Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 253 | Agosto 2002



Nicaragua’s Youth Today: Fresas, Revolutionaries, Revelers, Hippies

"The more one appears to be who one wants to be, the more authentic one is," says Pedro Almodóvar in "Todo sobre mi madre." A survey of university students from the UCA lets us identify what they want to be, the symbols of identity they don, their faces and their masks.

José Luis Rocha

That bipolarity of the eighties, linked to the great ideologies that triggered dichotomous, Manichean confrontations, are gone, replaced with fragmented sources of identity and consequently fragmented youth groupings. A similar segmentation has also occurred among Nicaraguan writers and other trades. Fragmentation is a symptom of our time.

Places to have a good time are
more important than organizations

Nicaragua now has a wide range of youth groupings. For better or worse, youth groups with religious, cultural or political ends have survived, but their draw is skimpy, particularly compared to the gangs. Youth gangs have the largest membership by far and their identity has nothing whatever to do with politicians or their politics. The structure of even formal youth groupings is now also less linked to hierarchy, planning and regularity. These elements have given way to greater spontaneity and anarchy. For these and other reasons youth organizations cannot be used as a barometer for measuring the pressure for identity.

What matters more than belonging to a certain youth group, which is a passing fancy very closely linked to age, is a whole set of practices, preferences and strategies often not directly associated with age groups or geographic areas of residence or even socioeconomic levels. Asking about the organizational preferences of today’s youth is a throwback to the identity-building paradigm that reigned in the eighties; today you have to ask about their different life style options. Although the issue of formal organizations can still engender interesting questions about politics, it ties in less with the message currently being transmitted by young people, with their fondness for labels.

Everything said here is by way of hypothesis, the fruit of a first ever investigation into this theme. It is important to discover how today’s young people present, pigeonhole and disguise themselves. In that search, the places they go to have fun, for example, are more important than organizations. Such places may have greater potential as platforms that confirm, transmit and generate identity because they select a specific clientele through their prices, music, services, degrees of exclusivity or levels of mass absorption. They go after a market segment, a niche, as marketing experts would say. Managua’s night spots are classified according to their clients’ features: the light-skinned elite, those with alternative life styles, the superficial and consumerist types or those who class themselves under the more general category of "laid back," or "cool" thanks to US influence.

Seeking concepts in the
university micro-universe

In my search for concepts about young people I discovered that there is no Nicaraguan sociological literature on this propensity of young people to classify themselves and generate ghettos based on the typologies they create. All authors treat youth as a homogenous mass. Is this the arrogance of social scientists? Lazy simplification? Baggage of the past? Ingenuousness? Some studies, very meritorious in other respects, even omit the most elementary distinctions: rural and urban youth, or low-income and high-income youth. A more realistic position must start from the fact that there is not a single youth, but rather youths, different ways of being young. And the intuition of this phenomenon, verified some time ago by prestigious sociologists, is already in the air and is perhaps one of the messages that young people most monotonously emphasize through mental labeling.
In this microanalysis of a micro-universe, we will only address a very particular species of youth: university students. According to the Living Standards Survey of 2001, only 30% of young Nicaraguans between 16 and 25 enrolled in university that year, which means that studying university students gives us a far from full portrait of our youth. And we are drawing yet another boundary: we chose the student population of the Central American University (UCA), which, as can easily be verified, has a notoriously heterogeneous student clientele. It is perhaps the most representative of the various types of university youth that we could find in other Managua universities. The gamut of majors and diversity of fees have provided the UCA with a student body whose variety is not always welcomed by the professors, since they often find it hard to strike the right notes to capture everyone’s attention. It is, however, a good reflection of the heterogeneity of the university population of the capital and to a certain degree of the country as a whole, since 26% of UCA students come from outside Managua.
To get the most out of this diversity, I am availing myself of a database from a survey by the UCA’s Institute of Surveys and Opinion Polls (IDESO) done in the second half of 2001. Its sample was 400 students balanced according to university majors, 37% of whom were male and 63% female. The socioeconomic range of the UCA student body was reflected in the chosen sample, with 36% coming from relatively pricey private high schools, 44% from lower middle-class private schools and the remaining 20% from public secondary schools. They were asked over forty questions, many having to do with specific identifying features such as their geographic origin, the socioeconomic situation of the family, their major and career choices, etc. Another set of questions had to do with lifestyle preferences: what they did for fun, what topics they enjoy talking about, music and reading preferences and the like. The last question was the following: As a young man/woman, do you consider yourself:
a "fresa"
a "hippie"
a "revolutionary"
a "reveler"
other (with a space provided for picking one’s own label)
This article focuses particularly on that last question, defining what the chosen categories (all fashionable labels on campus today) actually describe, and to the degree possible through crossing with other questions, what these categories and their accompanying aspirations have to do with socioeconomic origins, career choices and family influences.

