12/26/08

WHERE YOU FROM, ESE?

Reflections on a Sunday afternoon

By Jesse Perez



I kind of zoned out during one of the NFL games this past weekend.

One of the beer commercials took me back to my childhood days when I lived by the old EastSide Brewery in Lincoln Heights. Back then there were houses between the brewery and the L.A. River That separated our Varrio East Side Clover, from Dog Town on the other side.

Back then, those names didn’t have a lot of meaning because if someone were to ask me where I was from, I would give them the name of my street.

As long as I can remember people I’ve encountered always ask the age old question: “Where you from, ese?”

By the time I got to Jr. High, it started to get serious. Now unless you were jumped into the gang you really couldn’t say you were from anywhere. But if asked, you could still say you lived in Clover, Dog Town, Alpine or wherever, and then be prepared to fight or run for your life.


You could claim the neighborhood; you just better be able to hold your own. In the mid-tumult-ous 60’s, styles changed drastically. A lot of kids traded in their khakis and Pendletons for plaid shirts and slacks. Within the barrios, social clubs and car clubs sprang up everywhere. Guys were sporting their club jackets and car plaques to identify where they were from.

By this time, we were a lot older and more sophisticated and if someone tried to hit you up, most people just claimed their hometown: Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, El Monte, etc. Hopefully you didn’t get jumped or shot or have to go one-on-one with some crazy dude who was trying to make himself a neighborhood name.

What could you do?

Say I’m from nowhere? A nowhere man is a nobody, too sad. Well, the time clock is ticking and you’re out of school, married, working “whatever“ and some fool asks you, where from, A?

You’re the man and you don’t have time for geography lessons, so you just say East Los y qué!

Still alive?

Other guys find themselves in boot camp and everybody wants to know where everybody’s from. Guys are yelling Michigan, Califas, Tejas, New York, etc. Damn, as kid I started out on a street and here I am today claiming the whole damm state. Well you know it was coming.

I’m overseas in uniform and some local yokel asks me where I’m from. What do I do? I puff out my chest and say U.S.A.!!

Damm I’m bad to the bone and how my barrio has grown.

I didn’t create this mentality although I did help to perpetuate it. But as life would have it you go from that young kid full of spit and vinegar to, if you’re lucky, becoming a wise old grey-headed grandpa.

I walk around in my short pants with my white socks up to my knees and my baggy Raiders t-shirt and dark shades. But does anybody ask? Does anybody care where all us old guys are from?

I suppose if I hung out on the corner with all the young homies and tecatos somebody would probably hit me up. But you know I’ve gone full circle. Go ahead and ask. I’ll smile, shake my head and sigh and say, “I ain’t from anywhere.”

I don’t know when it happened, it just did. All those things that used to be important mean diddly shit these days.

Hells bells one thing hasn’t changed. I’m still in a musical time warp. After all these years I’m still listening to those oldies and talking about those parties, dance and shows at the El Monte Legion Stadium, Old Dixie, Roger Young, H.P. and Montebello Ballroom, American Legion, Kennedy, St. Alphonsous, Lincoln Park and Union Halls.

It seems like it was only yesterday.

Wow was that a flashback or what?

Simon, I was just sitting there drinking a beer listening to some oldies and watching the game with my ace tight boom boom partner, my grandson. He’s just like me. Everytime I talk he just smiles, sighs and shakes his head and wants to know where I get all this stuff from.

But that’s another story.

12/14/08

EL VATO LOCO

TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME, BACK THROUGH ALL THOSE YEARS, ALL THOSE DECADES, THROUGH ALL THOSE STREETS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, THROUGH ALL THOSE TIMES AND STYLES WHICH THE CALIFAS BATO EVOLVED THROUGH. VISUALIZE THE ERAS HE LIVED IN AND VISUALIZE HIS WORLD. REMIND YOURSELF OF ALL THAT YOU WITNESSED, WETHER FROM THE MOVIES, THE MAGAZINES OR TRUE LIFE EXPERIENCE; SEE THE RIDES HE RODE, THE ATTIRE HE WORE, THE ARSENAL HE CARRIED, THE SHOEWEAR AND THE ACCESSORIES HE USED TO DEFINE HIM.

