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The Projects

Gang and Non-Gang Families in East Los Angeles

By James Diego Vigil

Publication Year: 2007

The Pico Gardens housing development in East Los Angeles has a high percentage of resident families with a history of persistent poverty, gang involvement, and crime. In some families, members of three generations have belonged to gangs. Many other Pico Gardens families, however, have managed to avoid the cycle of gang involvement. In this work, Vigil adds to the tradition of poverty research and elaborates on the association of family dynamics and gang membership. The main objective of his research was to discover what factors make some families more vulnerable to gang membership, and why gang resistance was evidenced in similarly situated non-gang-involved families. Providing rich, in-depth interviews and observations, Vigil examines the wide variations in income and social capital that exist among the ostensibly poor, mostly Mexican American residents. Vigil documents how families connect and interact with social agencies in greater East Los Angeles to help chart the routines and rhythms of the lives of public housing residents. He presents family life histories to augment and provide texture to the quantitative information. By studying life in Pico Gardens, Vigil feels we can better understand how human agency interacts with structural factors to produce the reality that families living in all public housing developments must contend with daily.

Published by: University of Texas Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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FOREWORD

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pp. ix-xii

The next time you read about gang violence, or proposals to do something about gangs and the neighborhoods they inhabit, you will bring an enriched frame of mind and understanding to the topic after reading Diego Vigil’s book. The Projects brings gangs and families to life; it is a holistic study in the best sense. You will think of gang members not simply as individuals in...

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PREFACE

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pp. xiii-xvi

In 1991, having just completed an on-site evaluation of a Los Angeles Housing Authority drug intervention program run by the Housing Authority in Pico Gardens, I approached Father Gregory Boyle to ask whether he would help me if I initiated a long-term study in that same housing development. Father Boyle agreed to do so, and soon after, I was able to write a proposal for a...

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CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-19

The strains and stresses of poverty in a public housing complex adversely affect family life, and those families that experience the greatest stress often lose control of their children to gangs. Losing children to gangs occurs in a social ecological arrangement, where there is already a generalized break-down of major social control institutions. In this situation, street...

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CHAPTER TWO: RATIONALE AND METHODS

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pp. 20-38

There are many rationales for selecting the Pico Gardens development as a research site. First, the complex contains a large concentration of low-income residents, many of whom have experienced persistent poverty over the span of generations. Second, a high percentage of families there rely on afDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children); many of these households...

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CHAPTER THREE: A HISTORY OF THE CUATRO FLATS BARRIO GANG

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pp. 39-53

An important part of the investigation into gang and non-gang families in the Pico-Aliso family housing community in East Los Angeles is understanding the history of the dominant gang in the area—Cuatro Flats. It is a long and deep history that began in the 1930s and has continued to the present. This chapter presents the background to the gang and shows how it began, grew, ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: THE GANG SUBCULTURE: Change and Continuity

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pp. 54-70

He used to sneak out of the neighborhood and successfully avoid where gang members hung out. Going to high school was enough of a challenge, but trying to keep away from the guys who hung out all over the projects was an even tougher job. But he did it; he grew up in the projects, poor, with a struggling mother and seven other siblings, and he found a way out. He became a cop, an LAPD officer! ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: THE PICO GARDENS CLIQUE

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pp. 71-93

One of the fascinating aspects of the gang member’s persona is how he works at and consciously maintains a sullen, hard look and demeanor to show the world; for some, it is real. When you attempt to interact with gang members for the first time, you get this stony front; forget about questioning them right away. The advantage of long-term fieldwork, however, is that...

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CHAPTER SIX: A GANG LIFE

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pp. 94-105

Turning his stingy-brim hat around in his hands and contemplating its shape and the red feather in the headband, Bebee thought about his life in the projects. Born and reared in the projects, knowing no other life than public housing and support, he had been able to survive even though he had done almost ten years in prison for a killing. As a member of Cuatro Flats...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: CHOLAS IN THE WORLD OF GANGS

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pp. 106-125

Young Pico Gardens females face the same social and cultural strains as their young male peers, compounded by the addition to gender strains and their own version of the psychological moratorium (Chesney-Lind and Sheldon 1992). The socialization of girls into street life not only shapes a permissive attitude toward deviant gang subcultures but also affects girls’ behavior with...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: WHY CHILDREN EITHER AVOID OR AFFILIATE WITH GANGS

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pp. 126-140

The factors determining gang and non-gang families can be traced to macrohistorical and macrostructural forces. Racism, immigration difficulties, poverty, stressed families, and other obstacles and pressures are integral to these larger-than-life dramas. Detailing the specific situations and conditions of individuals and families is another matter and comes under the...

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CHAPTER NINE: FAMILIES NOT INVOLVED WITH GANGS

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pp. 141-157

To transcend the one-dimensional caricatures of inner-city life that are commonplace in popular and, occasionally, academic discourse, it is important to closely examine families through methods grounded in the reality of their daily lives. It is readily apparent that these families are consumed with the typical concerns of all human beings, particularly those related to...

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CHAPTER TEN: A CLOSER LOOK AT GANG-AFFILIATED FAMILIES

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pp. 158-176

Some Pico Gardens residents are less capable of resisting the pushes and pulls related to the gang activity in their neighborhood and eventually succumb to gang life. This lack of resistance can be attributed to a heightened vulnerability born of repeated challenges to a healthy life—challenges that are generated both outside and within the family. Outside challenges, ...

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: GANG PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION STRATEGIES OVER TIME

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pp. 177-194

The history of Pico Gardens, and, of course, Cuatro Flats as a gang, would not be complete without the history I witnessed and recorded during my life. This is especially the case with the fieldwork I conducted intensively from 1991 through 1995, with periodic visits up to the present. I have already mentioned that in the early 1950s I visited the Pico project with friends who...

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CHAPTER TWELVE: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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pp. 195-211

In this exploration of the dynamics of family life in a low-income neighborhood, I hope that what separates gang from non-gang members has been better confirmed. Keeping the community and neighborhood effects constant, the variation in households and family members (i.e., family income, occupation, education, size of families, and even child-rearing practices) ...

REFERENCES

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pp. 213-225

INDEX

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pp. 227-239


E-ISBN-13: 9780292795099
E-ISBN-10: 0292795092
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292717305
Print-ISBN-10: 029271730X

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 41 b&w illus., 2 figures, 2 tables
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Pico Gardens (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Social conditions.
  • Poor families -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Public housing -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Gang members -- Family relationships -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Social conditions.
  • Gangs -- California -- Los Angeles.
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