Tag Archives: Bell

Is This How Gangs End?

I’m very proud of my cover story in the January’s edition of Pacific Standard Magazine about the decline of gang violence and gang presence in Southern California.gangs-illo

I’ve been watching this phenomenon quietly unfold for several years. It amounts to a revolution in criminal behavior in the region that essentially invented the modern street gang, then exported it to much of America.

It’s not necessarily to say that, literally, all gangs have stopped existing, though some have. Rather, it’s to say that their behavior is so much more underground, low-profile, so quiet, that it amounts to about the same thing for many working-class neighborhoods that were besieged by these guys for so long. Some are still active but none is as active as gangs were a decade or two ago.

These were truly street gangs, meaning they took their power, identity and reputation from their streets and how well they “defended” them.

Areas like Drew Street, mentioned in the piece, are now seeing a resurgence that was denied them for many years due to the stifling presence of their local gangs.

Anyway, I hope you like the piece. Daily Beast selected it as one of the Best Longreads of the Week – so that was nice….Let me know what you think, please.

logo

6 Comments

Filed under California, Gangs, Los Angeles, Southern California

Death of a Tuba Superstar – RIP El Jokoki

jokoki

Carlos Soto, El Jokoki

Sad news from Mexico that Carlos Soto Beltran, aka El Jokoki, has died of complications from leukemia.

Soto was the tuba player for many years for Banda El Recodo, the holy mother of all bandas in Sinaloa.

He grew into something of the Michael Jordan of the tuba, in that he was a great player, but also made his persona into something younger tuba players wanted to follow and emulate.

He was, in other words, the first star tuba player – something that Mexican tuba playing didn’t have before him.

Soto spent 20 years with Recodo. He retired due to his illness in 2012 and his place was taken by another great and influential tuba player, Alfredo Herrejon.

During his years with Recodo, though, Soto raised the bell on his tuba so that the audience could see his face, thus plucking tuba players forever from the obscurity and ignominy they endured with the bell covering their face down to their nose.

I want to say he was among the first to engrave his tubas with florid designs – but others please correct me if I’m wrong.

Soto also had a signature tuba mouthpiece – the Jokoki – made by Pablo Garibaldi of Garibaldi Music in Paramount, CA.

His nickname means Cream.

El Debate from Culiacan says in its obituary that he retired from Recodo to dedicate himself to therapy for people sick with cancer, spinal ailments and others.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Culture, Mexico

COMPTON: In SoCal, the best stories come from smallest towns

I’ve long thought that in Southern California, the best stories come from the small suburbs — particularly those just to Compton Fashion Centerthe southeast of Los Angeles, which have become a vast Mexican-immigrant suburbia.

Their names belie a wild and wholly politics: Maywood, Huntington Park, South Gate, Bell, Bell Gardens, Hawaiian Gardens.

These towns are unprecedented in American immigration history. Other immigrant groups advanced politically and economically into America at the same time, and almost always in big cities, where their numbers were large but not dominant: New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami and others.

Mexicans long ago put down economic roots here in Southern California, usually when most were living in Los Angeles. But politically they are neophytes. However, they now live in these small suburbs I mentioned above, where they make up the vast majority of the population.¬† (More on why that is later….) I don’t believe this is true of any other major immigrant group in American history.

But this is why these towns have produced such astonishing and bizarre stories of municipal governance.

As it happens, Compton (pop. 97,000) is one of them and varies from the others only in the fact that the population being slowly displaced is black and not white.

Today’s LAT article (not mine) on its mayoral election chronicles one of those great small-town LA stories … which almost involved child TV star Rodney Allen Rippy.

Former mayor Omar Bradley, under whose administration the $4999 city expense check was notoriously invented (lookRuben's Bakery, Compton that one up), is running against a young woman, Aja Jones, with serious municipal credentials but not the emotional connection to black voters. So somehow Omar Bradley is again a political force in Compton.

Almost always, the reason these towns turn out such remarkable stories has to do with Mexican immigration.

In this case, Compton, the town where gangsta rap was born, is now 70 percent Hispanic, but both mayor candidates are black.

That’s because Mexican immigrants cannot, or choose not to, vote. So a very small percentage of the population has any say over who runs the town. Were there more Mexican immigrant civic participation, these two candidates likely wouldn’t even be in the running.

Very similar to what the other towns went through in the 1990s, which were once white but then transformed into almost entirely Mexican-immigrant suburbs.

But more on that in other posts….

1 Comment

Filed under California, Los Angeles, Migrants