Classifying others is to dominate;
classifying oneself is to differentiate

Young people mutually label each other to characterize and censure conduct, places and forms of diversion. This procedure is aimed at producing identity by contrast: I’m not a hippie, I’m no coward, I’m not stuck up. Youth taxonomy is often implacable. This yen for classifying seeks to exhibit features, highlight lifestyles, emphasize ways of being. Is it just some genetic urge to pigeonhole? Does it express a search for identity? Has it reached the point of being an almost fundamentalist segregation? Why is such an acute need to classify emerging now in Nicaragua? What practical purpose does youth taxonomy serve? Is it an exercise in cultural domination? A need to know who’s who? Is the classification struggle a fight to limit spaces, identities?
According to the recently deceased French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, our perception and our practice, especially our perception of the social world, are guided by practical taxonomies. The virtue of the classifications they produce is that they introduce just enough logic for the needs of practice, neither too much—because imprecision is often indispensable, especially in negotiations—nor too little—because this would make life impossible.

In addition to having a practical power of positioning that helps us find our way in the social world, classifications are a way to exercise cultural dominion. It is an eagerness to objectify others, extract their essence based on their outer shell, discover the intangible aspects of their culture by auscultating their visible habits—clothes, accessories—in order to assign them a position in the social arena, coordinates that define their dimensions. For Bourdieu, the classification struggle is a fundamental dimension of the class struggle. The power of a vision of divisions—in other words, the power to make implicit social divisions visible, explicit—is political power par excellence: it is the power to make groups, to manipulate the objective structure of society.

The manners adopted—gestures, way of dressing, cultural palate, values, cosmovision—leave no room for doubt about that person’s place in the social arena. Hence, for Bourdieu, differences function "as distinct signs and signs of distinction." Through the distribution of properties, he argues, the social world is objectively presented as a symbolic system organized according to the logic of difference, of "differential distance." Social space tends to function as a symbolic space, an arena of lifestyles and status groups characterized by different lifestyles.

That is why I want to analyze forms of diversion, tastes, consumption, which crystallize into pigeonholed and pigeonholing practices and are engaged in to distinguish, to differentiate oneself from other groups, to acquire identity. In defining the profile of each type of youth, I use the labels they themselves have fabricated, but contrast and compare them by crossing them with the other data from the IDESO survey and with reasoning about the possible strategies manifesting themselves in the declared customs.

Tell me what you read, and I’ll
tell you what you...want to be like

Literary tastes are a clear example of how preference is used to define a group. The consumption of cultural products is a social locator. The IDESO survey revealed a massive predilection of all those polled for the works of Rubén Darío and Gabriel García Márquez. Why Rubén Darío? Better yet, why García Márquez? In other times, choosing García Márquez would have been a kind of declaration of principles: a form of confessing that one is a card-carrying leftist. Today, Gabo is even read by those whom one cannot assume to be leftists. Even superficial knowledge of the literary thermometer is enough to know that García Márquez has been consecrated as a legitimate writer. Long years of success in his trade, print runs in the millions and hundreds of academic studies of his works attest to it. The Nobel Prize was the accolade that ushered him into all libraries. This legitimization depoliticized him by endowing him with universality: suitable for all ideologies, races and nationalities. The author’s depoliticization robbed reading him of its quality as a manifesto and accentuated its enjoyable quality. It doesn’t subvert, it diverts. He is the most widely read single author among all those surveyed, but most of all, 50% of the fresas and 35% of those who call themselves apolitical.
Those who say they read García Márquez now are not aiming to be catalogued as intellectuals. This pretension would require naming more sophisticated and lesser-known authors such as Sábato, Cortázar or Carpentier. Thus mentioning García Márquez’s works as preferred reading suggests that they may qualify among those who consume "recognized brands." Among those who define themselves as apolitical, and who strongly overlap those in the lower-income category, it might also have to do with being able to read an accessible low-priced product acquired from a second-hand bookstall.

