyed and who belong or have belonged to "neighborhoods" agreed to have been detained, at least on one occasion. Scandalizing on public roads, street fights, possession of illegal substances and assault on passersby were the main causes. 54% of the young detainees is between 16 and 20 years of age. The detention periods for these young people are between one night and one week.

Finally, the young gang members surveyed referred to four types of deprivation in their neighborhoods, which can be divided into two subgroups due to the implications in this regard. In one of these two subgroups, we locate two deficiencies that have to do with longer-range policies regarding the need for youth in popular neighborhoods to have more access to education (schools) and employment (work centers). As we well know, this has to do with government actions, largely more structural and far-reaching. In the second subgroup we locate those deficiencies that young gang members identified in their neighborhoods and that have to do with medium-range actions. These refer to the lack of leisure and recreation spaces, be they sports, cultural or neighborhood integration spaces. Above the sports and musical predilections, before questioning them in this regard, we collected their opinions on what type of activities (thus in general) they considered necessary in their neighborhoods. Music rap It also prevailed over any other type of cultural activity, not only musical, and it also did so markedly in the younger age groups (10 to 15 years and 16 to 20 years), while still being the most important among those who are older. age (21 to 36 years). And if we add to this variable the one that came in second place (Disc jockey "DJ”And musical production) which also has to do with their favorite music, we have that three out of every four young gang members are interested in having suitable spaces for this musical activity. Drawing and design, referring to the practice of graffiti, as well as training in the breeding of dogs and their training were the other activities mentioned. We are convinced that meeting these specific demands will be in a position to compensate or rearm the social fabric today so disjointed in these neighborhoods, as the most viable possibility of having better community conditions for social resilience and neighborhood development.

Next, I will focus on the construction of identity through the “gang body”. In the aforementioned works with violent gangs in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, we hired professional photographers to document our ethnographic work. Due to the specifications of the federal programs that financed our research / intervention work, we were required to provide photographs and videos as reliable evidence that we were in the field doing the work. Miguel Vizcarra and I did not want such products to simply be filed in folders in some municipal office drawer, but to be part of a campaign in favor of the peaceful resolution of conflicts and against all forms of violence ( photographic exhibition, picture book and cinematographic documentaries). But, in turn, videos and images contributed largely as objects of knowledge that we interrogated and analyzed to document our results and proposals.

For this essay, I recover some of these images to collaboratively analyze with the young gang members, what their bodies represent them as referents of identity and vehicle of their projection as members of a gang, neighborhood or crew. With Strong (2011) I understand collaborative dialogue as a real alternative to the stagnant “professional dialogue based on evidence”, from a constructionist proposal based on the germinal ideas of Socrates, Schutz, Mead, Ricoeur and Lyotard, among others. It challenges the intersubjectivity of those who participate in a dialogue to express and exchange ideas, in order to critically reflect on how to construct visions on specific issues. Conceived as “a historical counter-narrative”, those who dialogue are active creators of meaning about the way in which they are structured, presented and intervened in phenomena that directly affect the daily life of those involved (Strong, 2011: 111). In turn, the collaborative reflections on the use of the gang body were always focused on the group referents that are built and reproduced within the gangs. Such cultural references allude to the way in which the members of these corner groups, collectively, build clear divisions between those who are inside ("us") and those who are not ("the others"). In the words of Giménez (2010: 4),

Identity can be defined as a subjective (and frequently self-reflective) process by which subjects define their differences with respect to other subjects (and their social environment) by self-assigning a repertoire of cultural attributes that are frequently valued and relatively stable over time. But a capital precision must be added immediately: the self-identification of the subject in the aforementioned way needs to be recognized by the other subjects with whom it interacts for it to exist socially and publicly.

Thus, issues such as masculinity, power, the ability to fight, and group loyalty were what emerged in the collaborative analysis of gang bodies.

