A personal Odyssey
I am no better than you—I too once believed that gangs
were the way.
The way to friends and family. From some battered and
demented point of view, it seemed like a good way to
go, an easy path to follow. I know what it’s like to
be or feel alone. You see these gangs/groups of people
and they never seem alone. Well, they’re more alone
than you can ever know.
Not too long ago, I was living life day-to-day, always
looking over my shoulder, never knowing who can and
can’t be trusted, knowing that if I gave my trust too
easily, I may be betrayed.
Crews, cliques, and gangs are a part of everyday life
in Watsonville; they shape and mold the future of many
young teens’ lives. For some it’s a matter of respect,
honor and power; for the others, they just want to be
able to know they’re a part of something bigger than
For me, it was a matter of respect; though I am more
book smart than street smart, I know that on the
streets respect means fear. The more you’re feared the
more respect you obtain. Mostly, I was feared because
of who I knew and because of the things people knew
my “accomplices” were capable of. In a way, I liked
hanging out with the thugs, because I felt secure
inside. My family doesn’t know that I not only hung
out with, but also dated, guys who were older and
involved with gangs, shootings and drug dealing. I was
never ashamed of the person, just their actions.
You probably couldn’t begin to fathom how hard and
painful it is to love someone who can so easily hurt
others, or make a decision about a stranger’s life: a
decision as to when a person should die or be
punished. I’ve had boyfriends who have made these
decisions. If you really take the time to think about
it, you’ll see it doesn’t make any sense at all:
Mexicans fighting Mexicans, and killing each other
when they should unite and enjoy their many splendors.
The gang life is a long road to lead and in most cases
members are “jumped in,” unless they have a history of
family members being affiliated, then they can
be “walked in.” Either one is extremely serious, and a
huge deal. If you are being jumped in, you have to be
able to take the hits and blows of all the male or
female members before you. For some that’s a tough
obstacle to overcome, but if you just lay back and
take it in, it demonstrates that you’re “down.” Down
for your gang, your color and your new “family.”
Technically, there is no ritual for being walked in.
You don’t get jumped, you get right into the mix. You
can immediately join in the parties, kickbacks and
rumbles. Of course, if you’re walked in you have a lot
more to prove. You have family members who were
previously/currently affiliated that you need to
honor. By honor, I mean you have more work to do for
your ‘hood to earn your stripes, and show up the
family members that went before you. Gang members
expect more from you because of your family line.
Remember, once you’re “in” there never really is
Before getting expelled back in October 2003 (my
sophomore year), I never believed it could happen to
me; guess what, it did! I have no one to blame but
myself. To put my bad choices and poor judgments on
others would be the coward’s way out.
Toward the beginning of September, when I was still
14, I began hanging out with a new crowd. First, it
started off with cutting a class or two and just
hanging out. It soon became an everyday thing.
Eventually we started leaving school with some male
friends of the other girls–just hanging out at first.
Then we started drinking, and as if it were some sort
of quilted pattern, that became our everyday thing.
I’m not proud to admit it, but after a few weeks it
became the whole day, not just a few classes here and
there. Through all this, the girls and I were becoming
closer, watching out for each other. We had to,
because it got to the point where if you were alone,
rival gang members would follow us to our classes,
after school and even chase some of us home, just
trying to scare us. We were never alone because of
that; we always had our group, even on weekends.
Thanks to our big mouths, there were a lot of fights
and bad situations. The biggest one took place at Jack
in the Box between me and another girl. There was
blood, torn clothes and missing shoes. But we didn’t
get in trouble, or even caught. I look back and wonder
if I would have kicked that girl’s ass over a ‘color’
and a few exchanged words if I had been with different
people, or had not been under the influence of
Within less than a month, I went from heavily drinking
to taking drugs and downing pills. Not just any pills,
they’re special, similar to taking heroin. Your body
goes completely numb, your brain relaxes, mouth is
dry, don’t eat, can’t eat, can’t exactly do anything,
and just constantly feel like you’re floating.
It was hard to leave the group, and I guess I was
scared because I had turned my back on my family and
old friends. Things were getting bad, and several
people began packing weapons. On the 7th of October
there was supposed to be a rumble after school, so we
all decided to cut 5th period. At that time a “friend”
came to me a little bewildered, and asked if I could
hold something for him. I said yes. All of us
returning back to class 6th period got stopped in the
hall and were taken to the office to be searched. I
cooperated with everything and they found the knife,
so the expulsion process began. Though I got expelled,
I broke free from the shackles that bounded me to
You Set the Scene
Picture things being the way they used to be, when
things were good–when I was good. Picture me getting
A’s and B’s in the Video Academy at Watsonville High.
Picture me playing so many sports you can’t keep up.
Picture me graduating, and being successful. Picture
me dropping out, becoming a statistic. Picture me
being so lazy, my only exercise is clicking the
remote. Now, picture me failing–amounting to nothing–
no aspirations, not caring about losing sight of all
dreams and goals.
Gangs and drugs alter things; this is what they do to
a good kid. It may be your kid, someone you know, or
even you. It may be hard to admit, but listen
attentively to my story: You don’t want to go through
that before you realize the errors of your mistakes. A
mistake does not become an error, unless you fail to
correct it. Now tell me–can you picture that?