"Ahi te wacho, ese!"
cholos and pachucos
From: "Esteban Garcia" (email@example.com)
Subject: intrigued by your web pages and comments
Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 01:00:04 PDT
Hi, my name is Esteban Garcia. If this is the right address, then you
are Richard Geib. I'm responding to
some of your interesting comments on the web (www.rjgeib.com/biography/hollywood/response5.html as
well as http://www.rjgeib.com/biography/la-days/response2.html).
Basically, what sparked my interest was that 1) you even knew what a cholo
is, and 2) that you are willing to dialogue about things like the cholo
lifestyle (la vida loca) and about the nature of L.A. as a kind of Third
World other-space within a general American geography.
Let me just say right off that I welcome your interest and your points
of view, but I respectfully disagree with many of the things you have to
say, mainly because I feel that your views are not informed by a sufficiently
broad and complicated perspective. I have not solidified my own views into
a systematic approach, nor can I refer you to a body of writings or a particular
book that would effectively communicate what I want to say, but I'll try
to present what I think as quickly and simply as possible. First of all, your
comments to Kreeper are certainly heartening and sincere, but it seems
to me that the substance of your inspirational rhetoric is based on a view
of human existence and value as rooted in the struggle of the individual
person (as opposed to a community or a collective). For example, you exhort
Kreeper that "you are free to pursue any path you want in life. It certainly
is not written in the stars that you must live and die a gangmember, despised
by society." This makes it sound as if the nature of Kreeper's struggle
is that of his own monadic existence, that of a detached subjectivity that
either asserts its freedom and succeeds, or fails to realize its freedom
to "pursue any path," and remains on some level incomplete as a free, autonomous
Against this, I would argue a more or less Althusserian view of humans
as beings that are always rooted in an encompassing fabric of ideology.
This view says that as a human, I am never simply "me" in virtue of my
own perspectives and perceptions, but that I am me in virtue of a shared
conceptual dimension or discourse which I must accept implicitly in order
to communicate, and even exist. We could talk all day until we are blue
in the face about whether Althusser is the right way to go, but ultimately,
it is much more important to our discussion to consider that Mexicans and
Chicanos are a very community-based people. In contrast to the predominantly
Anglo-Protestant character of North American people (viz. the rugged individualist
that tends to emblematize North American values, or the industrial-capitalist
nuclear family), Mexicans and Chicanos are organized around the all-important
social unit of the extended family. There is a level at which Mexican and
Chicano individuals really take their bearings, their sense of the meaning
of life, from their extended family.
Try to translate this abstract picture of Mexico-Chicano families into
present day L.A. life. Who is the young Cholo? Is he someone who fell in
with the wrong crowd, made some bad choices, and ultimately failed to try
to "get out" of his bad life? To me it seems like gang life is a very natural
and expectable outgrowth of an intensely social and family-based people
who found themselves in impoverished and under-represented circumstances.
In other words, the problem with gangs for me lies not in the fact that
cholos cling so tightly to their fraternal bonds or that they identify
so strongly with the communal gangster life, but simply that the social
life of young Chicanos is, and has been, a marginal activity, never fully
legitimized. The internecine violence and criminal activity people associate
with gangs does not seem to me to be the "natural" outcome of identifying
strongly with a neighborhood klika (group of youngsters), any more than
it seems "natural" to me that Chicanos should be poor, uneducated and hostile.
I think both the violence and the poverty/lack of education now associated
with Chicano people are the result of political and cultural asymmetries
in the United States: because of racial and cultural barriers, it was impossible
for Chicanos and Mexicans to ever assimilate the way the Irish did, for
example. They were, and are, horribly downtrodden.
Without committing myself to one particular theory or way of thinking,
I would like to make a simple plea for understanding. Think about what
happens when you have a group of people profoundly devoted to communal
and familial ties, and a greater social situation in which these people
are treated like shit. What happens? Gangs.
I don't feel it's useful to urge Kreeper to give up the gangster life.
I agree with you completely that the gangster life isn't helping him, and
that this life is not the way to go. But I feel that part of the logic
of your exhortations to him was: "let go of your need to identify with
these people; identify with yourself." I just don't see that as possible
or desirable. The better option would be for Chicano and Mexican people
to reach a better position in the larger social framework. WHat if since
the mid-19th century Mexicans and Chicanos had not been treated like shit,
and had managed to secure footholds in local economies, and entrench themselves
as a stable middle-class section of the national populace? Well, we can't
change the past,but in the meantime, I would rather think in terms of broad
social changes than individual progress (the Enlightenment way of thinking,
modulated over time to accomodate the self-help and New Age doctrines of
the present). So what if Kreeper becomes another well-adjusted adult who
was once a bad boy but now owns a business or fixes people's computers?
