The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Duke University Press
Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
Introduction: The Rise and Fall of Tomorrow
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...
1. Death and Politics, 1950s–2000s
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...
2. 1980s: The Gangs to Live For
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...
3. 1990s and Beyond: The Gangs to Die For
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...
4. Democracy and Lock-Up
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...
5. Open Ending
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...
Page Count: 195
Illustrations: 30 photographs
Publication Year: 2013
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