How do I label myself?

By only using definitions that have acquired a certain level of social legitimacy, I accept the risk that in a survey young people do not always attribute to themselves the same label that their observers would use. In the typology used for this article, I will be focusing on four of the offered labels: fresas, hippies, revolutionaries and revelers, only occasionally alluding to the fifth: apolitical.

Although the IDESO survey did not quantify each of the definitions written in by those who selected "other," "normal," was the one clearly selected most often. Another significant number of youths tended to classify themselves as "natural," an adjective that implies that other categories are fabrications denoting a lack of authenticity. Acquiring a reputation as "authentic" is one of the most valued symbolic goods in Nicaraguan youth culture. Is this the case in the rest of the globalized world?
Many students called themselves some variant on easygoing: calm, laid back, high or that current Nicaraguan street favorite, tuani (or cool). The adjectives change according to the socioeconomic level. Young people from expensive private secondary schools do not define themselves as tuani, both a term and a concept that is part of the currency of the grassroots vocabulary. Some students who come from public high schools do qualify themselves as high or cool, because these adjectives are more in line with how they aspire to be viewed. They make use of any accessory that helps them fit in, imitate the appearance of the upper middle class urban youths with whom they share classrooms and some fun spots. When, despite all attempts to restrict consumption in other areas, their income doesn’t stretch far enough to cover the costs that this mimesis requires, out come the fake cell phones.

One important hypothesis is that because the types for which there are labels are stereotypes, they do not always correspond to the objective reality that the label seeks to reflect. Those who label others are generous rather than rigorous in the application; all it takes to satisfy them is a couple of features. And those who label themselves appear wrapped in a representation of their personal drama, in which they seek to approximate their self-caricature precisely because the label contains the social endowment they aspire to. Thus, although the idea is sometimes to provide pigeonholing labels that reflect socioeconomic circumstances, they are in fact more an expression of life options.

In this regard, the type to which one belongs is not conditioned only by the family trajectory, but also by anticipated future income (in the case of the fresas) or by a cause (in the case of the hippies). This explains the frequency of visits to a given discotheque to hobnob with certain people. Or, at the other extreme, it implies doing without certain articles that are in reach of one’s pocketbook, but whose purchase would make one appear a consumer. A process of accumulating symbolic goods takes place in all types although the goods differ in each one. The label tries to synthesize this process of accumulating intangible assets rather than a specific economic situation. This is why youth groups with their labels do not coincide with social classes in the classic sense, but with a pigeonholing that operates through aspirations.

The fresas:
Esthetics, not ethics

"Fresas," which literally means strawberries, is the Nicaraguan street term used to denote the rough equivalent of preppies in the United States. They are today’s more success-driven version of the superficial chicos plásticos, the "plastic kids" who in the eighties inspired Panamanian songwriter-singer Rubén Blades to write an ironic salsa detailing their features, mannerisms, customs and values. "She was a plastic chick, one of those you always see, who when they move perspire Channel No. 3. They dream of marrying a doc, since he can keep them best; they talk to no one not on a par, unless he’s above the rest. Pretty, slim, well-dressed, sideways glance, false laugh. / He was a plastic dude, one of those you always see, with comb in hand and face that says it wasn’t me. They fear conversation, only discuss which car is best. They prefer not to eat for appearances are the real test. Got to be elegant so they can pick up a plastic chick."
The difference is that the plastic kids were perceived as the ideological opposite of the youth "integrated" into the revolutionary process of the eighties—who had their own "jet set" that in fact wasted more money than the plastic kids. The fresas of the nineties, however, are only one of the important groups that make up the spectrum of non-revolutionaries. And now it isn’t ideological affinity that ranks in their definition, but lifestyle option. That is why it is much more important to describe their cosmetics and esthetics than their ethics.

Sociologist Alicia Zamora describes the fresas as youths who "dress well, powder their skin with glitter and avoid the UCA pedestrian entrance by the bus stop because it could blow their status. They wear braces on their teeth even if they don’t need to and glasses with tortoise shell frames. The glitter gives them a status of shininess, notoriety, which helps them stand out. They form cliques, distinguishing themselves from the rest. Fresas are diametrically opposed to the tamales or guasales, names they use both on campus and off for guys who just hang out and look like delinquents or girls who don’t fix themselves up, whom they also refer to as "hairy legs." If someone in one of these two categories happens to have a car, and particularly if they have strongly mestizo features, then people say, "Hey, look at the car that tamal stole!"

