Youth gangs first appeared in Mexico (Redfield, 1941; Rubel, 1965) but there is no any valid record that shows when similar gangs emerged in the United States. There are suggestions however, that the gangs emerged after the Mexican revolution in 1813 which led to the migration of Mexicans to the Southeast (Redfield, 1941; Rubel, 1965). The gangs spread to New England during the time of industrial revolution in the early 1900. Gangs began to thrive in Chicago and other great cities during the industrial age, when population shifts and immigration reached climax (Finestone, 1976). At the beginning of their history criminal gangs were violent and most visible, especially during the time of rapid population shifts. In the contemporary era, gangs have been inclined by several trends. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, because of increased access to more deadly weapons and increased mobility, many gangs have become more dangerous (Klein, 1995). Previously, gang fights used to involve fist fight but nowadays they are advancing to use of guns and other fatal weapons. New technology has fuelled changes in the operations of criminal gangs. Increased availability of automobiles which has been coupled with fatal weapons has fuelled the development of drive-by shootings a tactic which was previously executed through on foot hit and run. Some gangs transformed into entrepreneurial organizations in the mid-1980s in the crack cocaine epidemic. Nonetheless, while some gangs are involved in illegal activities like drug trafficking others mainly provide social opportunities for their members. This research paper will explore Hispanic gangs and black gangs with main focus on their history, features, similarities and difference.
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Hispanic and Black Gangs
The history of the Hispanic gangs can be dated back to the pre-war era and they came to fruition between 1950s and 1960s. Their membership comprises of the Latin Americans, Mexicans as well as the Hispanic Americans. The gangs fight each other besides fighting other groups for control and territory and over time their activities have crossed international boundaries. The modern Hispanic gangs started as pachucos in the 1930s. They started with a unique culture where they wore zoot suits and spoke a particular dialect commonly known as Calo. They originated heavily from El Paso city and they were segregated against by the American culture that identified them as the gang members. This led many of them in to a path of organized crime and beginning in 1950s, the gangs became more organized.
The historic organized Hispanic street gang in the United States was established in 1940s in Chicago where the Latin kings got established. Latin king comprised of Puerto Rican immigrants and within no time it had built a network of approximately 45,000 members in 38 states. The largest Hispanic gang in the United States is the 18th street gang. It was established in 1959 in Los Angeles. It is widely known for most violent activities in the U. S. and it has thirty thousand members. The other group is the Mexican mafia which was established in the 1950s, originally meant to offer protection for the Hispanic prisoners. Since then it has secured an influential and a strong position with the prison system in the U. S.
Hispanic gangs are well known for their rivalries. The Latin kings have been in conflict with other gangs like the Satan disciples and the Spanish cobras besides black gangs for many years. The conflict deepened following the creation of the people nation and folk nation which led to creation of alliances where the gang community operates. The most significant development of these gangs is the incursion of their ranks in the Unites states military. Many gang members have enlisted in order to attain military training which they can use in gang conflicts.
African Americans formed their first street gangs in the onset of the 1930s in Los Angeles near vermin avenues. They also formed clubs in the downtowns of the major cities in the US where they settled around at the same time. During the following years, blacks started moving to downtown Los Angeles. During the initial years for the groupings, some of the active black gangs included the Magnificents, Goodlows, Boozies, Driver Brothers and the Blodgettes. The Blodgettes hung in the imperial freeway known as the “Blodgette Track” which is the present location of the 105 freeway. The “Boozies” comprised of family brothers and friends whose main activities included robbery and prostitution. The “magnificents” was a group of youths who came from the central avenue of the eastside of Los Angeles. When these young stars became older in the 1930s, these gangs faded. This is because the gangs were juvenile in nature and as a person got into his late teen age he was supposed to distance himself from the affairs of the gang (Chavis, 2010).
Traditionally there was no indentified leader in the black gangs. There were members of who had a relative influence over others in the gang but the term leader was not used to refer to those influential members. Originally, there was a stage that was referred as “original gangsters”. After sometime the “original gangsters’ were promoted to the class of the “double original gangsters” (Chavis, 2010). These were the original members who had been in the group from the time of its inception. However, the original gangsters are not easily found today as most of them have died and others are at their old age. With change of time, the structure of the black gangs has slightly changed especially in the aspect of stages. Black gangs have reduced some stages in the structure thus reducing the significance of some of their previous stages. Currently, there are young stars who are mostly aged between 19 and 26 years and these are the most violent and dangerous members of the groups. They struggle to maintain the feud between them and other rival gangs.
