After the gang desistance, violence and occupational options in Nicaragua


Gangs are widely considered major contributors to the high levels of violence afflicting Latin America, including in particular Central America. At the same time, however, the vast majority of individuals who join a gang will also leave it and, it is assumed, become less violent. Having said this, the mechanisms underlying this ‘desistance’ process are not well understood, and nor are the determinants of individuals’ post-gang trajectories, partly because gang desistance tends to be seen as an event rather than a process. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research carried out in barrio Luis Fanor Hernández, a poor neighbourhood in Nicaragua's capital city Managua, and more specifically a set of ‘archetypal’ gang member life histories that illustrate the occupational options open to former gang members, this article offers a longitudinal perspective on desistance and its consequences, with specific reference to the determinants of individuals’ continued engagement with violence (or not).