Tell me where you hang out and
I’ll tell you...if you’re a fresa

According to the stereotype, fresas come from the most expensive private secondary schools: Centroamérica, La Salle, Bautista, Calasanz, Teresiano and Pureza de María. The IDESO survey showed that in fact 64% of those who see themselves as fresas studied in expensive private schools, while the general average for UCA students is 36%. Those from private schools with relatively high monthly fees tend to find their partner from the same set of schools, which coincides with the fresa strategy of conserving or acquiring "caste purity."
Exactly half of those who call themselves fresas said they were studying law, a profession that they feel can maintain their status or be vital in raising it. Some of their habits were probably acquired abroad, since 43% said their mothers lived outside of Nicaragua during the eighties. Their favorite music is pop, and they are the biggest fans of romantic music with a 77% preference. They don’t stand out for an opposition to rock, but 93% of them did not mark salsa—the predominant music in the popular discotheques and parties where their natural opposites gather—among their musical preferences. While many of those surveyed, especially females, simply responded "the disco," "the movies" or "going out to eat" when asked where and how they had a good time, fresas and more generally those with a high socioeconomic position always specified their favorite nightspots: Cinemas Inter, Insomnia, Hipa-Hipa. These are places that are not indifferent to their visitors’ profile, where the idea of "tell me where you go to have a good time and I will tell you who you are" is taken to an extreme. In this case, place is the habit that makes the nun.

Being a fresa is more associated with conspicuous consumption than with level of fixed capital. The group even includes the sons of chauffeurs and they don’t always live in well-heeled residential zones. But they do have a high consumption of certain goods and services that can associate them—in common perception and in social relations—with the well-off sectors. One example is cable TV, a service received by 90% of them, compared to an average of under 80% among the sample as a whole. While only 19% of the students surveyed travel to the university in a private vehicle, 43% of those who define themselves as fresas do, and 64% have access to a cellular phone, the highest percentage of any group. With nearly 80%, they also are the highest percentage of those who go to the beach during Holy Week rather than staying home.

Their accumulation of symbolic goods requires an investment in material goods beyond their means, as perfectly described in Blades’ salsa lyrics: "Appearing to be what they aren’t, living in a world of pure illusion, drowned in debt to maintain their social status at a wedding or cocktail party." This probably explains why the fresas were the category that least answered the question about their parents’ profession. Because they don’t always have one, they at least have to appear as the caricature of the status they seek to have.

A hippie’s clothes are his or her manifesto

The "hippies" are the most easily identifiable and most picturesque group, both in terms of their attire and of everything that their lifestyle involves. Those eager to define their stereotype identify them as people who wear sandals, dangly seed earrings, Guatemalan woven cloth bags, braided string bracelets, bamboo necklaces and cotonas, that pullover cotton floppy-sleeved shirt identified with the literacy crusade of the eighties and with poet Ernesto Cardenal. Their attire proclaims their ideology. Nothing is innocuous in those accessories. It is a kind of fundamentalist dress style, making consumer habits an issue of struggle. Each piece of the outfit underscores choice and is an ideological manifesto of the lifestyle adopted: sandals with all their symbolism; indigenous cloth bags and cotonas as a claim on what is Latin American and a boycott of the transnational clothes sewn together en masse in the local maquila sweatshops; the seed jewelry from trees that others exterminate as a form of ecological pronouncement. Hippie attire can be very costly. The accumulation of symbolic goods at times requires a major investment in material goods. This is not a group with scarce resources.

Fresas and hippies share two features. A high percentage of both spent all or part of their childhood abroad in the eighties—although probably for different reasons—and neither went to Nicaraguan public schools. More than a few are children of foreign parents or parents who lived abroad for a long time. For this reason, some studied in bilingual secondary schools such as the French School, the American School or the German School, but the majority (63%) came from private schools that did not have a high price tag.

A surprising 75% of the students who identify themselves as hippies come from middle-class residential zones compared to only 47% of UCA students as a whole. Among university students, poverty appears more linked to the decision to have no political affiliation whatever. Hence 84% of the youth who wanted to be defined as apolitical are from poor neighborhoods. Being a hippie is a form of militancy with a level of sophistication and set of symbolic needs that elude those who have trouble even satisfying more basic material needs.