What about his homeboys? What about Kreeper's family?
THere is some things I must clarify. First: why did I bring up Althusser
and his notion of ideology? I'm not trying to say that individuals aren't
responsible for their views and their concrete acts. Nor am I trying to
say that individuals can't overcome adversity. If I believed this, I would
be a miserable pessimist. On some level, I believe in your self-help message
(I applied it in my own life, and rescued myself from what could have been
a hard life without educational benefits). What I AM trying to say is that
people exist in communities: we all share a kind of conceptual grammar
that allows us to be who we are, to shape judgments and carry out individual
actions. What I'm talking about is a cultural or ideological framework
in which we operate. We are all on some level free agents, but there is
a reason why Chicanos from the barrio think, act and speak in certain ways,
and Jewish people from Long Island or Irish-Americans from Boston have
their own way of thinking, acting and being. It just so happens that many
North Americans take their bearings from a particular way of thinking that
emphasizes individuality over many other things. Latin people tend not
to be this way: their cultural discourses emphasize the extended family,
the pull of the community, of the greater good.
Kreeper is right on, as far as I'm concerned. He's done his best with
a fucked up situation. The problem is not his social filiation, as anthropologists
would call it. The problem is that in this country, being a young Chicano
in a fraternal organization has been criminalized, in some cases systematically
and ruthlessly. (Take a look at a book called The Zoot-Suit Riots, I can't
remember the author offhand). It was never allright to be a young Chicano,
emphatically expressive in culturally accented ways, the way it was allright
to be young Anglo man or woman. After a while, the majority of Mexico-Chicanos
in California became a minority, and it was decided by the majority in
a broad, generalized way, through increasing social and economic pressures,
that is was not okay to be a "Hispanic." DOn't get me wrong. I'm not exonerating
Kreeper and his homies from any criminal things they've done. Believe me,
I've felt the bad side of gangster life too, living in the barrio. I'm
saying that the problem isn't intrinsically one of Kreeper's identification
with his homies, but one of the broad sociopolitical variables that prevent
Mexico-Chicano social groups from securing economic privilege and cultural
Asking Kreeper to give up gang life is in a sense asking him to see life
as you do: as a series of actions and decisions that are conducive to a
healthy and happy life. But Kreeper feels a different set of pressures
and pulls than you do. He isn't an individualist: he is first and foremost
a young man in a social group. The LAPD would probably say this group identification
is wrong, but as someone who affirms the need for cultural relativism,
I think the LAPD fails to see that group identification is NOT the problem.
Chicanos and Mexicans as a whole need to find better options, better ways
of expressing their cultural specificity.
I can envision a situation in which it is perfectly allright, safe, beautiful
and enjoyable to see young groups of Chicanos supporting each other, pushing
each other to new heights of achievement, solidifying their communities,
all the while emphatically expressing their sense of being Chicanos. THere
needs to be a movement to de-criminalize some of the particular aspects
of Chicano cultural life. There has always been a huge debate, for example,
over low-riders. Some people say they are emblematic of a life of poverty,
violence, dangerous identification with the life of crime. But ask a few
older Chicanos who have seen the evolution of the whole thing, both the
role and the aesthetics of the low-rider in Chicano life (arguably, this
is an urban variant of the old pueblo ritual of young men riding their
horses into town to court women) and the changes in mainstream perception
of low-rider culture. In some sense, there is no good reason why low-rider
culture should be criminalized; it should simply be encouraged to take
on more collectively productive and expressive forms. Obviously, you don't
want the ONLY vatos who drive lowriders to be the ones who start trouble
over nothing. At the same time, it shouldn't be a crime to act like a Chicano.
It might seem important to you to address those aspects of urban ethnic
culture that seem to exalt the dangerous gang life. You can see "La Vida
Loca" messages emblazoned everywhere among Chicano youth. Then rap is a
whole different story. Obviously, there are ways in which some urban Chicano
youth culture aggrandizes the gangster life of violence and danger. But
the specificity of cholo culture has a long history and what I feel is
a profoundly authentic effort to find a sense of self in what was always
a troubled and ambivalent life in the United States. You might say to me:
how can mainstream culture criminalize the behavior of people who WANT
to be criminals, vandals and bad boys? The burden seems to be on the delinquents.