The original vato loco was there even before there were even pachucos, cholos or pelones; pero he did evolve through them and through the ever-changing tiempos; always adapting to the new environment of the changing world.

From the cholo courts and the labor campos, from la colonia or la loma, from the brickyard and from all corners of the young metropolis, he stepped into the streets and dancehalls, bien tranquilon ‘pa controlar su espacio and to socialize con la palomilla.

El vato loco siempre andaba bien firme cotorreando con toda la raza en el barrio. Le cae aqui y le cae por alla, tirandose un rol todo el dia. Strollin’ por ahi and over there tambien. Nowhere was out of bounds for the vato loco. La playa or downtown, moviendo su jale or at the parque. Come the afternoon he was found walking his hyna home from la escuela and afterwards he headed over to the kickback spot and waited up for the dark of the night, so he could trip out with the homies like shadows under a dark sky, with only the moonlight to light up the night. El vato loco walked through some potholed filled streets, through little hillsides and dirt lots como figuras macabras to reach the hang out and get stoned under the star filled night.

The years passed and soon this vato loco merged with the flamboyant underworld zoot-suiter version of the vato loco and he’s taken on a voyage of no return. El chuco, the new image of the vato loco, the new loco in the barrio, a hipster of the times, all up on the game and full of stilo, but one filled with violence at its core.

It became, as if there were two pachucos. One pachuco is the angel pachuco and the other es el mero chamuco, a good pachuco and a bad pachuco, all rolled up in one. Like the plays of life, lo bueno y lo malo. The cards dealt to him in life are what he actors in. He’s not a bad guy, but he could become one in a fraction of a second, and he’s not a good guy; otherwise he wouldn’t be playing the role.

In the dark city nights, in the nightlife, in the streets and in the clubs, playing hustle, playing hard, making tranzas, playing straight or jugando a la mala. Hardiendo un leño con su ruca by his side. The life of the new vato loco is that of a jugador, the in-between player learning the streets before moving onto the big league. Like in them gangster times of the roaring twenties, el pachuco vato loco knew the places, knew the moves, knew the rules, and knew the game well. From places and people, from the walk to the talk, he knew and got down well in it.

El vato loco decorated his body con tacas, lucky charms of sorts that gave reverence to someone or something very dear to his corazon, symbols for life!

A Jefita’s name or a crucifix, a rose or a heart traversed by a dagger, the tale of love! Maybe some teardrops to compliment the pain he carries inside or a spider web to remind him that his life is still trapped in this sinister and wicked world.
A Virgen Guadalupana to watch his back or a Sagrado Corazon to show him the way.
A cross on his hand to guard him from doing injustice on anyone or a ring of thorns on his neck as a reminder to fulfill his life before he departs.

His body is the shrine for all these and more, a visual exposition of the soul inside.

The marks represent peace and love, as well as pain and suffering, lagrimas y sonrisas, the experience of life blending together to claim the body they adorn.

Those things dearer to him, a vato loco tatted early on, but today they are combined with gang shapes and symbols, from simple set initials, to majestic emblems of membership and rank. From head to toe tacas the can be found on the new vato loco. And they tell the story of what is most dearest to the modern vato loco; prison towers, block walls, cob webs, calacas y mascaras or some old english letras, down to “A Black Hand or a Bloody Machete”

And so the vato loco carries on!

The original vato loco did not need to be high on chemicals, 'cause all he ever needed was un churro and a borlo to drop in on and that was his high.

When morning comes, today's vato loco is found on the couch or en el back yard shack bien pasado, a huevon sin que hacer catching up on valuable sleep time, depending on who’s point of view, but a vato loco nevertheless.

12/5/08

STOLEN LAND

FROM ANCIENT TIMES
TIMES EVER OLDEN
WE ROAMED THIS LAND
TIL THE DUPPY CONQUEROR CAME
TOOK AWAY OUR RIGHTS TO THE GRASS
BY FEAT OF ARMS


SAID WE HAD NO RIGHTS
TOOK DOWN OUR TEMPLES
BURNED DOWN OUR TEE’PEES
CONVERT TO HIS WAYS
HE THREATENED
OR YOU MUST DIE!