A thirst for the "alternative" and "different"

While 1.3% of the UCA students admit to habitually using drugs, this figure climbs to 12.5% in the case of the hippies. And while 8.3% of all students said they had tried drugs at some time, this was true of 25% of the hippies. Amatl, a nightspot with offbeat evening music, poetry and occasionally speakers is the preferred place of entertainment for 25% of the hippies, particularly those associated with drugs. Of those who frequent it, 14.3% habitually use drugs and 36% have tried them, which are far higher figures than the average. The hippies’ main detractors say they are drug addicts, while those who know least about their ideals also pigeonhole them as bisexual.

Being different, or "alternative," is vitally important to hippies. They flee anything that reeks of the average. Hippies don’t choose a place because it’s decent, a motive that predominates among those who refuse to be pigeonholed or even to define their own category. The hippies choose a place because it’s different, like Amatl, which advertises itself as "an alternative place for alternative people."
Hippies opt for strictly symbolic capital, which means among other things that it is the group that visits the library most often. They also seek to distance themselves from the conventional in what they read. They selected Nicaraguan authors not read by the other types, such as Juan Aburto and Alejandro Bravo, and listed a far high reading of Sergio Ramírez (25%) than the average (6%). They are the type that most appreciates rock (75%), a musical style still seen as a sign of rebellion. Situating themselves on the extreme opposite of the fresas, 86% of the hippies dislike romantic music. They are not interested in either seeking or believing in traditional romance, given their option for what is alternative.

Hippies seek "to be themselves," an expression of their thirst for authenticity. For this reason, they restrict their consumption of certain articles. Those who define themselves as hippies or revolutionaries have lower rates of cell phone use: 25% and 22%, respectively. Unlike the young fresas, 50% of hippies stay home during the Easter Week vacation. These holes in their consumption patterns are an integral part of their disparagement of the market. Hippie consumption depends on their militancy or their desire to be the most up to date, in the vanguard. Thus their low use of cell phones and greater use of busses (86%), despite the fact that 75% have access to a vehicle in their home. In contrast, they head up those who have an Internet connection. In this category, they are 7 percentage points ahead of the 18% average for UCA students.

Hippie militancy leads 50% of them to talk politics in the places they go to have a good time, compared to 7% for fresas, 6% for the revelers and 5% for the apolitical group. The thesis of the existence of "youths," of different ways of being young, is even more reinforced by the verification of these extremes. Those who call themselves revolutionaries, however, share the hippies’ interest in politics, with 41% including political themes in their preferred conversation topics. This group also shares with the hippies their limited interest in talking about the future, a theme that absorbs 41% of those surveyed overall but only 25% of the hippies and 26% of the revolutionaries.

Those who have thought the most about this particular identity speak of two types of hippie. On the one side are those who have a hippie ideology and live this cause coherently. On the other are those who are only surface hippies, who cultivate the image because it is picturesque and for its component of rebellion against authority figures, whether parents, teachers or others about whom they have formulated absolutist verdicts. This more superficial type can alternate between hanging out in the same places the fresas go for a good time and throwing a threadbare cotona over an expensive pair of designer jeans.

Those who read least

The IDESO survey explicitly included the category "revolutionary" to be able to detail what characteristics differentiate them from the hippies and thus get a picture of the hippie in a "pure state." Curiously, those who checked the revolutionary category fit a pattern often caricatured in literature. And they are indeed the caricature of those whom the label seeks to name. The parents of all who put themselves in this category were officials of the Sandinista government in the eighties, many of whom now work in nongovernmental organizations or even coordinate them, especially if they live outside Managua.

Like the hippies, they seek to distinguish themselves by cutting some distance between themselves and the average. While 20% of the total surveyed said they read Rubén Darío, barely 7.4% of the revolutionaries showed any interest in Nicaragua’s most revered poet, perhaps as an expression of their desire to break with the more conventional cultural products and values. In contrast, they claimed the highest number who read Ricardo Pasos, a contemporary Nicaraguan author whom they find sufficiently provocative. On the other extreme, the young people who defined themselves as "normal" are those who read Darío the most, or at least claim they do because they think it is opportune to do so (what could be more normal than to read such a socially accepted author?). The revolutionaries mentioned the authors that got the least votes in the overall spectrum of student reading: Sigmund Freud, Eduardo Galeano, Karl Marx and Frei Betto. It is important to be different as an expression of rebellion and to read leftist authors. But unlike the hippies, their rejection of the conventional leads them to read least of anybody. At 74%, they are the ones who least read Nicaraguan authors, while 41% do not read foreign authors either. The height of rejection.

