Mexican Drug Gang Article (Getting High and Getting By)


This article published by sage publishers and authored by Avelardo Valdez and Stephen J. Sifaneck, talks of the findings of a research carried out on the behavior of drug selling among American Mexican gang members in south Texas. The research was driven by the need to investigate the relationship between drug abusers and drug selling syndicates, as previous studies indicated that drug selling is not a primary activity of most gangs. Through quantitative methods of data collection and analysis this research interviewed more than 160 male gang members from a large area on their roles in the drug selling syndicates. The results of this study showed that four groups of gang members exists i.e. Home boys, Hustlers, Slangers and Ballers. The involvement of gang members in selling of drugs is as a result of them associating with adult drug criminals. It is clear from the research that drug users are not driven by profit whenever they involve themselves in drug selling but they do so to protect members of their gangs. It is therefore a challenge to the law enforcers to adopt these finding as they will help suppress the mass abuse and selling of drugs.


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          As briefly hinted in the abstract above, the purpose of this study was to gain an insight on the specific roles played by gang members in the sale of drugs. Mexican drug gangs have been there in the United States for over 100 years, this as a result of unemployment crisis experienced in Mexico back in the 1980’s a situation that led to a massive illegal exodus from Mexico to the U.S. The formation of these gangs has undergone a metamorphosis from unorganized social formations to the now violent common place street gangs. These gangs are also referred to as boarder brother’s gangs, this is due to their members originating from the same place in Mexico or crossing the border at the same time into U.S. As such therefore they are more of social formations whose main agenda is to protect each other, and abusing drugs than the real selling of drugs.

                        Methods of data collection

           Contrary to other previous research on the Mexican drug gangs, this study has employed qualitative methods to examine the gangs and their participation levels in the drug market when compared to other large scale players in the drug market. Some of these methods which include intensive interviews on the individual male gang members have authenticated the results of this study as it will be seen later. Other methods include ethnographic field observations which help to determine the significance of different ethnic groups of people in the drug market. This has helped to get reliable data on the culture of the gang members and therefore discover their lines of operation in regard to drugs.

             The other qualitative method used to collect data was based on focusing attentions to specific groups/gangs and closely monitoring its member’s activities. These methods are what the previous studies failed to use, and therefore this study collected the real valuable and first hand data that helps to make a true generalization on gang members’ behaviors in regards to the real selling of the drugs. Further the data collected was put into qualitative electronic database and put into respective contexts, a process that saw tangible findings and generalizations made. Again the study exhibited a much deeper efforts into the systemization of collected data, practice that guaranteed more reliable results.


           The methods used as explained above have resulted into the following findings; Gangs exists in two dimensions, gang type and the gang membership, further the members are classified into four categories. These categories which include Homeboys, Hustlers, Slangers, and Ballers are what differentiate a drug user and a drug user cum drug seller. The categories also determine the structure and the operations of any given gang in whole. However the research concurs with the previous studies when arguing that, although drug selling is common among gang members, it is not a paramount activity that unify a gang. It goes a step further to give out the reason for drug selling among gang members as their spontaneous involvement with adult criminals who form the drug market syndicate. Adult members as described by the article are the major factor the selling of drugs by gang members; this is as a result of them luring the young gang members with huge chunks of money.

           It is therefore not a surprise when the study gives out its verdict on the role of gang members in drug selling practices as being driven by the “brotherly obligations” to protect their “own” gang comrades. In other words gang members are purely non-profit oriented people whose noble driving force is “getting high and getting by” i.e. abusing drugs and providing a conducive drug abusing environment.

                          Strengths and Weaknesses of the study

          As hinted in the introductory part, this study was occasioned by the gross limitations of the previous studies on proper examination of gang members. Equally this study has got its own limitations, but its much strength is what gives it credibility. The qualitative method of data collection and analysis are the major strong points of this research, the selection of appropriate target group i.e. male gang members is the other strong point. However, its main limitation is the use of a limited number of gang members (160) to make a generalization on the behavior of a large network of gang membership that spreads over the large East and Western coasts of the U.S.


The authors’ findings and conclusion on the research are sound and acceptable however the author of the article fails to address the effect of loyalty and long life membership in regards to the reasons for indulging in drug selling activities. For instance not all drugs users are sellers, equally not all drug sellers are users, again gangs are comprised of new and old members, loyal and un-loyal members. It can therefore be argued that those members who seem to be obsessed (too loyal) with gangs, and the old (adult) members are not only the real drug sellers but serial drug dealers. This argument is based on the notion that too much practice (exposure) refines a skill.


Getting high and getting by, available at;, accessed on October 1, 2008



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