Gangs formed around similar ethnic backgrounds. After The Civil War there were Jewish, African American, Italian and Irish gangs in New York. Chinese gangs appeared in California in the mid 1800s. Philadelphia reported gangs as early as 1840. Between then and 1870 Philadelphia became home to over 100 street gangs. This is also the time when gangs started to use clothing for the sake of distinctiveness. Chicago became a type of gang capital during the 1920s, with a total of about 1,300 gangs and about 25,000 gang members. Immigration of Mexicans into California grew rapidly in this period. Many youngsters of the second generation didn't fit in the American society. They started wearing fancy and distinctive clothes called "Zoot Suits". Serious problems with sailors (it was the time of WW II) caused the "Zoot Suit Riots". Between 1941 and 1945 over half a million Puerto Ricans arrived in the United States. Most settled in New York City, which led to the formation of new gangs. Also during the 1920's the African American populations migrated from the south to northern cities and established gangs there.
Dressing, body language, hand signs, tattoos and certain styles of talking became important means of identification. The reason for gang wars was mostly the violation of territory borders or fighting over girls. The fighting became more violent when gangs got better access to firearms in the 1970s. Hierarchies were built and minors sent to commit crimes because of the lower sentences they would get in case of an arrest and as the number of gangs increased. The territories often were just a single corner or just one block. Gang war was fought guerrilla-like including rooftop snipers and drive-by shootings. Enhanced by the media the next step could be that gangs form small, home-grown cells of terrorists.
Latino gangs, like any other gangs, clearly tend to develop along ethnic and racial lines. While some have a white member, or a black member or two, the gang members are typically of one ethnic group, Hispanic, which includes Chicanos, Mexicans, El Salvadorians, Cubans, South Americans, and all other Spanish speaking countries. Latinos would probably be more appropriate as a title, but is actually a politic term used to refer to people of Latino descent. There are twp positions in the debate about gangs; (1) those who maintain that they are formal, structured organizations with explicit leadership hierarchies, with set precepts reining over members. (Skolnick et el 1988), (Skolnick 1990), (2) those who argue that gangs are loosely confederated groups (Klein, Maxson, and Cunningham 1001) and (Sanchez-Jankowski 1991)
Latino street gangs do not exactly issue membership cards, or are anthill societies, or highly structured military or corporate formations, and they do not hold regular meetings. According to those who have worked in bringing about the "truces" among ethnic gang groups of all kinds, the individuals who call the shot's are not part of a chain of command, and other researchers agree. (Kroeker and Haut 1995) They are also peripherally associated members, or "associates"...