This week we spent a couple of days with amazing local journalist Julie Reynolds, who shared with us her insights of a couple of decades of work around the prison system in Salinas.
As stated earlier, this area is highly populated by Latinos, particularly of Mexican origin, either as first-generation immigrants or descendants of Mexicans born in the US. A number of get involved from a very early age in gangs, being Nuestra Familia and La Mafia Mexicana two of the most notable.
Gangs are spaces of identity, power and serve as a project to these young persons looking for options. They allure them and offer them status, membership to a group that pretends to give them protection and take care of them as a family would, strong male role models to kids with broken homes. Understanding how belonging can be complicated in a country where you are a minority, how important it is for young people to be feel respected and the central role family plays in Latin American countries it is no surprise why gangs are appealing to so many young persons.
There are groups who have been working for a long time towards building a safer community. However, it crucial to incorporate as much as possible the voices of the youth into the conversation of how to stop gang violence, incorporating their needs and perspectives in order to better address this situation.