HE CAME TO VICTIMIZE OURS
LEAST OF ALL, TO CRIMINALIZE US
YOUR HUNTER OF BUFFALOE DAYS ARE DONE
YOUR DEER HUNTING DANCE
YOUR BALLADS, YOUR BEAT, YOUR SACRED PIPE
YOUR ALL, YOU MUST GIVE UP
IN ORDER TO SURVIVE IN THE LAND
THE TRICKSTER SAID
AS THEY SET UPON THE LAND GRAB


OUR BRONZE SKIN WOMEN THEY TOOK
MANY BY FORCE
SOME THEY MESMERIZED AND SEDUCED
OUR YOUNG WARRIORS LANCES
COULD NOT STOP THEIR BUTCHERY AND HATE
OUR YOUNG BLOOD MINDS REPROGRAMMED
TO THINK NONE OTHERWISE
IT IS NO LONGER YOUR LAND NOR YOUR LIFE
FOR IT IS THEIRS TO SODOMIZE
DISPOSE OF, ENSLAVE AND KICK AROUND



PRODUCE AND CONSUME
IS THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
ONCE A DEVIL, NOW TWICE THE DEMON
BUILDERS OF BORDERS AND BARBED WIRE FENCES
FOR US NOT TO CROSS
KILLED THE ANCIENT SOCIALIZING
WHEN THEY SET UPON DIVIDING
THIS OUR LAND


THE STOLEN LAND

CHICANO. . WHAT IT MEANS

TO ME, BEING CHICANO MEANS BEING SERIO ABOUT THINGS, SER TRUCHA WITH WHAT GOES AROUND ME. KNOWING WHAT’S UP AND HAVE THE FEEL FOR BOTH SIDES OF THE LINE, AND HOW LA GENTE FROM THIS SIDE AND THOSE FROM THE OLD SIDE CARRY THEMSELVES!

TO ME BEING CHICANO MEANS BEING CALMADO, CREASED UP, CON LA RANFLA BIEN RANITA, STAYIN' ALL BIEN CLEAN. TAKING IT EAZY AND THROWING THAT HOMES ACCENT ON THE HABLAR. SPEAKING HALFWAYS, MAINLY EN INGLES, BUT THROWING IN THERE THOSE WORDS FROM ESPAñOL AND THOSE CROOKED PALABRAS WE MIXED UP GROWING UP IN THE VARRIO.

TO ME BEING CHICANO MEANS LISTENING TO OLDIES AND HAVING A SOFT CORAZON FOR THE TRUE FINE LOOKING LADIES, YET STILL KEEPING UP THE HARD SIDE FOR WHAT THE LIFE BRINGS. TO ME BEING CHICANO MEANS NOT BEING STUCK ON STUPID, NOR THINKING LIKE A GUERO STUCK UP ON SOME HIGH EGO TRIP.

BEING CHICANO MEANS I RESPECT MY FOLKS AND CLING TO THE NOSTALGIA OF THE YOUNG DAYS WITH THE BOYS AND GIRLS FROM THE VARRIO AND ALL THOSE FROM AROUND THE WAY.

SER CHICANO TO ME IS KNOWING THAT I REPRESENT A STILO DE VIDA BORN IN THIS LAND FOUGHT BETWEEN TWO RIVALS, MEXICO VS ESTADOS UNIDOS. NEITHER ONE KNOWS ME, NEITHER ONE CARES TO UNDERSTAND ME, NEITHER ONE WOULD BACK ME UP IN A COURT OF LAW.

FOR ME, A CHICANO, IT MEANS THAT I MUST KEEP MY HEAD UP; KEEP MY SENSES TRUCHA, KEEP MY STILO GOING; LEST I DIE AND BE ABSORBED BY THOSE WHO NEVER KNEW WHAT I WAS ABOUT. I MUST KEEP MY PRIDE, I MUST KEEP MY ESTILO, I MUST KEEP MY ARTE, MY SPEECH AND MY EVERYTHING GOING, LEST I SHOULD DIE!

I CAN NOT SIMPLY SAY FUCK IT AND GIVE UP ON MY WAYS. I CAN NOT SIMPLY SURVIVE UNDER THE PRISON SYSTEM, AND I CAN NOT ALLOW FOR RAP AND HIP HOP TO DESTROY ME!