Let me just say that the situation is far more complicated than this, that
cholo culture emerged from a dialectic of willful alienation from mainstream
society on the one hand, and the misunderstanding and hatred directed at
cholos by the mainstream on the other. Unlike Octavio Paz (viz. Labyrinth
of Solitude) however, I do not see cholo culture as a form of terminally
alienated and deviant behavior, a mere social pathology. It is a uniquely
American form of Mexican culture, uniquely imbedded in capitalism and the
urban environment, and uniquely powerful and expressive. It should not
be condemned, nor should it immediately be pigeonholed as a marginal, delinquent
sub-culture. Chicanos need to be who they are: our job, as Chicanos and
non-Chicanos, is to encourage GROUPS of young Chicanos to find maximally
beneficial and productive forms of authentic cultural expression.
I'm sure there are a lot of rough spots and unclarified points in what
I've said. Perhaps I've even been self-contradictory in certain areas.
I'd be glad to keep talking about this. It really matters to me. After
all, I'm a Chicano who was born in the barrio; I have also been to a very
privileged, very insular and elite university. Having seen both worlds,
I can't help but start the difficult process of comparing them, understanding
their vast differences, their apparent incommensurability. I'd like to
hear from you, if you have time. Until then, ahi te wacho, ese!
Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com
I see low-riders and cholos wearing
the baggy pants and other distinctive gang attire differently than
yourself. You allude to the book "The Labyrinth of Solitude" by Octavio
Paz where he describes Mexican-American pachucos (the cholos of
the 1950s in Southern California) thusly:
Their attitude reveals an obstinate, almost fanatical
will-to-be, but this will affirms nothing specific expect their
determination - it is an ambiguous one, as we will see - not to
be like those around them. The pachuco does not want to
become a Mexican again; at the same time he does not want to blend
into the life of North America. His whole being is sheer negative
impulse, a tangle of contradictions, an enigma. Even his very name
is enigmatic: pachuco, a word of uncertain derivation, saying
nothing and saying everything... The purpose of this grotesque
dandyism and anarchic behavior is not much to point out the injustice
and incapacity of a society that has failed to assimilate him as
it is to demonstrate his personal will to remain different.
For the most part, I agree with Paz in
viewing the "cultural expression" of pachucos so negatively.
But only a minority of people whose parents are from Mexico are pachucos or cholos.
And it are only those who hold the studied rebel pose that distinguishes
the cholo orpachuco so self-consciously from others in
the United States that Paz or myself would characterize in singularly
unflattering prose. Their dress and behavior both mask and reveal themselves
in ways, as Paz claims, that do neither them nor their communities
any ultimate good.
Most Mexicans and their descendants currently
living in the United States emigrated here only since the Mexican Revolution
and WWII. Many, if not most, will eventually settle into the middle-class
as homeowners, taxpayers, etc. Others will travel harder roads. But
nothing, in my opinion, is more damaging and limiting to the Latino
community than this tendency to self-stereotype - this idea that a
Latino is so essentially different from a Long Island Jew or an Irish-American
from Boston, ie. these character traits that you claim all Latinos
supposedly share. I do not find the differences between cultures so
great; we are all cut from the same human fabric, molded in the shared
shape of our frail humanity. We are all the children of God - even
those lost, miserable cholos walking around with one foot already
in their graves. But that people are lost does not automatically mean
they cannot find themselves again.
You speak much about the context in which
Mr. Kreeper lives. I am sure he derives moral support and a welcome
sense of belonging from membership in his gang. But he belongs to an
organization that by definition kills people and sells death in the
form of drugs; it is a Faustian agreement into which he has entered,
and if he does not get out he will pay for it sooner or later; and
that is my objection. You ask me if I think Mr. Kreeper should get
a legitimate job and become a "well-adjusted adult." Of course I do.
You try to paint his "klika" as his family. I doubt Mr. Kreeper's real
family - his mother, father, siblings - approve of his being in a street
gang, hurting people, going to prison. I doubt they feel their son's
choices in life bring honor and respect to the family or serve the
greater good of the community. That a gangmember quits his gang does
not mean he quits his real family; I suspect a gangster more often
than not becomes reconciled to his real family only after leaving the
artificial one of his gang.
