A window on gang life | March 28, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - March 28, 2008

A window on gang life

Mountain View gang member — and young father — talks about his own predicament as a Norteno

by Casey Weiss and Daniel Debolt

The Voice received an unexpected visit last week from a Mountain View Norteno who says he is trying to clean up his life for the sake of his child.

Although gang life has become too dangerous now that he has a family, he said, it is no longer a choice he is able to make.

The gang member, whose name is being withheld for his safety and his family's safety, wanted to shed light on the gang culture, and to discuss the failures of traditional schooling and traditional city gang prevention programs. He also said he wanted to help local youth who were headed down the same path.

The Norteno was wearing his gang color, red, and his body was covered in tattoos, including one with four dots that Nortenos receive for various acts of violence toward Surenos.

"There's no denying that if you are a gang member you have to do those things," he said. "When I started it was bad, we used to look for people to beat up."

Now in his early 20s, he attended elementary, middle and high school in Mountain View, but went to jail before graduating from high school. He has a sibling who attends a local high school. The sibling is a good student, he said, but is vulnerable to being labeled a gang member.

Although he moved back to Mountain View to raise his family, he was forced to leave when his rent increased by over $600 a month. It was difficult finding jobs with his gang history and tattoos, and before he found his current job, he said selling drugs was seductive because it was a steady supply of money.

"If I didn't have it, I could have a fresh start," he said of his past experiences and criminal gang records.

Although he grew up in a poor neighborhood in Mountain View, he had a normal upbringing, and his parents were well-respected in the Latino community. By fifth grade, however, he started associating with gang members, and there was no stopping him, he said. He was too attracted to the money and the violence.

His parents tried to distract him by giving him jobs to do, and by arranging meetings with older gang members who told their stories — but he said this just inspired him to rebel even more.

"If kids are considered at-risk there is no way to stop them," he said. "I wanted the friends, the cars and the money you get as a gang member."

"People think all gang members are abused, but I wasn't," he added.

He grew up with Alex Fernandez, the youth who was killed in 2004 in "the first real gang shooting in Mountain View," he said. The two had been friends, but joined different gangs just before middle schools.

"We split up in fifth grade just because of our different colors," he said.

He is trying to keep his young child out of that scene, but it will be difficult. He said he hopes to get his child involved in soccer and boxing, which helped him to find a release for his own anger. But he worries these outlets may not be enough.

Gang violence, he said, is closely connected with poor neighborhoods, and the city needs to invest more money in improving the quality of life there to keep kids out of gangs.

"Just because I can't afford to live in a safe place, I have to be violent," he said.


Like this comment
Posted by Wo'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2008 at 10:39 am

What does it mean to be a good, strong man? That is the question posed by the gang "problem" in the United States. That is the question that most males spend their lives trying to answer. A ten year old male faces two choices. He can choose gang life and become a bad strong man. Or he can choose "mainstream" life and never become a man at all.

The gang "problem" will not go away as long as it is impossible for males to pass from boyhood into manhood in the normal lifestyle. In the normal lifestyle, males are not allowed to be men either at work or at home. Thank God for gangs; their existence can guide us to the real solution.

The real solution is to return to a social pattern in which males are free to be men, real men, good, strong men, both at home and at work. Ditto for females, being free to be good, strong women.

Human society can survive bad men organized into criminal gangs. It cannot survive a general loss of understanding of what it means to be a good, strong man, a good, strong woman.

Like this comment
Posted by John Doe
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2008 at 1:25 am

young people need a chance, and understanding stop turning your back to them, give them more teachers like Hime Escolante at least act like you care, if your an employer give them a chance lay down the rules, but dont be closed minded, youth are the future. give them job training, and a livable wage, so they can live with their head to sky, why do I say all this I was
a youth growing up in a broken home, I am white and my religion is jewish I ran from home when I was 15 had my own apartment worked my ass off hustled the streets and I was a white cholo with dickie pants long shirts and cholo shoes cholo walk the hispanic community excepted me because I learned how to speak spanish thats not the half of my problems I had
ADD the big monkey on my back, now I am a security officer working two jobs to support my
family no ever gave me shit so let me tell something when a youth knocks on your door dont slam it please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Wo'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2008 at 8:07 am

People are very disconnected. Last night, while walking on Castro Street, I overheard some Asian youths behind me commenting on "how disconnected white people are". People are supposed to be connected with each other, part of each others' lives. In particular, elders are supposed to be a part of the life of each youth, and youths are supposed to be part of the life of each elder.

During my childhood, I was very connected to my parents and to other adults in the community. When I sold lemonade out of my red wagon on the sidewalk, adults bought it and drank it right there. Adults said hello to children, and the children replied with friendliness and respect. These experiences were critical to my development as a person and as a man.

Perhaps I shouldn't have posted more than one comment, but I wanted to tell White Cholo that he is totally right about what we need to do.

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Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

"vulnerable to being labeled a gang member." -- what in the world does this mean? Labeled by whom? And with what consequence? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. So what's in a name? or label? So many ambiguities -- this is bad reporting.

I take issue too with the underlying implication that someone who grew up in Mountain View is entitled to live here their entire lives. Hey, wake up, the area is changing. If you didn't study in school and make yourself a useful contributor, you don't get to stay in a wonderful place like Mountain View. There are many other places where it is far cheaper to live and you can live an honest life. Saying you have to break the law to stay in Mountain View is such a total cop out. How can you be proud enough to call yourself human?

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Posted by who they are talking about in this article
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 6, 2008 at 10:01 pm

"vulnerable to being labeled a gang member" means that you are automatically put on a file in the school because you have relations to a gang member, if you needed you have access to violent people, alsso how am i to move to a new comunity if i cant afford to live where i am? how am i to move? so i made monety to survive, and by the way i no longer live in my home town i moved to the valley makin 16.00 an hour as a phone banker, probally at your bank haha!

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Posted by Brown 0jos
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I know who went to talk to u guys its B!t¢,H @$$ PaYaSo From VMV (varrio montana vista) because of him being really good friends with the MVPD he was bait for a homie to get locked up. he lives in the section 8 housing on san luis near farley lol. You could at least try better to keep his identity "safe" LOL!!!!!

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

So my question is if you are doing work for a gang but not offical jumped in can you get out of it? And if so how? My friend who is 12 has a change of heart and wants out but says it's impossible cause he has done work(rep-ing) for the gang. Can someone give me some advice? pls