The gang body on stage: representations of identity

A few years ago, Laura Loeza, an esteemed colleague from the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and Humanities (ceiich) of the unam, and I talked about the importance of images as information references about our objects of study, but especially about the people with whom we dialogue during our field work to generate the necessary information for our analyzes. I remember agreeing that as researchers many of us used to be photographers 'attempts' and that in some cases many of our field images tended to stay on our mobile devices, some of which were worthy of detailed interpretations. From there arose the idea, which led to a publication (Marcial, 2010), to summon colleagues with these intentions, to mount an exhibition of anthropological images related to migration accompanied by short texts to contextualize them. With them, exhibitions were organized at El Colegio de Jalisco, in the unam and at the University of Montreal in 2010. The experience was so enriching that years later, in 2013, we repeated the initiative of a photographic exhibition at the unam and at the University of Guadalajara, although on this second occasion we did not obtain the necessary resources to edit it into a book.17 Since then I have been convinced that images can be very effective tools for ethnographic work, especially when the subjects involved in them participate in decisions related to taking, compositions, places and things to consider as part of the photographs. .

It was not difficult to find support for this ethnographic use of photography by research carried out in this regard. Photoethnography, understood as a resource based on images for the construction of an ethnographic story (Achutti, 1997), operates through the narrative that is constructed from a photographic image to collaborate prominently in the search and explanation of the cultural meanings of groups small-scale social And if these social microgroups are made invisible, silenced and belittled from the institutional order, photoethnography can become a privileged route of analysis.

It should be noted that photoethnography, as a study on microcultures, is an interesting route both for the historical work of social practices and for the work on the present conditions of different ethnic groups (school, urban, sports, rural, generational, of gender, etc.). In our photoethnographic activity, following the guidelines of an investigation that privileges oppressed voices and the call of visual anthropology not to overlook native subjectivity, strategies are developed in which inventories and systematizations are carried out that start from a deductive and inductive categorization. , and also strategies where researchers and researchers participate in the taking of the photo and the explanation (Moreno, 2013: 132).

Among many of the cultural demarcation chosen by the youth, such as music, clothing, clothing, literature, preferences in leisure activities, artistic expressions, forms of organization, conceptions about democracy, tolerance and social equality, etc., the body has taken on a radical importance in recent decades as an identity vehicle that allows cultural difference to be made evident. After all, it is one of the most suitable resources due to its ability to show / hide brands, carry them with yourself and enjoy them on a daily basis, be it individually, as a couple or in a group. In addition, the body is the emblematic last resort for many young people in the face of control, disapproval and the lack of youthful spaces conducive to cultural expression; it is the last identity stronghold least conducive to disciplining, controlling and punishing political-cultural expressiveness and deliberate ascription to alternative and dissident ways of being in society (Foucault, 2002).

And in the face of bodily expressions, also according to Foucault,18 social discourses construct categories of people based on their bodies as historical strategies of control and domination.19 The Guadalajara society, especially through institutional discourses and the media, conceives the gang body as the manifestation of practices associated with crime, the consumption of illegal substances, the waste of productive time, violence and insecurity. Despite the fact that thanks to various contemporary youth practices referring to the use of the body as a vehicle of identity, many social stigmas about certain ways of permanently decorating bodies (tattoos, piercings, branding, scarification, etc.) have changed in recent years, nineteenth-century conceptions that associate, for example, tattoos with subjects who spend a lot of time in "idleness", such as prisoners, sailors and gang members, still prevail in institutional discourses.20 Beyond this, young gang members construct a “counter-discourse” (Foucault, 1998) that reverses the official discourse of control and punishment of the gang body.

The body, as it is assimilated to the hegemonic models by socialization, also resists the pressures of the social environment and the self, but it is in its imbrication-by-culture that the forms derived from that resistance and culture can be found. adaptation […] Although tattoos also seek to communicate with others […], tattooed inscriptions are almost always ways of distinguishing themselves, of finding - revealing themselves in their searches and explorations - individual or community identity marks. […] The tattoo can be a permanent game to escape from power, to play with it, to appropriate the body, and sometimes to confront power to achieve it (Morín and Nateras, 2009: 12).

