Learning from Spanish Immigrant Youth Gang Members


  • 2013•05•13     Barcelona

    Academics, youth justice officials, prison officers and others with personal experience of youth gang membership joined the staff of the UNU Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM) to explore notions of gang membership in Barcelona and Madrid on 10 April 2013, in the art nouveau Sant Pau complex. In the forum “Seeking Respect: Re-examining Assumptions about Gang Membership Among Immigrant Youth in Barcelona and Madrid”, experts offered insights into a variety of issues around membership of “las bandas” or “los pandilleros”.

    Accepted mainstream assumptions about gangs and immigrant gang membership were challenged. Three key observations emerged.

    • Emphasis was placed on the hierarchical structure of the gangs that exist in Barcelona and Madrid, and their connection to gangs in the Latin American home countries of their members.
    • It was notable that gangs were described as surrogate families for young people, by providing caring environments. Indeed, one former gang member described this as “falling in love” with a gang.
    • It was noted that gangs often sought the attention of wider society, which led to the view that media responses to gangs that focus on the violence associated with them may in fact reinforce the need for violence in order to achieve recognition.

    This discussion was the first in a series of Open Forum events, in which UNU-GCM brings together a range of participants to discuss questions relating to migration, mobility and media.

    Listen to recording of the forum conversation (in Spanish) at the link below.