You remind me that man is a social animal
- that much if obvious. It does not follow that we do not make moral
decisions about how we will live. We are - or we should be - reasoning
creatures able to make choices and influence our fates instead of being
helpless victims of our circumstances. If some Americans look
on a person who bears a Latino surname differently, some of
those Latinos will have the largness of mind to see through such superficialities
and rise above them; but then to think you are different is to act
differently. Too many people live unthinkingly like herd animals: Latino
street gangs are a perfect example of this. The veteranos I
have met often speak about how they want to get out of la vida loca but
feel trapped and unable to transcend their violent pasts. You feel
they should not even try. Ludwig Boerne says, "To want to be free
is to be free." You feel differently: Just play out the unfortunate
hand life has dealt you and operate within the narrow parameters of
circumstances. It seems obvious to me you have recently exited our
illustrious modern American university system where we have substituted
sociology and psychology for religion and philosophy, to our great
detriment. You have learned to give to a cholo trying to save
his life a speech in Chicano nationalism instead of a dose of common
sense. You claim, "as Chicanos and non-Chicanos," our duty is
to find "maximally beneficial and productive forms of authentic
Esteban, you are playing games with all
this talk about cholos and legitimacy. Just be a decent person:
this would be the first lesson any parent worthy of the name would
teach their children. I strongly suspect when the average immigrant
Mexican looks across the street at the haughty cholo on the
corner selling drugs with a gun in his waistband, he looks upon him
no differently than does the average American: an ugly aberration,
neither "Latino" or "American"; a criminal, a cancer. If discrimination
has contributed to the poverty and lack of education and development
in the American Latino community, cholos and the failure of many Chicanos
to enter mainstream American is as important. Cholos are in large part
why legitimate businesses will hardly locate to the barrio,
as the quality of life for everyone becomes well nigh intolerable in
the middle of a war zone - the best and brightest escaping to greener
pastures when they reach the age of reason. But you exude that same
feeling which poor and resentful often exude: the idea that this run-down
shabby shack in which I live might be a piece of shit, but it is my piece
of shit! One finds the same sullen resentment in urban minority activists,
rural militiamen from Idaho, and the old Communists and neo-nationalists
in impoverished post-Soviet Russia. It is the passive-aggressive politics
of social envy.
You exhort those in the barrio to
exult as citizens of Chicanoism. I say be a citizen of the world. I
have always disliked this identifying so strongly with some tiny corner
of the earth or subculture - a few miles of city streets, a valley
or group of hilltops in the country, the people who live there. I never
wanted to be limited in what I could say, read, think, or believe.
If a man really wants to be free, he has to be able to freely navigate
not only in physical space but in among cultures, languages, and beliefs.
If I did not think this way, I would hardly have made the effort to
live and work among the immigrant communities of Los Angeles. I would
have avoided them as do many native-born Americans, as if they smelled
bad and were possibly contagious. That has not been my choice, and
I do not regret my time living in the barrios of Los Angeles
- even as I left in frustration and disgust. I learned a lot about
poverty, and that was well worth my time.
But I feel very comfortable in the Spanish-speaking
immigrant communities -- comprised mostly of honest and hard working
individuals just trying to make a living -- in Southern California
and have had and continue to have positive and courteous interaction
with Central Americans and Mexicans on a nearly daily basis. I feel
very differently about the street gangs which plague those communities;
and this has everything to do with the sullen attitude of some Chicanos
who are attracted to the life of the cholo. It shouldn't and
isn't a crime to be a Chicano. It is dangerous to act the gangster "la
vida loca" lifestyle which some Chicanos affect. (Everyone is tired
of the cholos and the crime. Everyone hates them. They live
in little circles of sullen anger and shake their fists at the world.)
As a teacher, I have had the pleasure of teaching certain Mexican immigrants
and their children and watching them hurtle towards success in their
new homeland. It was a priviledge and honor to teach them. I have seen
other immigrants flock to the worst aspect of America has to offer
in the form of this street culture of cholos and rap music,
drugs, tattoos, low riders, baggy clothes, forward attitude, etc. and
more often than not the violence and crime which accompanies it. I
leave them to their uncertain futures. Yes, I dislike that trendy subculture.
