The Street Is My Home: Youth and Violence in Caracas

What does it mean to be a child or an adolescent growing up on the streets or in a state institution? How do children define their everyday lives in the midst of global processes? This ethnographic study situates childhood and adolescence as social forms within the changing family and political structures of the complex urban world of Caracas, Venezuela. The presence of youngsters on the streets of Caracas embodies social contradictions at the national level, and this book discusses how these contradictions are played out in an oil-producing nation afflicted with hyperinflation, generalized corruption, the deterioration of public services, increasing poverty, and violence. Vivid life stories told by street children themselves portray their relations with family and friends, as well as with people they encounter: police officers, journalists, social workers, and passersby at their local hangouts. The book also describes and analyzes the justice system and institutions for minors, illustrating the constant failures to respond to, contain, or lessen youth violence. Many young people come from shantytowns to the streets of Caracas for a better life, and the author shows how they seek status and power through style, pursuing commodities of the global consumer market, from Nike shoes to cellular phones. Drawing on her ethnographic data and contemporary theories of power, control, and style, the author critiques the inequalities of the Venezuelan class structure and the oil boom's failure to provide adequate social services for a great majority of the population.