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"I was blown away by this book, by its originality, textured detail, and penetrating, multilayered analysis of the history of Guatemalan gangs. The most holistic work that I have read on so-called 'apolitical' gang violence in Latin America, it is at once deeply empathetic, even to people who have committed vicious acts, and sharply argumentative. Adiós Niño will have a big impact on Latin American studies, urban studies, and violence and memory studies across the fields of history, anthropology, and sociology."—Greg Grandin, author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City and The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation
"A must-read account of how the gangs of Guatemala were shaped by war and politics. Chilling and important."—John M. Hagedorn, author of A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture
"Adios Niño is a first-class piece of social interpretation that plunges us deep into the darkness of the underworld. The result of incredible ethnographic fieldwork developed in dangerous conditions, it offers many methodological lessons for researchers."—Manolo E. Vela Castañeda, author of Los pelotones de la muerte: La construcción de los perpetradores del genocidio guatemalteco
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In Adiós Niño: The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death, Deborah T. Levenson examines transformations in the Guatemalan gangs called Maras from their emergence in the 1980s to the early 2000s. A historical study, Adiós Niño describes how fragile spaces of friendship and exploration turned into rigid and violent ones in which youth, and especially young men, came to employ death as a natural way of living for the short period that they expected to survive. Levenson relates the stark changes in the Maras to global, national, and urban deterioration; transregional gangs that intersect with the drug trade; and the Guatemalan military's obliteration of radical popular movements and of social imaginaries of solidarity. Part of Guatemala City's reconfigured social, political, and cultural milieu, with their members often trapped in Guatemala's growing prison system, the gangs are used to justify remilitarization in Guatemala's contemporary postwar, post-peace era. Portraying the Maras as microcosms of broader tragedies, and pointing out the difficulties faced by those youth who seek to escape the gangs, Levenson poses important questions about the relationship between trauma, memory, and historical agency.