By working on this issue in a collaborative way with some young gang members from the referred studies, we identified at least four major issues related to the communicative and collective use of the gang body intervened with tattoos.


One of the conceptions of these young people about their bodies is closely linked to traditional gender roles. Among other skills related to traditional masculinity (being a provider, not expressing feelings, not pretending beauty, not being afraid, being an expert in the exercise of sexuality, etc.), there is something related to the protection of those close to you against any contingency. or eventuality. This is an essential part of daily interactions within the gang or neighborhood, since the safety of each depends on the ability of all to protect the homie,21 the corner, the neighborhood and the “terre”.22 And outside of these corner groups, the protective capacity extends to one's own family and to one's partner. The possibility of acting as “a good protector of their own” is usually associated with a characteristic of the gang's body: the “war marks”, expressed in the tattoos that each one has made. However, although the main reason for this has to do with the place that each one occupies within the neighborhood group, it also has implications regarding sentimental and sexual relationships with the “Jainas” in their neighborhoods.

Image 1.23 Tlaquepaque, April 2016. Author: Miguel Vizcarra Dávila. Descriptors: Tattoos, masculinity

The gang body is characterized by being tattooed, and each tattoo refers to a specific experience or feeling of the person wearing it. The decision was made by the subject who appears in the image indicating that he should show security in the sense of "having everything under control." It is emphasized showing the tattoos with red color, because it refers to the bloodshed in the defense of the neighborhood against external subjects. The tear that “falls” from the eye is also related to the fact that “life (s) are due” that were taken for the good of the group. Neck stars imply "medals" in street battles. It is thus shown that the bearer stands out as a “man”, as a safe guardian of the neighborhood and the hommies.

Simón, look, they are looking for protection because here in the neighborhood things are really good bastards. They want to be with a bato that protects them, that does not take him out of the chingadazos, that is a good bastard to fight. Then they see you tattooed and they say "that bato is machín, I want with him" wevo! That's why we have older women walking like this ”[tattooed] (Florencia 13, 2015).

Although the official discourse insists on insulting the gang body for being decorated with tattoos, which is usually reason enough to deny a job or be arbitrarily detained by police officers, in their daily lives this enables them to be more successful with women . The implications of this go on to greatly strengthen the construction of a traditional masculinity that is associated with being desired and sought after by as many women as possible (Ramírez and Uribe, 2008). In this sense, in the study with gangs in Guadalajara, we found that many of these young people resort to two ways, at least, to strengthen their masculine image in the face of the deterioration that it suffers due to the lack of employment. Let me explain: the role of provider within this traditional masculinity is of utmost importance. Many of these young people have serious difficulties in finding formal jobs with a good income to help them economically in their homes, for this reason they are seen as "little men" for not fulfilling their provider role. So "being a man" strengthens this "deteriorated" masculinity through the number of "Jains" they have, as discussed here. The other way to redress his masculinity has to do with the use of physical and psychological violence. Here it is considered that "being a man" also has to do with who yells the most, fights more, attacks more, violent more (within the corner group, against other similar groups or police officers and even within the home itself and from school when attending).

An emblem of power

As I mentioned in the previous section, the gang body, through the tattoo, is directly related to the place that each young person occupies within the corner group. This is so because each tattoo has to do with certain experiences and situations related to group practices (fights, migration, prison or having been "annexed",24 substance use, “jainas”, etc.). But each tattoo is "earned" and not only done to the taste of the young man. This body practice is regulated and ritualized within the group: they should not get a tattoo "just for the sake of it", for fun. The group itself sanctions if it is deserved, if it has been earned to get this tattoo, and for this reason it has implications in the internal hierarchy of the group that lead to personal prestige before their peers and before members of rival groups.

Is that the tattoos [tattoos] are like generals' medals. They are earned, not like the strawberry guys who make it for themselves just for the sake of it. Here you have to earn it […] tattoos and the wounds in fights are like those medals of battles won, and thus your prestige comes to you [sic],25 ¿eda? (Florence 13, 2015).

Image 2. Guadalajara, October 2015. Author: Jonás González Illoldi. Descriptors: Tattoos, Power.