It is adolescent, at best; and adolescence is more an American sentiment
than a Mexican one. And I mean that in the negative sense of the word "adolescent" which
carries so much more weight in American than Mexican culture - "Americanizing" some
immigrants in a negative way. But it all comes back to morals and a
lack of education. As a Mexican peasant would sum it up: malcriado.
You have these masses of parochial, poor
people in Los Angeles who have never been to the beach and don't know
how to swim. They have no idea rooted in life experience through travel
that a freeway leaves Los Angeles to the east and moves through Riverside,
San Bernadino, and then Las Vegas towards the prairies and then east
coast of the United States. They could not locate Germany on a map,
nor know what spoken German sounds like. They might have an idea who
is Adolf Hitler from TV and movies, but could not tell you in detail
how the Third Reich effected its neighbors in Continental Europe. Not
all poor people in Los Angeles could be described thusly, by any means!
But many, many can - I know: I lived there, I worked in the Los Angeles
city schools. You are correct when you imply we all come from somewhere,
but that should only be the start. As Robert Maynard Hutchins tells
us, "A liberal education... frees a person from the prison-house
of his class, race, time, place, background, family, and even his nation." You
would have Mr. Kreeper shackled to his roots like a child still living
with his parents. Adult life requires a different manner of living.
You claim Chicanos need to learn more about their subculture. I posit
too many Chicanos know next to nothing besides their subculture and
limit themselves thereby.
An American, I could sit down and enjoy
a respectful and profitable conversation with the Mexican Octavio Paz
(may God rest his soul!) about poetry, politics, women, food - whatever!
We would most likely talk animatedly and with much pleasure for hours!
We both understand at least a modicum about the different histories
and traditions of each other's country: I locate the legacy bequeathed
to me in the English of Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman,
while Paz traces his lineage via the castilliano of Lope de Vega, Sor
de la Cruz, Lopez de Santa Ana, Emilio Zapata; the one finds its genesis
in the Reformation, the other in the Counter-Reformation. In this,
Paz and myself speak a mutually understood common language and could
speak the specific words both in English and Spanish. What I would
not give to have this conversation!
But neither Paz nor myself are ever going
to look upon a vato with gang tattoos on his neck with anything
but repulsion. Neither of us are ever going to listen to a Sinaloan corrido eulogizing
a fallen drug smuggling narcotraficante without disgust. Neither
of us would listen to the caló or "Spanglish" of the borderlands
without cringing. Neither Paz nor myself would look upon the stopgap
culture of Chicanos but with a mixture of curiosity and sadness. And
as long as some Chicanos identify themselves as Mexicans living
in the United States, certain Latinos will never truly find
a home in America. That seems as plain as the sun in the sky! Hence
the creation of this made-up nation of "Aztlan" supposedly somewhere
in the deserts of the Southwest. Uncomfortable both in America and
Mexico, they would create a new country of Mexico-America which has
existed only in the fertile imaginations of sociology professors in
the Chicano Studies Departments which have sprouted like weeds in our
universities over the past few years.
Many first generation Chicanos have descanted
on the difficulty of growing up in the United States with parents who
bring with them a foreign culture. They describe how they feel as if
they belong neither in Mexico or America. It is sad. They detail how
they live with one foot in the America where they grew up, the other
in the culture of their parent's pueblo south of the border.
They are too Americanized for the comfort of their parents, but not
entirely comfortable swimming in the larger currents of American society.
I am sure it adds confusion to the already confusing process of growing
up: It can hardly be called a boon in America to be born into a poor
immigrant household which contains few - if any! - books and where
English is spoken - if at all! - as a second language. Many are the
teenagers in even fortunate households who fail to make the successful
transition from contumacious adolescent to responsible adult. But to
move successfully from the feudal culture of Oaxaca or San Salvador
where campesinos live essentially the life of serfs to the Information
Age economy of the United States would take the average family at least
a few generations. The average family is, after all, only average.
Both in American and in Mexico. Change takes time; much change
requires much time. It seems obvious to me that the reason so
many Cuban immigrants have enjoyed success more quickly in the U.S.
than the Mexicans or Central Americans is because they often came to
this country with middle-class values and educations after Castro and
Communism descended on their country. They are Chicanos, as you define
it, but they hardly emulate any of this street trash gangster ethic
of the cholos and pachucos.
