Carlos A. Cruz Santiago

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 2004


This profile was prepared when Carlos A. Cruz Santiago was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Carlos’s vision is unique: instead of working against young perpetrators of violence, he works with them and tackles the problem of school violence from the inside. Through Cauce Ciudadano, Carlos transforms students involved in violent activity into nodes of nonviolent youth leadership. Once a victim and perpetrator of violence himself, Carlos has a personal understanding of the powerful role that formerly violent youth can play in changing the culture of violence around them.

Community efforts to crack down on gangs and support gang victims are nothing new. However, Carlos is restructuring previous strategies that deal with youth violence and introducing a potent source of inspiration: former gang members. According to Carlos, it is precisely those with a history of violent activity that can most effectively promote nonviolence. Because the Cauce methodology focuses on gang leadership within a student body, many of the individuals it targets have significant influence over large numbers of students who participate in organized violence. Cruz believes channeling gang leaders’ already powerful influence towards a movement of nonviolence is an effective strategy for change because at-risk youth will be more receptive to peer advice and collaboration than to school authorities and law enforcement.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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