A hybrid of leftist discourse
with conformity and consumerism

After hippies, the revolutionaries are the ones who most use drugs habitually (3.7%) and have sampled them occasionally (22%). With 60%, they also follow the hippies as fans of rock music, which they consider anti-establishment. But they are far from having the coherence of the genuine hippies. Although their use of cell phones—symbol of consumerism to both hippies and revolutionaries —is one of the lowest, their spending on fun, means of getting around and places of entertainment coincide more with the fresas’ lifestyle. They are a hybrid, with a leftist option for authors, frequency of politics in their conversations, etc., combined with the "discreet charm of the bourgeoisie." They are like the young nihilist Basarov, in Turgueniev’s novel Fathers and Sons, who makes a constant show of his disparagement of all moral principle and of the dominant class, but at the same time seeks to be accepted by a wealthy, beautiful young widow, heiress of a huge fortune.

Those who define themselves as revolutionaries yet frequent the same places as the fresas have simply not adjusted their rap to their new living conditions. Or they maintain this discourse because in the labor market in which their parents move—that of the NGOs and other "alternative" institutions—it is the most profitable one, the symbolic good paid for with material ones. They thus appear like Michele, a character in Io sono un autarchico, a movie that according to Ignacio Ramonet in La Golosina Visual, "presents the lamentable daily life of a supposed rebellious intellectual, who refuses to work (so as not to make the bosses wealthier with the surplus value of his activity, he explains) and lives off the generosity of his wealthy parents. Michelle and his friends have all the tics...of aged rebels, nostalgic for May in France. They firmly exhibit stale ideas on parlor conversation themes: movies and politics, sexuality and society, ecology and power... They appear aggressive; complain about everything (though blandly); read porno magazines hidden inside books on semiotics; keep a guitar, a book on free-jazz, a syringe or a joint within easy reach; are fickle; sleep too much; never look left, convinced that they embody the extremity of the extremes; terrify themselves vying with each other to be more marginal; take no note of the passing years; endlessly readjust the boundaries of the threatening ‘bourgeoisification’ and radically ignore their own conformity."

The "revelers":
A shiny, hair-styled identikit

The inclusion of "revelers" or party-goers" in the proposed typology was a trick with the same motive as including revolutionaries, in this case to separate certain characteristics out from the fresas and thus be able to distill the latter in their "pure state." The fun-seekers are the fresas’ closest kin with respect to coming from costly and elite private secondary schools: 42%. With 51%, they also follow close behind in cell phone use. The mixture of a modest family trajectory and relatively high current income means that the same individual could choose both Hipa-Hipa and El Quetzal as good night spots for dancing, while the fresas only frequent the first and would not be caught dead in such a "seedy" place as the second.

The spontaneous ethnographic exercise in which some students indulge stresses presentation as an essential characteristic of the fun-seekers: "The women wear spandex pants and a tight shirt, transparent bra, high heels, a fancy hairdo, a u-shaped leather bag with a short shoulder strap in bright balloon colors. The men wear highly polished shoes, after-shave, shirt tucked in to show off a leather belt, a gold chain and never a backpack, but rather a briefcase, or at least a brand-name book pack. Most of them can be found in business administration."

Tell me what you study and I’ll
tell you your consumption pattern

The revelers don’t have strongly defined tastes and demonstrate a wide array of features. The most important in this case is that crossing their type with the professions selected in the survey uncovered consumption patterns that suggest a youth type defined by careers. Although I said consumption patterns, I’m referring to a phenomenon with a broader spectrum in which tastes and preferences are linked to schemes of thinking. "Habitus" is one concept for this, introduced by Bourdieu to define the system of perception and appreciation schemes, cognitive and evaluative structures acquired through the hard experience of one’s position in the social world. Habitus, he explains, is both a system of schemes for producing practices and a system of schemes for perceiving and appreciating practices.

