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GANGS OF THE 80s. Cinema, press and the street

This exhibition, organized by Amanda Cuesta and Mery Cuesta, offers a view of juvenile delinquency cinema, which peaked between 1978 and 1985, focusing on its relationship of retro-feeding with the press of the time. The exhibition also acts as a faithful reflection of the urban, social, political and economic transformations that were sweeping through the country at that time.

Cinema quinqui
involved a particular, involved and mutually feeding relation with the sensationalist press of the time, but it was also a faithful reflection of the urban planning, social, political and economic changes scourging the country during this period. The codes of representation of juvenile delinquency in cinema quinqui have survived until the present day, when the stereotype of the quinqui, having undergone an aesthetic makeover, is still a source of unconcealed fascination.

Gangs of the 80s: cinema, press and street

The starting point of «Gangs of the 80s» is the figure of the juvenile delinquent formed by the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency cinema. The codes of representation of juvenile delinquency found in this cinema genre have continued to the present day in such a way that the stereotype of the juvenile delinquent, subject to an aestheticising process, continues to excite fascination.

The neighbourhoods of the sixties: industrial areas, unemployment and depression

During the sixties, emergency social plans were launched to combat the lack of cheap housing. The result was low quality urbanism with neighbourhoods lacking in the most basic services, which gave way to the appearance of neighbourhood movements. The crisis of the seventies and unemployment transformed these neighbourhoods into the germinal territory of the juvenile delinquent.

New forms of leisure

This generation of young people participated, for the first time in our country, in the currents of activity of youth culture. In games arcades they found the elements of evasion of the adolescent lifestyle: friends, sex and drugs; as well as elements of popular culture that projected images close to rebellion, escapism and marginality, such as the comic or music.

On the edge

In 1975, 25% of the population above 14 years of age was excluded from the educational system. The working age -like the legal age- was 16, so for many young people the street was the only place left to go. Furthermore, the arrival of heroin had a devastating effect. Amidst a climate of social alarm, intensified by the media, the juvenile delinquent became public enemy number one.


The presence of young delinquents in the media is the key to understanding their iconization. El Vaquilla and El Jaro are the brightest stars in this universe, real heroes of marginality, thanks to cinema biopics: Navajeros, the saga Perros Callejeros and Yo, El Vaquilla. These films form the backbone of gang culture cinema.

The reformatory

The Juvenile Courts had three options for dealing with the problem of juvenile delinquency. The first was to return the child to his home, if the parents accepted. The second was to send him to a reformatory. The third option, reserved for the most dangerous, was prison. Due to the lack of special facilities, many juveniles were sent to adult prisons.

From the roofs, I can see the city

As well as the lack of prison installations, there were problems derived from overcrowding and the scarcity of resources. The Franco inheritance left a system based on the most repressive and punitive methods. A wave of mutinies broke out in 1977, which resulted in the creation of COPEL (Organization of Spanish Prisoners in Protest).

The survival of the myth

This exhibition tackles the survival of this juvenile delinquency phenomenon since its rise and the tragic end of many of its protagonists. Hand in hand with a new generation, an aesthetic pirouette has occurred by means of which the juvenile delinquent of the eighties has risen to become a cool icon. The icon today, especially on Internet, flies freely.

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The CCCB’s Audio-visual Department takes us on a tour of the show.

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Interview with Amanda Cuesta and Mery Cuesta

Curators of the exhibition "Quinquis de los 80"

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Exhibition images

Previous activities

Opening concert exhibition "Gangs of the 80s. Cinema, Press and Street"

By Macarras Old School

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