Similarities of Hispanic and Black Gangs
The two gang groups have very common characteristics in the manner that they operate. To start with these gang groups use tattoos to identify different factions within their respective organizations. The tattoos are also used to identify certain members of the group. This has made it hard people who want to have tattoos for fun because the members of the society and the law enforcers think that they belong to an illegal group. Both the Hispanic gangs and the black gangs have unique tattoos that the members of the group use to identify with the group (Curtis, 2010). To start with the black gangs, tattoos were not always common in the traditional times, but nowadays, having a tattoo is part of the black gang’s culture. These tattoos are used to represent the black people’s neighborhood and to challenge and intimidate other gang member. The tattoos that are used by the black gangsters may also be seen on members of other gangs as they represent the city that they live in and the area code.
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Common tattoos that are used by the black gangs include: tattoos containing either the name of the gang or the initials of the name of that particular gang, tattoo of an object that represents that gang, tattoo of numbers that represents the gang, a tattoo with initials R.I.P. and a name as a way of showing respect for a dead homeboy and a tattoo that has the nicknames of relatives. This is the same case for the Hispanic gangs (Curtis, 2010). They use tattoos as a form of intimidation and expression. A tattoo of a certain member of a Hispanic gang communicates more about his life history as the member of the gang, his stage in the gang and the time when he enlisted in that particular gang. Their tattoos are similar to those used by the black gangs and they include: the gang’s name, the initials of the gang, tattoos of objects that represent the gang and a tattoo with initials R.I.P “Homies name.” However there is a slight difference because the Hispanic gangs have extra tattoos like: three dots in shape of a pyramid, Vida loca Theatre masks, and religious images like Jesus Christ, among others (Curtis, 2010).
The other common similarity among these two gangs is the use of graffiti. It is usually used by the street gangs and it is usually referred as the newspaper of the street. Within these gangs, the graffiti identifies the gang limits and it is used to convey challenge messages to the rival gang. It also reveals the crimes that the gang is involved in which serves to disrespect and intimidate rivalry gangs as well as society. Another importance of graffiti is the fact that it is used to tell when a gang member is in trouble. The Hispanic gangs use the following graffiti symbols: XIII or Thirteen is used as the identity for the Mexican Mafia, XIV or fourteen is used as the identify for the Nuestra Familia, Sureños for Southerners and Norteños for Northerners. R.I P is used to mean rest in peace. In the black gangs graffiti is not the uniform as compared to traditional graffiti but some of the rules apply. Black gang’s graffiti is read from top to bottom and left to right. They use a slash (/) as a space between words. The terms ace, duce and trey replace the numbers 1, 2, and 3 respectively. For instance, 43rd is referred as four trey. Some of the graffiti symbols used by the black gangs include letter “K” being written over letters “B”, “C”, “P” to mean a killer, $(money sign) for the pimps and the drug dealers, CK (Calvin Klein) to mean Crip Killer, BK(British Knights) to mean Blood Killer, among others (Alonso, 2010).
Differences between the Gangs
Hispanic gangs are known to have neighborhood loyalty, multigenerational membership and have turf consciousness. The black street gangs are exactly the opposite for they are not turf oriented and do not have older members. The Hispanic gang members move away from the barrio but their affiliation to the group is still impact. In contrast, black gang members join new gangs when they move away (Alonso, 2010). There is also a major difference in their tattooing and graffiti practices. The power of the gang does not come from the graffiti for the black gang members as is the case with the Hispanic gang members. Moreover, black gang members use tattoos to symbolize membership and this is not the case for the Hispanic gangsters.
Hispanic and black gangs are characterized by violence, and use of tattoos and graffiti. They usually started in social clubs and later spread to neighborhoods. Organized gangs are on the rise all over the world. Majority of the members in most organized gangs are youths aged between 19 and 26 years. Many gangs identify with a certain neighborhood and they have a rival gang that they are always in conflict with. As is has been discussed the major gangs such as Hispanic and the black gangs have their similarities and also differences that make them unique from one another.
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