The article builds an analytical framework to study the relation between security and informality and the extent to which it contributes to producing hegemony in local politics. By emphasizing a processual understanding of hegemony, the article develops a twofold argument: (1) structurally powerful actors with well-established links to state institutions carry out informal practices just as well as those often perceived to be at the ‘margins’ of the state; and (2) subaltern groups are capable of transforming their society while also inadvertently reproducing hegemonic security practices. The analytical framework is unpacked through two Mexican cases: the Coordinadora Regional de Autoridades Comunitarias – Policia Comunitaria (CRAC-PC) in Guerrero State and neighbourhood vigilantism in Oaxaca City. The CRAC-PC case shows that procedures in which hegemony is challenged involve actors resorting to state institutions (law, judiciary) coupled by paralegal institutions that enhance placemaking of rural indigenous communities. The Oaxacan case shows how communities challenge state actors through a series of practices that bring people together into networks that put into question the hegemonic organization of in/security at city level. The analytical framework helps to break the dichotomization of formality and informality and to clarify how informality is practised in struggles both for and against hegemony.