"It is the violent poetry of the times, written in the blood of youth." -- Linda Mendoza, Chicana poet from South San Gabriel
The Animal Tribe practically died with the death of one of its last presidents: John Fabela.
17-year-old John -- whose girlfriend had just given birth to his infant daughter -- succumbed to a shotgun blast in his living room as his younger brother watched from beneath a bed in an adjacent room. About 13 members of the Sons of Soul car club, made up of recent Mexican immigrants living in East L.A., were rounded up by the police.
By then Joaquín López was already in prison for a heroin beef. Many of the older Tribe members were also incarcerated or hard-core tecatos. As the Tribe's influence diminished, Lomas initiated Tribe members into the various sets based on age groupings: the Pequeños, Chicos, the Dukes and the Locos. Lomas was reorganizing and recruiting. No longer could one claim Lomas just by being there. Chicharrón invited me to get in.
"They beat on you for about three minutes -- that's all," Chicharrón urged. "You get a busted lip. So what? It's worth it."
So later I decided to go to a party in the Hills, fully aware I would join a Lomas set. Like most barrio parties, it started without any hassle. Vatos and rucas filled every corner in the small house; some ventured outside, smoking or drinking. The house belonged to Nina, this extremely pretty girl whom everyone respected. Nina's mother shuffled in the kitchen, making tacos from large pots of meat and beans simmering on low flames.
The dudes were polite; dignified. Señora this and Señora that. You couldn't imagine how much danger hung on their every breath.
As the night wore on, the feel of the place transformed. The air was rife with anticipation. Talk became increasingly louder.