The situation undoubtedly is fluid and
complex. For example, there are Latinos who can speak with equal facility
about Whitman and Sor de la Cruz, and that is something special. Neither
Paz nor myself can claim as much. Then there are only a billion persons
in the United States who still carry with them the lack of education
of their campesino families and are functionally illiterate
both in English and Spanish, even as they speak with no audible accent
in either language. The secret to success in life is in largely based
on the ability to handle the language and communicate effectively;
and watch a Chicano in a job interview with a Mexican company speak
in the incorrect patois of the pocho, the Spanish punctuated
with Anglicisms. Watch the same interview in the United States with
an individual who speaks English in the double-negatives and lilting
accent of East Los Angeles. And anyone who truly believes in this fantastical
nation of Aztlan should try traveling overseas on a Mexican-American
passport! They could immigrate to and declare themselves citizens of
that apocryphal country, and enjoy perfect harmony in their own nation-state!
But they will do little if any business with Hong Kong, Berlin, Bombay,
New York, Tokyo, London, Sao Paulo, or Riyadh. When I spoke earlier
about the often provincial nature of poor people in the wider world,
this is what I mean: In a fishbowl, even a guppy looms large and important.
I read with much interest recently how many of the chieftains of the
Mexican Mafia ("la eMe") prison gang -- the highest animals in the
criminal food chain of cholos et. al. to be found in the barrio --
were secretly recorded talking about their difficulties in raising
even moderate amounts of cash.
I don't doubt to grow up in the barrio and
then to attend an exclusive, insular university and live in a very
different context brings with it considerable cultural confusion; and
I am sure your life is very different from that of your parents. But
your children and your children's children will find it easier due
to the path you and your parents have forged, in part, for them. You
and your progeny will change and be changed by the larger American
culture, even as you are assimilated into it: the United States of
1998 after the North American Free Trade Agreement is much changed
from the one that signed the Treaty of Hidalgo in 1848. I read that
Latinos buying their first homes is a growth market in Southern California
real estate. Millions of Latinos are becoming American citizens and
registering to vote. Cruz Bustamante, the current Speaker of the State
Assembly here in the California, is Latino. So is Bill Richardson,
the official United States government delegate to the United Nations.
Americans of Latino descent are many of the teachers, police, nurses,
and other "mainstream" people with whom I work nearly everyday. They
speak the common language, play by the rules, and mow their front yards.
Beyond that, nobody much cares whether they eat cheerios or chipotle for
This process will proceed as the millions
of Mexicans who have arrived here over the past few decades settle
into their new home and marry outside of their ethnic group in large
numbers. My most estimable future brother-in-law's mother grew up in
the Latino barrio of Whittier, and then met at UCLA and married
an Air Force 2nd Lieutenant who eventually became a successful lawyer;
their son - an inveterate surfer and passionately devoted Los Angeles
Dodgers fan -- grew up in suburban Irvine, attended Stanford, and clerked
for the U.S. Supreme Court; and any children he and my sister might
have together would be approximately 40% Irish, 25% Scottish, 25% Mexican,
and 10% German in ancestral descent (and will hardly be spewing "gabacho" or "beaner" insults
on the school playground). Any future nephews or nieces of mine would
be more a mix of nationalities than myself, and I like that! The United
States: nation of mutts! So it goes. Your path (hopefully) will be
not terribly different from the one my great-grandfather Dennis Sullivan
-- an Irish gardener in the castle of an English aristocrat -- forged
for me last century in his odyssey to America.
The immigrant poverty and violence in Hollywood
and Pico-Union areas of Los Angeles where I lived and worked is not
essentially any different from that found in the Hell's Kitchen section
of New York at the turn of the last century with the Irish, Italians,
and Eastern Europeans - all those traits you ascribe to Latinos apply
to those immigrant cultures, too. They also experienced discrimination
and difficulties in adapting to a new nation and unfamiliar culture.
The only difference is those earlier immigrants cut their ties to the
old country and committed 100% to the United States, where some Latinos
continue to straddle a border which is geographically closer. As James
Baldwin said, "The making of an American begins at that point where
he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts
the vesture of his adopted land." Some Latinos clearly fail to
do this, and so experience divided loyalties and mixed success in the
United States in terms of high crime and low education rates. Many
Americans consequently look with suspicion and worry upon new immigrants
and the areas in which they live. "Do we really need more poor people?" It
is a valid question.
