Cholos Con Huevos
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom
The Gang’s All Here
Inspired by GillianLeigh's latest gang-banger photo, I'm posting an oldie but goodie.
This photo was taken around 1989 or so while I was in college. My brother Danny, is the hommie with the white t-shirt on the left, and his friend and our neighbor Terry is the vato on the right; I'm the bad-ass in the middle, sporting the poncho and BB gun. We are posing as ganster-slash-homeboys from the barrio, otherwise known as "cholos" in Northern California, where this was taken, and where I grew up.
Moving back into Manhattan in May rekindled this fascination with the thug life for me.
All summer long I had this fantasy of shooting all the characters that carouse about my street at all hours of the night—hoods hooting and hollering, and jus' hanging out in my neighborhood, the Upper-Crusty West Side of Manhattan.
I'm especially keen on capturing all the drug dealers who sit on my stoop all day, especially since they’ll all likely be pushed out into periphery of this increasingly gentrified area in the next couple of years anyway.
108th Street has long been a stronghold of Latinos made of Domicanos, Boriqua (Puerto Ricans) and invading Mexicans (un)like me. However, with the encroachment of greedy developers, el barrio will soon be cleaned up to make room for more Starbucks, banks and Columbia University owned faculty and student housing.
Just today, while having a Coronet slice, I read in the Columbia Press about the demise of Wood-O-Rama, which is directly across the street from me. It was reported that now they have to move out to Jersey, because the new building owners raised their rent and plan to build a luxury apartment building in its place. The small little lumbershop that could has faithfully served this neighborhood for 35 years.
Thus, I have this pressing desire to take photos of the locals before they’re all gone; I’m yearning to capture the grit and surly manners that make New York City such an energizing enclave of mean streets.
Moreover, there's just something very "real" about their iconic nature—their mean streaks, their baggy clothes, their mutha fuck'n bad-ass rep as gangstas—that strikes a chord I me.
However, even though the thug life is often commercially portrayed in movies and music as rather glamorous, in reality, it is a very precarious lifestyle, one that should never be envied.
Albeit, we are only pretending to be rough-n-tumbleweeds from the hood in the photo above, gang violence is really no joke. And although not that all gangsters are murderers, senseless violence has long been glorified in our society, and merely abets the trouble these gangbangers get into.
As prosaic as the suburban haven of San Jose was at the time when I was living there, we were, unfortunately, well versed in violence.
About the same time as this photo, one of my cousins, the youngest of five, Arturo (also known as "Tutti" amongst family and close friends) was shot in the head pointe-blank, simply because he got in an argument with another young turk. Although he was a bit of a hood himself, no one felt that the caustic verbal exchange he had had should have led to this brutal act of utterly senseless violence. His teenage murder was a great tragedy for our close-knit family, and weighed upon us for a long time.
In fact, in reminiscing about all this, I now recall that this event moved my sister so much, that she started a sticker company when she was in high-school with her artist-boyfriend at the time, selling stickers that read — "Stop The Violence."
Although I have no idea what the impact of her campaign was, I do know violence, regardless of where it takes place—the seemingly innocuous suburban streets of San Jose, the mean streets of New York Fuckin’ City, or the war-torn roads of the Middle East—always and often sends the same message—its not worth it.
Life is fleeting, life is precious, life is beautiful, so why cut it any shorter with inane games of machismo, egotism or nationalism? Regardless of our differences—our names, our languages, the color of our skin, our beliefs—were all one in the same, we are all simply human, we all only have one life to live.
And nothing ever gives anyone the right to take away that life away from another.