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Adiós Niño

The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death

by Deborah T. Levenson

Publication Year: 2013

In Adiós Niño: The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death, Deborah T. Levenson examines transformations in the Guatemalan gangs called Maras from their emergence in the 1980s to the early 2000s. A historical study, Adiós Niño describes how fragile spaces of friendship and exploration turned into rigid and violent ones in which youth, and especially young men, came to employ death as a natural way of living for the short period that they expected to survive. Levenson relates the stark changes in the Maras to global, national, and urban deterioration; transregional gangs that intersect with the drug trade; and the Guatemalan military's obliteration of radical popular movements and of social imaginaries of solidarity. Part of Guatemala City's reconfigured social, political, and cultural milieu, with their members often trapped in Guatemala's growing prison system, the gangs are used to justify remilitarization in Guatemala's contemporary postwar, post-peace era. Portraying the Maras as microcosms of broader tragedies, and pointing out the difficulties faced by those youth who seek to escape the gangs, Levenson poses important questions about the relationship between trauma, memory, and historical agency.

Published by: Duke University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: The Rise and Fall of Tomorrow

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pp. 1-20

In the 1800s and most of the 1900s, first the Guatemalan Liberal Party and later reformists and revolutionaries envisioned “La Juventud” (Youth) to be in the vanguard of a modernity that would arise from within a city conceived as a beacon in a rural and savage wilderness.1 Following the defeat of the popular and revolutionary organizations and years of neoliberal policies, by...

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1. Death and Politics, 1950s–2000s

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pp. 21-52

Sitting on a chair in small apartment in Guatemala City’s Zone 3, Victor recounted that in 1985, when he was fifteen, he and his friends founded Mara Plaza Vivar Capitol with companionship and competing in an upcoming break dance competition in mind. But a few months later, he explained, Army Intelligence (G-2) stopped him and a few others who were...

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2. 1980s: The Gangs to Live For

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pp. 53-76

When he was nine years old, Aníbal López told his parents that he had had a vision of an earthquake. A few days later, in the early morning of February 1976, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter close to Guatemala City struck. More than twenty- three thousand persons, most of whom lived in conditions of poverty, died as a result of this tremor and a strong...

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3. 1990s and Beyond: The Gangs to Die For

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pp. 77-104

A founding member of Mara Plaza Vivar Capitol back in 1985, Victor returned to Guatemala in 1998. He was twenty-eight years old, and the war had only recently ended. He sought out his old gang because, he explained, the only family he wanted now in the city was his Mara. It was “all over” with his mother: “She does not like me.” After thirteen years of living in Mexico...

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4. Democracy and Lock-Up

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pp. 105-128

The National Civil Police’s “United against the Maras” poster advertises an alignment of Guatemalans who run the gamut, absurdly and obscenely, from a chewing gum vendor to the owner of a new Mercedes-Benz. No matter who they are, the argument goes, all share a normality that is threatened by the noncitizen others: the “mareros.” Nothing could more invert...

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5. Open Ending

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pp. 129-144

The political violence of the Guatemalan ruling elite is the result of calculated decisions about wealth and power, but mareros have no political power or wealth. Their violence is part of the unspoken story of subjectivities that have been created by the absence of positive means of power over life and by fear, terror, and the difficult material conditions that have been...


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pp. 145-160


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pp. 161-176


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pp. 177-183

E-ISBN-13: 9780822395621
E-ISBN-10: 0822395622
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822353157
Print-ISBN-10: 0822353156

Page Count: 195
Illustrations: 30 photographs
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 841229587
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Adiós Niño