Los Angeles today is the Ellis Island of
contemporary America, and that is not a place for the thin-skinned
or the delicate. But let's keep things in perspective here and not
forget the many who do successfully assimilate into the larger American
culture. America is like a fruit cocktail - there may be some sour
grapes, but when you take a whole bite it tastes sweet. Some Latinos
might seek to rationalize the behavior of gangmembers through the existance
of racism and prejudice, but the truth is these cholos are still
freer in these United States and enjoy more opportunity than they would
south of the Rio Grande.
I trust this e-mail finds you well.
Very Truly Yours,
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 13:30:34 -0700
To: Richard Geib (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From: Manny Mejia (email@example.com)
Subject: Inner City Experience
My name is Emmanuel Mejia and I am a product of the inner city in Los
Angeles. I was reading about your experience at Berendo Junior High and
I must say that you saw the worst part of the education system. I have
brothers that were part of gangs and decided that school would not help
them. I didn't join any gangs because I felt that life had much more to
offer. An education could take me anywhere in the world. I don't think
that the streets mold anyone. As a matter of fact, it's an individual decision
to join a gang. I have seen gunshots, I have seen misery, and I have seen
The real reason I left Los Angeles: My future. I knew that my neighborhood
was not safe. I would dread that moment that I would walk home. I was in
the magnet program (I had the opportunity to attend Roosevelt High School
in East Los Angeles) and still felt that going to another school didn't
solve anything. I did this for a better chance at anything. To be honest
with you, I didn't think that I would go to college. I am college educated
and working for a contract research organization based in Baltimore. My
dream is to eventually return to Los Angeles and teach. I know that my
experience might be different as I have experience as a student in Los
Angeles. The only thing that I know is that being a teacher doesn't have
much prestige, but knowing that someone has learned from you makes it worthwhile.
Thank you for listening.
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 98 02:08:24 GMT
From: DeltaNet Form Processor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Guest Book Signature
The field values for the form received were:
City?="Okinawa, Japan orig. from Ventura County"
Country?="now in Japan"
Findout="Just surfed on in!"
How is life treating you?="Life is ahhhhh ok living in a new country is
alot to handle for this Mexican Senorita specially the culture shock of
comments="Well i was trully touched by your page and i loved it i really
loved it it was great! I myself grew up in a well not so bad neighborhood
my brothers were gangsters in and out f prison my parents are both from
Mexico and well my dad sorta lost controll of them and what was going on
in our house too bad! My parents divirced when i was only 11 years old.
I went out on a search of me like i knew anything i know alot now but not
then so i was facinated by LA i dint know why but it seemed so exciting
to me so wild and i actually wanted that i had such a clean boering lil
town i lived in why would i want that i use to think! Well i found out
what La was really about seen one too many people shot in my face and had
one to many guns pulled up in my face. Dated guys that exactly like the
ones you have pictures
of in fact the same gangs florencia 13 and the notorrious 18 street
ahhh what horrible experiences i had with them but o well! I have since
then went to college and became a Medical tech am married to a USAF firefighter
and currently living on the island of Okinawa here in Japan!"
Thu Oct 1 20:59:11 1998
Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 21:04:43 -0700
From: Scott H. (email@example.com)
To: Richard Geib (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: STAR-SPANGLED LIE
I ACCIDENTALLY ENDED UP FINDING YOUR BULLSHIT SITE. YOU'RE SO FULL OF
SHIT THAT IT'S COMING OUT OF YOUR EARS! YOU ARE WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS
FUCKED UP COUNTRY! ASSHOLES LIKE YOU! YOU'RE A COWARD RACIST AND YOU DON'T
HAVE THE BALLS TO ADMIT THAT YOUR A RACIST! HOW CAN YOU TALK SHIT ABOUT
LATINOS OR ANY OTHER MINORITY THAT DOESN'T LIKE THE U.S.? WHITES DIDN'T
BUILD THIS COUNTRY, THEY STOLE IT FROM MY LATINO ANCESTORS. THEN THEY RAPED
, PILLAGED, MURDERED AND ENSLAVED MY PEOPLE! AND YOU CLAIM THAT THE WHITE
MAN BUILT THIS COUNTRY...!!? LIKE WE DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN!!??
MOST OF THE WESTERN STATES INCLUDING CALIFORNIA....WAS MEXICO. MY ANCESTORS
(LATIN INDIANS) OWNED THIS COUNTRY THAT YOU CALL HOME! SO, IF ANY BODY
SHOULD GO BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM....IT SHOULD BE ALL YOU ANGLO-SAXONS/EUROPEANS.