The tattoo is shown mainly in the corner that is dominated, in the "terre" and with the hommies. Each tattoo refers to an achievement, it must be earned and approved by the group to be able to wear it. Only in this way is it possible to show it to colleagues. The subject that appears in the image chose the most emblematic meeting place of the gang. He is shown with his tattoos and referring with signs with his hands to belonging to the neighborhood of assignment, in which the emblems of power that he "carries" on his body from the tattoos make sense for him.

Image 3. Guadalajara, November 2015. Author: Charlie Uribe.Descriptors: Tattoos, Fighting.

Tattoos even send messages to opponents in direct physical encounters. Images of ascription to the Sureños are presented next to the paternal surname as a reference to a family, but a threat is launched between them: "Only the weak call us cruel." It is intended to make it clear that the use of force has to do with that demonstration of power and that they are not intimidated by any type of external threat.

This presentation of the gang body has to do with the ability to stand out among their group mates and against rivals. And within the forms of interaction of these young people, individual or group prestige is of the utmost importance for the day to day.

The physical appearance

Beyond tattoos and other body decorations, the presentation of the bodies of these young people is also related to a projection on the effective and necessary “solidity” to get ahead in direct physical confrontations. Since joining the gang or neighborhood, through the ritual of "the jump", the ability to face blows is one of the essential aspects that each one must have. Typical of the gangs, “jumping” is a rite of acceptance in the corner youth group. It consists in that whoever aspires to join the gang has to "jump" (face) three or four members of the group for a certain number of seconds. This time has to do with the group identity specified in the group name. In this there is usually a number that refers to the identity assignment according to the letter it represents in the alphabet (Florencia 13, Lacras 51, Warriors xviii, Another Southern Family 13 (ofs13), Barrio Los Destroyes 32 (bld32), Poor 13, Callejón 21). That is, if you want to enter Florence, it will be 13 seconds; while if it is to the Lacras, he will have to resist 51 seconds of blows. The rite has the function that the aspirant can demonstrate endurance and fidelity to the group in an unrestricted way. That is, its meaning has to do with the fact that, just as the young man or woman is beaten by the members of the gang, in the same way the one subjected to the ritual must show that he will have the courage, the courage and the strength to defend your gang against rivals from other gangs or the police. For this, the body must be resistant, strong and leathery, without emulating the image of a bodybuilder.

It is not going to the gym to get "sucked", so well muscled. We do practice and exercise, but it is to know how to hit hard and strengthen yourself to withstand the blows. As we say, it is better rubbery than "mamey"; that serves as a net and that not only appears (Cannabis 52, 2013).

Regarding the presentation of the gang body has to do, thus, with the effectiveness of it to win individual and collective lawsuits and not for questions of a masculine aesthetic based on the marking and exaltation of muscles and own forms of an athletic body. Young gang members, as we can see in one of the studies mentioned here (Marcial and Vizcarra, 2014), have already gone from a symbolic violence that seldom and in a ritualized way comes to be implemented in reality, to precisely a real violence from the beginning. that they no longer care to represent symbolically but to exercise it practically (Marcial, 2016).

Image 4. Guadalajara, November 2015. Author: Charlie Uribe.Descriptors: Tattoos, Fighting.

The gang corps must be ready and capable to face physical fights anytime, anywhere. For this, the subject of the image decided to project himself ready for "the chingadazos", in a fighting position that clearly projects the group (gang) and cultural (southerners) affiliation. He wanted to make it clear that, despite not having a "sucked" body that exalts an outstanding musculature, he can be seen as someone "leathery" who will surely present strength and ability to fight: "not just any asshole knocks me down, net".

This is part of the cultural processes of increasing social violence in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. According to those who adhere to "the old school",26 An important part of the generational change is precisely the indiscriminate and non-ritualized use of group violence by the new generations. It no longer matters to “appear” violence, today it is more important for them to “be” violent (Marcial and Vizcarra, 2017).

