New Book Released from Recent CSRS Graduate

Author: Heather Price

Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America
Robert Brenneman


Why would a gun-wielding, tattoo-bearing "homie" trade in la vida loca for a Bible and the buttoned-down lifestyle of an evangelical hermano (brother in Christ)? To answer this question, Robert Brenneman interviewed sixty-three former gang members from the "Northern Triangle" of Central America--Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras--most of whom left their gang for evangelicalism. Unlike in the United States, membership in a Central American gang is hasta la morgue. But the most common exception to the "morgue rule" is that of conversion or regular participation in an evangelical church. Do gang members who weary of their dangerous lifestyle simply make a rational choice to opt for evangelical religion? Brenneman finds this is only partly the case, for many others report emotional conversions that came unexpectedly, when they found themselves overwhelmed by a sermon, a conversation, or a prayer service. An extensively researched and gritty account,Homies and Hermanos sheds light on the nature of youth violence, of religious conversion, and of evangelical churches in Central America.


  • Based on original fieldwork and extensive interviews, the research integrates the stories and voices of former gang members
  • Examines how religion is used to counteract transnational gang violence


"A fascinating window into how street-tough gangbangers abandon the vida loca for evangelical Christianity, trading one set of identity markers, community, and mores for another. Homies and Hermanos describes how religious conversion provides Central American pandilleros with one of the only ways to leave gang life that does not end in the morgue. Beautifully written and compellingly told!" 
--Virginia Garrard-Burnett, author of Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efrain Rios Montt, 1982-1983

"Brenneman provides a new twist in the gang literature: the surprising parallels between emotional rituals and public display of symbols in both the violent gangs and evangelical churches of Central America. These are the poles of attraction in a market for emotional energy, allowing ex-gang members an escape from membership-to-the-death if they show genuine conversion that the gang respects. In this ritual economy, only one powerful ritual can substitute for another. Brenneman's time-oriented, processual approach advances both theory and practice."-- Randall Collins, author ofViolence: A Micro-Sociological Theory

Product Details

312 pages; 2 b/w halftones6-1/8 x 9-1/4;ISBN13: 978-0-19-975384-0ISBN10: 0-19-975384-9

About the Author(s)

Robert Brenneman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. He is the author of Faith and the Foreigner.