Bandas beyond their ‘Ethnographic Present’: Neoliberalism and the Possibility of Meaning in Mexico City


  • Adina Radosh Sverdlin Universidad Iberoamericana



Bandas, life trajectories, masculinity projects, Neoliberalism, meaning


Mexico faced significant financial crises during the late seventies and early eighties emanating from the Mexico City, due to its centrality. These crises were connected to the introduction of neoliberal reforms in the country. Simultaneously, a form of children and youth organization appeared in some of the incipient and impoverished neighbourhoods in the West of the city, the bandas; parallel to the inception of ‘City Santa Fe,’ a luxurious utopia. Difficult urban and social conditions, violence and uncertainty not only gave birth to the bandas, but became their insignia. A temporal distance of nearly three decades from the birth of the bandas allows for a procedural analysis that overcomes the temptation to limit a research on youth groups to their ‘ethnographic present.’ The bandas’ members narrate their life trajectories as search for better scenarios and, along the way, find meaning and order in otherwise chaotic events. Belonging to a banda serves as a coordinate from where to array a set of events and processes, and assess their outcomes, a coordinate for framing certain ‘masculinity projects’, allowing feelings of progression, satisfaction and even redemption.