Crisis States Working Paper 35

Title : Dying For It: Gangs, Violence and Social Change in Urban Nicaragua
Author(s) : Dennis Rodgers
Date : October 2003

Abstract : Youth gangs potentially constitute an ideal lens through which to explore the dynamics and ramifications of the new political economy of violence in Latin America, and this paper consequently presents and ethnographic case study of an urban Nicaraguan youth gang. It employs data derived from participant observation research conducted in 1996-97 and 2002 in a low-income neighbourhood in Managua. The first part of the paper provides a brief overview of crime and violence in contemporary urban Nicaragua, exploring some of its socio-economic consequences and situating gang violence within it. The second part offers an account of the neighbourhood's youth gang as it existed in 1996-97, followed by a description of the gang in 2002, focusing on violent gang practices. The third section considers the nature of these two manifestations of the gang and the general evolution of the gang between 1997 and 2002 from an institutional point of view.