Gang loyalty

Last but not least, the gang body must at all times and openly represent the affiliation to the gang or neighborhood to which they belong. They do not care that it is visible, based on their tattoos, before elements of the police or before members of rival gangs, even when they do not have the support of the group because they are outside their territories and without their company. This conception about the "announcement" at all times and places (including in prison) of belonging to a gang, through tattoos as body decoration, has been carried to its last consequences in recent years by the so-called gangs. Salvadoran women, who require their members to wear the gang's number or name on their faces: MS-13, MS, B13 or xiii for the Mara Salvatrucha, and B18 or xviii for those from Barrio 18 (Nateras, 2015). Fidelity to the group is above everything, sometimes even above one's own family. Betrayal is heavily punished by the group, and even goes as far as death when it breaks up with him. For this reason, getting out of these corner youth groups is not an easy thing. There are also specific rituals that sanction it and that must be reliably carried out by those who choose to leave these neighborhood groups.

Image 5. Guadalajara, June 2015. Author: Charlie Uribe. Descriptors: Tattoos, Gang loyalty.

"I want them to see that I am F13, as far as it will go." The subject chooses to show his group affiliation with the tattoo and the reference to the Sureños, to the number 13 with his hands. These tattoos should not be covered neither in front of opponents, nor in front of the police. The honor of membership is clearly stated, assuming all sorts of possible consequences. The position of the body, he tells us, has to do with an attitude of "I am here for whatever is offered" (I am not hiding myself).

Image 6. Guadalajara, October 2015. Author: Charlie Uribe. Descriptors: Tattoos, Gang loyalty.

Located in the “terre”, the meeting corner, they strip off their shirts and shirts to show themselves with tattoos. These have been won before the group and are staged in each group meeting proudly showing their affiliation to their gang, regardless of who it weighs.

The young gang members conceive that not always letting see the name of the neighborhood or the identity ascription to the Northerners or the Sureños, is a clear betrayal of the group pact and that philosophy of "strike" that unites the group and gives coherence to their daily actions . But as already said before in this work, those identity marks from tattoos must be earned by each of the members. Daring to wear a tattoo with any of these meanings when it has not been approved as a group is taken as an affront to the group as a whole, and it must "put in their place" whoever dares to do so.

Final words

It is already known that the use of the body is a cultural and political strategy on the part of different youth cultures. This confronts us with the need to observe young people precisely where they are visible, and not where the State and society intend to "find" them in order to locate, monitor, control and repress them.

Youth cultures become visible. Young people, organized or not, become a “thermometer” to measure the sizes of exclusion, the growing gap between those who fit and those who do not fit, that is, “the unviable”, those who cannot access this model and that therefore they do not achieve citizen status (Reguillo, 2000: 148).

One way to become visible, culturally and politically, is through bodily performativity through various practices; and there are other forms of political visibility such as parties, concerts, graffiti, cultural flea markets, virtual blogs, cultural groups, publishing fanzines, the creation of their own spaces to express themselves or the adaptation of existing ones according to their interests, etc. There and in other realities are some young people from Guadalajara; and they are strongly present. There they make use of new practices or reconfigure existing ones. But closely related to the subject of the body and its expressions, is the verification by these young people of the statement of Butler (1990), so novel 27 years ago, that we should not believe the story that the body can escape from the categories classifications and the discourses that dominate it and assign hierarchical positions and positioning, emblems and stigmas, as well as controls and domestication, practically from the time the subject is born.

Young gang members, according to their arguments, emphatically detach themselves from traditional aesthetic conceptions about the body and its use because they are very different interests from those that are socially dictated. As the saying goes, “to be you have to appear”, and many of the ideas that surround these conceptions of the gang body have to do precisely with this: with advertising yourself as a gang member of a specific group at all times and in any place. Although they know that the above tends to cause serious problems in the face of rival groups and the police, the gang is not only carried "in the heart" as the representation of a "street family" (not of blood), but is also carried in different visible points of their bodies, with pride and before any consequence.


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EncartesVol. 5, No. 10, September 2022-February 2023, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: September 22, 2022.