From South Central to Southside: Gang Transnationalism, Masculinity, and Disorganized Violence in Belize City

Temple Univ. (Studies in Transgression). Jul. 2024. 218p. ISBN 9781439923344. pap. $29.95. SOC SCI
Sociologist Baird (United Nations Inst. for Disarmament Research) specializes in the study of gangs, including the Crips, the Bloods, MS-13 and Calle 18, all of which originated in South Central Los Angeles in the 1960s. In this book, he focuses on gangs and violence-prevention in Latin America, specifically in Belize. His work shows that refugees fleeing civil wars in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua came to the States in the 1970s and ’80s. Traumatized by brutal violence and poverty, they gravitated toward Spanish-speaking gangs as an aspirational pathway to manhood. Baird asserts that undocumented-immigrant gang members were and are often deported from the United States when they are arrested, but some recruit new members back home, a phenomenon seen with the large-scale deportations in the early ’90s, after the Salvadoran Civil War ended. He notes that gang culture thrives in areas of unremitting poverty, where resources are scarce and political corruption rife, and makes the case that heavy-handed police and governmental approaches to quell gang violence are largely performative and don’t address the structural inequalities—often inheritances from colonialism—at the root of gang formation.
VERDICT An illuminating study about gangs and systemic inequality, best suited for an academic audience.
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