I MUST CONTINUE, I WILL CONTINUE!

I’LL KEEP ON THROWING MI SABLASO. I’LL KEEP ON THROWING THAT CARNE ASADA WITH BUDWEISER GET TOGETHERS AT THE PARK. I WILL CONTINUE TO THROW A CRUISE ON FRIDAY NIGHT OR ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON. I WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP A COOL ATTITUDE AND NEVER EVER LET NO ONE GET ME DOWN NOMAS POR QUE SI. I WILL CONTINUE TO THROW ON THEM SOUNDS AND BE ALL REMINISCENT OF THE LIFE IN THE VARRIO. THAT LIFE THAT GOT ME ALL SQUARED UP WITH WHAT I HAD TO DO TO SURVIVE; WITH WHAT I HAD TO LEARN UP AND BE STRAIGHT WITH.

SO WHETHER IT BE COSAS DE LAS CALLES, LOVE LESSONS, STYLES AND TRENDS OR POLITICS, I OWE IT ALL TO THE WAY I WAS RAISED AND CAME UP BEING A CHICANO.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU, BUT TO ME, IT MEANS EVERYTHING THAT I AM!

I’M NOT A GANGSTER, I’M NOT AN EVIL PERSON, I’M NOT A SCREWED UP MIND, I’M NOT A SON OF SAM CYCO MOTHAFOCKER AND I’M MOST DEFINETELY NOT A RACIST FOOL WHO THINKS HIMSELF HIGHER THAN OTHER FOLKS.

BUT I AM A CRUISER, I AM A DEDICATED FATHER, A TRUE CARNAL, A BANDIDO HUSBAND (LOL), UN VATO DEL VARRIO, A LOCO CALMADO, A TEQUILA BOTTLE CHUGGER, A PEN AND INK ARTIST, A NOSTALGIC HOMEBOY, A JOKER AND A TOKER, Y UN CABRON DE POCAS MADRES AND A MOST DEFINITE STREET POLITICIAN FOR THE CAUSE!

"LA RAZA IS WHO I AM". .

EVERYTHING ABOUT LA RAZA HERE IN THIS LAND..
IS WHAT MAKES ME!!!

AND SO. .

IM A PRODUCT OF LA RAZA. .

THUS “I’M A CHICANO”


"FULL FLEDGED ‘TIL THE DAY I DIE!"

12/1/08

Words From A Sureño Pinto

By ARTURO, a Veterano

When asked the question of how and where I grew up? Where I grew up is easy to answer… I grew up in East L.A. until I was 14 years old. How I grew up is typical for most cholos involved in gang warfare. I grew up in the juvenile system till I graduated to Adult Authority at 18 years of age. On my first trip, I paroled when I reached my 29th birthday. I stood out for 11 months again and went back for four more years; paroled again and was back where I now have eight years down. So I guess you can say, I actually grew up in the pinta. My viewpoint on young Raza claiming one thing or another, considering so many things, what sticks out furthest in my mind are gangbangers doing drive-bys and claiming to be about something. The second thing is our carnalitos and carnalitas claiming Bloods and Crips, talking and dressing like the blacks. Where and when I grew up, we handled our business face-to-face and hand-to-hand. There was no mistaking your enemy rival because you got out of your car, walked up to the vatos and told them to their face to “get ‘em up.” Drive –by shooters are cowards who bring disgrace to their Varrio and their people. Raza never fought long range. That wasn’t our style and we had more class and pride than to settle things from a speeding car. WE are a proud people. We do things traditionally, like the warriors we came from. It is my opinion that the chavalones of today have lost their self respect because they mix with other races and have adopted their ways. I am not alone in my opinion. Right now, anyone driving up to the county jail in East L.A. with a drive-by shooting beef is in big trouble with the Raza, and more awaits in the pintas. There is no respect for anyone who back-shoots and especially if his or her bullet happens to take the life of an innocent baby or somebody’s jefita. When Raza in the pinta have a conflict with a certain gang, they deal only with the gang members involved directly. When the blacks have conflicts with a handful of white gangbangers, they pick a stray gavacho and then call it a victory. Often the whites do the same. Raza did not bring drive-bys into the game, the mayates did. And our chicanitos and chicanitas think that’s the way things are done. If you want to follow someone, mi Raza, follow in the footsteps of your own ancestral warriors, who maintained their dignity and self-respect during wartime and who did not attack from the bushes. That is not our style!

