Gang-banging: Cultural Differences Among Latinos in California

I met Yazmin at a Shell gas station last Thursday.  It was raining and we had nowhere to go, so we just sat in her car.

So we’re sitting there and she says, “my cousin”.  Her cousin opens the door, introduces himself, and gets in. Long story short, we end up talking about his experiences and politics of his prison term(s).

He told me, “they’ll know who you are by the way you speak… Sureños’ll go up to you like, ‘what’s up, perro?’, ‘what’s up, ese?’; none of that ‘what’s up, my nigga’ shit… los Norteños talk like that”.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now, but it solidified in my head that we, Latinos, are not completely at fault for gang-banging – As many of you should know, we indeed are an outcome of institutionalized racism, since Columbus saw his first Mayan – The groups of Latino youth born in California, regionally northern California, have adapted to speaking english well while observing other youth of oppressed groups like African Americans.

The two cultures, African Americans and first generation born Latinos, integrate, a process called transculturation (in contrast to assimilation, wholly becoming of another culture, transculturation is the process of adopting and/or excluding cultural traits of another culture).  Inherently, even though I know I shouldn’t, I call my friends “niggas” from time to time.

I’m not a Norteño, and I have a fear that if I ever get incarcerated I’ll be misclassified as one.

Growing up, I got along with everyone, but I always had ties to people that were, and probably still are, affiliated.

Now that I look back, I understand how and why I acted, a reason of why we should all go to college and learn about our own history.  I encourage you.

For the record, I’m only speaking on from what I know, and I believe I have a good understanding of what I grew up aspiring to be.

– Lover

Benjamin Bratt, La Mission

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