We can use this link between schemes of perception and certain practices to interpret the consumption patterns as linked to given careers. For example, cell phone use is lowest in the communication and psychology majors: 29% and 26% respectively. Consumerism is "professionally censured" in both careers. Among business administration students, who have a very different opinion, 42% use cell phones. Sociologists and psychologists also spend very few hours of their free time in front of a television set. It is a cliché in their major that television exercises a damaging mercantilist influence on viewers. But sociologists, psychologists and communication studies students, while in many aspects opposed to the market, are the ones who declare the highest drug use. In other words, they are in the non-conventional market, locating themselves in the illegal world. As in their renunciation of cell phones and televisions, they are deviating from the norm.

The "serious" and "normal" study law

Law students in the main categorize themselves as "serious." It is a very appropriate adjective for someone who aspires to be a respected gentleman in a suit and tie, or a very circumspect lady in silk shirt and blazer, those who, ensconced behind their impeccable desk resolve cases, deliver sentences, unravel or entangle legal documents. It is thus no surprise that these are the students who least like rock music: 67% of them did not include it among their musical preferences.

Although law is the second most popular major in the UCA, only 7.6% of those who define themselves as revelers are studying it. Reveler is a concept that does not seem to fit in with the seriousness of being a lawyer or judge, who is, after all, responsible for producing transcendental viewpoints in the form of certificates, endorsements and legal documents of all kinds. They are experts in judicially consecrated canonic semantics. They are the priests of the state, that arbiter par excellence of what is admissible, legal and ratifiable and that recognizes the official points of view they generate. Lawyers play an important role in determining what or who can monopolize the symbolic world that is the judicial basis for the dominion of the market of material goods.

Lawyers are objectifiers par excellence, because their categories imprint character or nature on things, automatically gain official consecration and define what is legal and what isn’t. They thus usually classify themselves as "normal": their schemes of perception emphasize the existence of a pattern, a normality, even a legality of the way of being they have chosen. It is not surprising that "normal" is the most frequently chosen self-definition of those who see themselves as "other" than the five given choices. Apart from denoting their desire to be a non-objectifiable objectifier, it expresses the pretension that their lifestyle be considered normative.

Fun-seekers study Bus. Ad.

In the other extreme, 41% of the business administration students characterize themselves as revelers, the highest percentage of any major. These students are at the age at which it is assumed that they have to have a good time, as proclaimed by the marketing theories promoting consumerism among the youth. And their particular brand of fun-seeking definitely has a high consumer ticket, with 42% of them using a cell phone and the majority picking expensive venues for their revelry. They must be "cool" and natural, easygoing. For a business administration student, having a good time is being normal.

Let’s also remember that the surveyed students who defined themselves as "fun-seekers" did not do so in an isolated and hermetically sealed cabin, but before the more or less critical, inquisitive or important eye of the pollster. This is an inevitable factor, seldom considered by survey analysts, that introduces a certain "perturbation" into the responses to be contemplated in the analysis. This element is the social sciences’ equivalent to the principle of uncertainty that Heisenberg postulated for physics, upon verifying that the observation method has effects on the object observed: the device used to measure the velocity of the electron changes the velocity it is trying to measure. In the judgment of business administration students, presenting themselves as fun-seekers is just what the students who conducted the poll expected them to say.

Gang members are neither
more nor less than the others

The types in this typology, those in the academic terrain and those in everyday life, those with free time and neither more nor less those of the street—such as the gangs—suggest characteristic perceptions that while not always adjusted to a specific socioeconomic level are in fact associated in the perception. The face and the mask get confused, and frequently the mask becomes the face.

Each type demonstrates practices, tastes and values through which one reproduces oneself, and thus consecrates a socially recognized and identifiable lifestyle. These types are more important for understanding today’s youth than the formal youth groups are. In the case of the schemes associated with specific careers, the curious part is that those practices and preferences transcend the strictly professional sphere and invade the private spaces, free time, literary taste, etc. The reason for this is that public men and women are also created in these private spaces.

We have taken an unorganized tour of these groups, showing the power of labels, which help create what they name because "brands sell" and attract more followers. This is also the logic of gang members, young people who have no access to the lawyers’ legal consecration, the fresas’ sumptuous consumption or the hippies’ ideological elaboration. They institute their own identity, their group, and their draw is the variegation of symbols that compensates for other shortages. They also exhibit a particular consumption and particular ways of perceiving what is going on around them. They are another way of being young. In this complex, pluralist and diverse gamut of different ways of being young, they are the most stigmatized. But stigmas sell too.

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