And for those Raza joining the Crips or the Bloods; what can I say to my people that their own skin and heart can’t say a lot better? Crips and Bloods are black gangs and Raza has no business in them. For one thing, the blacks teach Raza nothing about warfare. We’ve been at it a lot longer and we do it better. Another thing is that it is a disgrace to fight against your own people arm-in-arm with another race. To war against your own people is to be a traitor. If you represent Bloods or Crips, it’s turning against your own kind.

In L.A. you don’t see Raza in black gangs, and if you come to the pinta “Crippin” you’ll soon be “dripping” blood—YOUR OWN! To join black gangs is to give up being Chicano or Chicana and soon you’ll notice you are talking like them because you think that’s cool. There’s nothing cool about a Chicano or Chicana talking black. I don’t understand why a Chicano or Chicana would give up their estilo for that of a mayate. All you have to do is stop and think about it for one minute. How would you feel about a black who acted Chicano? Is he ashamed of his own race? Does he think ours is better than his? And how could you trust or respect anyone who turns their back on their people, their very own race? Now, what do you think the mayate thinks of you who tries to be like him? Are you his equal? Can you sleep with his women? Or he just using you for your women?

Am I prejudiced? Damn right, but only to the point where “Raza” begins to adopt their ways and against the threat of Raza losing their identity. Look at the riot in L.A. over Rodney King. You saw mayates attacking Latinos! That tells you where their heart is (where we are concerned). To them, deep down inside, we can never be equals, and you youngsters best wake up to the reality that you are useful to the mayate—but when the chips are down, they will sell you out first because you are not really one of them. I been forced to live with them since I was 14 years old and I’ve met thousands of them, so I guess that qualifies me as an authority. And there’s more. Take their rap music for instance, the music your sisters, homegirls and primas listen to, that talks about their sexuality! What you’re listening to is mayates working on the minds and emotions of your women so that it will be easier to get into their pants. They talk about licking her up and down, entering her from the rear and being able to sex her up all night long. They insinuate through select wording, designed to draw a picture in the minds of our women, that they are sexually superior. If you listen to anything long enough, you’ll identify with it and eventually believe it! Who do you think they are directing their music to? Who are they trying to convince? Anyone that will listen to them. That particular “type of rap” has no class, and you have no self-respect if you allow your carnalas and rucas to listen to mayates bragging about their manhood. You only have to check Raza rappers and compare them to see if Raza shakes their privates at our rucas over the air. You won’t find it, because there’s more respect there.

You know here in the pinta there’s ways Raza gets along and reasons why they don’t get along. There’s a lot of reasons and there’s bad reasons too; jealousy, control, power trips and greed. You have to understand that the pinta is a different world and the rules are different for many reasons. Personalities clash inside the walls just like everywhere else outside, but in the pinta the conflict can last for years and spread. It can affect the person simply because he lives in North or South Califas.
Raza used to get along years ago. Conflicts arising would be settled and left alone if it was dealt with in traditional Chicano style—man-to-man, face-to-face. In the past few years, youngsters coming in brought a new mentality to settling conflicts: anything goes and everyone is involved. It’s called North and South War. There are too many reasons why the war is on and one can’t put a finger on any one reason. It’s safe to say that the war is on for every reason you can think of.

My advise to the youngsters just coming up, is to forget about pinta life because this world is not the real world, and so it doesn’t count for nada. The years I spent looking up to pintos were entirely misguided. You see lil’ brothers, only those who get caught come to the pinta! Think about it, only those that get caught come to prison. The smart ones stay on the calles where the real world is. The smart ones get to see a relationship with a fine brown carnala grow and develop into love. The smart ones get to enjoy life and be part of of all the millions of people who do not give up and fail at life because it gets too tough. They also get to make their dreams come true because they were man enough or woman enough to hang with the strong side of our people.

Coming to prison means you couldn’t hold down a funky jale or finish school. It means you wanted something for nothing and failed at getting it. It means your world stops and hell begins—in the pinta.

Yeah, writing letters is the only way I can do my part to help educate La Raza.