Thoughts on The Mexican Mafia
The Mexican Mafia by Tony Rafael must have found its way into the talk show circuitry as well as the stop-look-listen-forgetaboutit palaver of prime news programs. This would be the best guess of someone who lives well out of the loop but will indulge upon occasion in a noteworthy publication from the current affairs rack. Most of what is written herein strikes one as an unadulterated presentation of what actually takes place in towns overwhelmed by gangsters. One of them is Highland Park, California, from whose shocking history Rafael has extracted and revealed one mind boggling anecdote after another.
Of course, there is nothing funny about the hardboiled subject matter contained herein. But one would be well-advised to bring with a sense of humor in order to get through the data, supplied in bushelsful. Ten years back the murder rate in LA surpassed that of Chicago and DC. Law enforcement had to scramble to keep up, becoming known as drive and wave police -- unable or unwilling to get involved. At least half the murders were gang-related. Also, behind the scenes, things got messy. Labs could not keep track of prints and DNA samples. There were snitches, too, often murkier and more dangerous than those upon whom they informed. And the main cast of characters consisted of men with nicknames like Trippy, Lil Pee Wee, Tigger, Muppet, Gato, Tonito, Jojo, Big Homie, Chuco, Chato, Night Owl, and Sleepy. Nicknames were ubiquitous. A fairly lame sobriquet was honorarily conferred on William "War on Gangs" Bratton, Chief of Police (1970-90).
In the endeavor to overpower gangs, police availed themselves of RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations) statutes. These enabled crime fighters to climb the underworld ladder toward leaders (called shotcallers) in addition to underlings who committed crimes following orders. But oversimplistic bad guy/good guy analysis broke down time and again. Slam dunk cases went haywire and juries rejected them, regarding perpetrators more as victims themselves than culprits. The EME, or Mexican Mafia, had evolved into a whole multi-dimensional social complex over time, going back at least to the Zoot Suit Riots of the forties. If nothing else, one will walk away from this non-fiction study with a better appreciation of how hard the situation is to grasp let alone deal with.
Consider the intricacies. A tax collector who skims off the top. Yes, gangs collect taxes. Their world is from a certain perspective a microcosm of that which encompasses it. An Avenues leader is described in court as a stand-up criminal. Bodies are repeatedly discovered after suffering six gun shots at close range to the head. Rehab centers are exploited to provide day jobs for gangsters who take breaks of various durations from street life. The lack of concern as to what goes on in rehab facilities is routinely ignored. Politicos and assorted heavyweights ask only that they appear as if they are fighting drug addiction. A Nissan 300ZX is depicted as an insurance job, scheduled to be reported stolen. A gangster refers to himself as honorable because he does not kidnap, extort, or collect taxes from the innocent.
The story of los emeros is not confined to Hispanics. Nearby are competitive gangs from the Phillipines and Cambodia. A good gangland who's who compendium can be found in a hub by firead45. After approximately two hundred pages, Rafael discusses the introduction of Blacks into the neighborhood. As Blacks begin to adjust, tensions mount, and an unlucky man parking his car in his own garage is killed in a hail of bullets. It had been one of those nights and members of a Hispanic gang wanted to kill a Black. Hispanic retaliations were predictably random and brutal. From this point onward, the notion of hate crimes enters the picture. Now, finally, the book truly hits pay dirt. Hate that turns ugly, after all, is hardly an element exclusive to ghettos. This is America itself, which in all its years has not managed to clean house.
Furthermore, gangs are no longer the exception but the rule. The acceptance of gangs is how citizens in towns, backwaters, and cities choose to confront the normal day-to-day, lingering hostilities of an American society turned inward against itself. American versus American has become especially prevalent and highly noticeable following the turn of the century. Since then, just about everything internal that can go wrong has, and the threat that it will continue to do so until America capsizes, dividing, perhaps, along ethnic lines, is real enough. The rise of inflation, feebly reported in the press, is almost certainly going to be an additional factor in the years ahead. It is deepening the rift between haves and have-nots. Thus, if blood does not become decisive, then net worth will likely determine how one shall live, work, think, and die. No, the Mexican Mafia is not a regional problem. Not at all. In fact, it is just the opposite. In places like Highland Park, the perception is that non-gang citizens are the problem. And in mid-America, hardly a soul can remain independent and individualistic very long without enlisting the aid of a group sub-culture with enough muscle to keep a man or woman breathing under normal circumstances.