"I grew up having lots of fun knowing how much power a gang member has. I loved knowing that many people's lives were in my hands. I felt good knowing that I could easily end someones life if they crossed the line or look at me in any bad way."
Date: Sat, 05 Jul 1997 17:39:38 -0700
From: Jose Estrada (email@example.com)
To: Richard Geib (firstname.lastname@example.org)
At 05:39 PM 7/5/97 -0700, you wrote:
I'm happy you're one of the lucky ones that escaped hell. I'm an ex-gang member from East Side Wilmas "L" street Sur -13- which is in L.A. Harbor, down towards Long Beach. I got jumped in when I was about twelve and now I'm 24. I grew up having lots of fun knowing how much power a gang member has. I loved knowing that many people's lives were in my hands. I felt good knowing that I could easily end someones life if they crossed the line or look at me in any bad way.
I am now married, have a good paying job and live in the state of Washington. Far from home. I do miss L.A. and I don't know why but I proudly call it home sweet home. I do admit that once in a while I wear my white T-shirts and baggy cut-offs not forgetting my house shoes but I'm happy to say that I sure don't act like one anymore.
I guess I should have mentioned this from the begining but I think your web page tells it as real as it gets. By the way, that jerk from 18th street that sent you that e-mail, like we say back home.......you're a chavala homie.
P.S. Drop more lines for all of the people that found your page to be very educational.
Thank you for the nice words about my webpage! I honestly tried to paint a picture of that gang scene as honestly as I could. I have often read other accounts that with the best of intentions I thought dangerously came close to rationalizing criminality and simple evil. I wanted to simply try to get as close to the truth of the matter as I could and be as realistic as possible; I think many people try to sugarcoat gang life and gangsters in the attempt to not stigmatize or alienate them from "mainstream society" more than already is the case. I tried to just say it as I saw it and let other people draw their own conclusions. Such a grim picture of gang life might be unpleasant to read, but when I get e-mails from people like yourself who got out of a gang and made good lives for themselves it just proves the truth of Goethe's statement, "Where the light is brightest the shadows are deepest."
Juan, I wish you and your wife all the luck in the work in the future up in Washington. I hope you had a chance to read some of my more optimistic webpages; feel free to come back and visit anytime.
Very Truly Yours,
P.S. Yeah, I know your old neighborhood down in Wilmington. I hear things are still pretty much the same around there as when you were growing up.