YOUR FOREFATHERS STOLE OUR LAND AND KILLED OUR PEOPLE AND YOU HAVE THE
BALLS TO "DISLIKE" LATINOS AND MINORITY GROUPS??!! YOU SAY "END AFFIRMATIVE
ACTION" AND "MINORITIES ARE STEALING ALL THE JOBS FROM GOOD 'OL AMERICANS"??!!
WHEN THE FUCK HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SOME WHITEBOY PICKING FRUITS IN THE FIELDS??!!
WHEN THE FUCK HAVE YOU SEEN SOME WHITEBOY SLAVE IN SOME FUCKED UP SWEATSHOP
FOR 12 HOUR DAYS GETTING PAID 25 CENTS AN HOUR??!! IF IT WASN'T FOR MINORITIES
AND IMMIGRANTS, YOU AND EVERY OTHER CRACKER IN AMERIKKKA WOULD BE FUCKED!
WHO DO YOU THINK BUILFD EVERYTHING? SOME POOR ILLEGAL GETTING PAID 25 CENTS
AN HOUR IN A SWEATSHOP IN DOWNTOWN LA, THAT'S WHO! EVERYTHING, FROM THE
JEANS YOU'RE WEARING TO THE KEYBOARD YOU TYPE YOUR BULLSHIT THOUGHTS ON,
WAS MADE IN A SWEATSHOP BY SOME LATINO IMMIGRANT! SO, FUCK YOU AND YOUR
UNKKKLE SAM!! AZTLAN (NOT U.S.) BELONGS TO ALL BROWN PEOPLE!! YOU'RE A
FUCKING PUSSY COWARD, BECAUSE YOU KNOW IN YOUR HEART THAT YOU WOULDN'T
HAVE THE BALLS TO SAY YOUR BULLSHIT TO ANY LATINO'S FACE OR ANY MINORITY'S
FACE!! YOU'RE JUST LIKE ALL THE REST OF THE HATE MONGERS....CHICKEN-SHIT
COWARDS!! WE'VE BEEN OPRESSED FOR OVER 500 YEARS, BUT NOW IT'S TIME FOR
REVOLUTION!!!! KILL WHITEY!!!!
A DOWN-ASS, PISSED OFF BROWN AND PROUD LATINO!!!!
PURO NORTENO 4 LIFE XIV, XIV,XIV,XIV
FUCK ALL YOU PUTO $CRAPA$!!!! IT'$ ALL ABOUT THE NORTE!!!!
XIV TILL ETERNITY!!!! FUCK THAT $EWER RATA THAT LIVE$ IN NORTHERN CALI
AND CLAIM$ $EWER CALI!!!! NORTENO$ CONTROLAMO$ TODO!!!! XIV, XIV, XIV,
XIV!!!! X4, X4, X4, X4!!!!
From: "KF" (email@example.com)
To: "Richard Geib" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue, 5 Jan 1999 22:56:22 -0600
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 4.72.3110.5
To whoever it may concern out there, is it worth it. Im a retired West
Side Tre Duece Blues Mafia 32 Crip Gang. I used to blame all my problems
on my street lifestyles n all that. But shit, how long can a brotha fool
himself. Nonone has to do a damn thang that they dont wanna. Look at
all those succesfull people out there in life. If they wouldn't have
succeded we'd all be fucked. Thanks to them not givin into our excuses
of bull shit they made it somewhere in life. The answer to all is in
yourself. Dont let some high prices fancy ass person talk you to a life
of shit. Jail n Bootcamp showed me what was up. Im not tryin to send
out any disrespects to noone, im just sayin how it is. I used to love
bein a G, but now im doin nothin but tryin to kick all my Gangsta habits.
Dont let the worst get the best of you. Do you really need to be told
what to do by anyone, Hell No you dont. Family hu, shit does family jump
you in. Does family put you in jail or hurt your loved ones, fuck no
they dont. Family is Family, Gangsters are just another catagorie out
there. Strong survive hu, your definition of stong is only gonna aventually
kill yo ass. Strong is having Heart for the right reasons, doing what
you gotta to succede n become something good for yourself. Trust me it
feel one hundred percent better if you truely work for somethin other
than gettin the same thing slangin or for whateva. I dont wanna have
noghin to do with this crazy shit. \\
Nothin But Respects