The Town We Live In: A look into the Neo-Metropolitan Barrio Life

North Broadway Los Angeles

Just east of the L.A. River lays a borough of the city historically known for it's beautiful hillsides and the feuding gangs that inhabit them. For generations Eastside Clover, the Avenues, varrio Lincoln Heights, varrio Eastlake, Happy Valley, Rose Hills and Eastside Eighteen St. have co-existed in a state of high-intensity warfare that has cost the young lives of many brown men from the neighborhood. Traditional rivalries, warped values and economic despair almost destroyed the community in the '90s, when gang violence reached unprecedented levels. Lack of business opportunities fueled the hatred, while an illicit drug trade helped provide the resources for the weaponry. The result was a Beirut-style battleground amid the tall palm trees and beautiful Southern Cali sunshine. At night, only two types of people roamed the streets: the gangsters and the police force (sometimes the difference isn't so clear around here). Casualty rates escalated and all hope seemed lost, but "God is great!" and "His mercies are everlasting".

Now, things are different. Alleyways that were once marked with threatening messages from conflicting blocks are filled with Aztec symbolism. Walls that were covered with gang insignias, before, currently contain powerful political statements and show a deep reverence for the ancestors. But the graffiti is only the most apparent sign indicative of this amazing Change, because of its visibility. The music of the ghetto has also progressed from the old "shoot 'em up" style to a more "come together" based theme. The very financial desperation that had catapulted the people to kill each other has been replaced by a strong sense of unity through common suffrage. People are starting to realize that we are all in the same struggle, and against the same dark forces that tormented our fathers and our fathers' fathers. I'm not saying that the gangs have vanished and our community is perfect, but at least now, families can walk the streets without fear of catching a stray one.

The real irony is this fact: just when our gente is starting to learn peace, the president turns out to be the biggest warmonger of them all! Imagine that, the Bush Cartel is trying to convince the country that their business rival is a threat to national security. He wants to send thousands of troops to the other side of the world to enforce his policy when he can't even stop a sniper in his own backyard (which looks like a CIA operative gone postal, but that's just my opinion). Even former-president Clinton appeared gung ho when he was quoted recently, saying he would "pick up a rifle and fight to defend Israeli sovereignty if attacked" (come on, Bill, you can't even fight your own sexual deviations. Isn't perjury a crime anymore?) Oh, well, I don't expect anything else from them. They could kill for money and go believe their own lies; our barrio is a world away from Washington, D.C. They could keep their trendy fashions that only last a season; we proudly dress in traditional gear. They can have their state-of-the-art cars, we prefer fixing up classick rides. Corporate America could drown itself with carbonated coca-cola, and die eating processed burgers with Kentucky cloned chicken; either, we eat at home or comida prepared by our local vendors. The truth is, the only way to break out of this cycle of destruction is to attain knowledge of self. Then, develop strong family ties that are essential to the communal way of life enjoyed by our forefathers. Only then will we be able see through the misleading facade of patriotism. Just remember, when the wicked ruler of things is exposed and all his covert misdeed are brought to light, a couple guys (Chunks and Logo 2002) off North Broadway put los angeles, califAztlan on the map.

Power to the People,
Gato Suertudo

Stolen Land

Photography by Sal Rojas

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