Faces of Milpas

. . . we didn't get along with west Phoenix. It was on, on sight. Anytime you see them you knew we were going to fight. . . . West Side Chicanos, there's no love there at all. . . . That was a big part of my life when I was younger was getting it on with them. The purpose of my life was to get after those guys as much as I could. You know, I was like a soldier for the neighborhood.

NT: What did that entail?

RM: Just going out and hitting up on the walls, you know, writing on the walls, going over in their neighborhood and just . . . cross them out and put your name and put your neighborhood's. That's part of soldiering, you know? Letting them know we are out there. If you want some, come get some. That was one of our mottos, we used to say, "Want some? You come get some. But be bad enough to take some."

Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.
Paolo Vescia
Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.

For me, that's how it was. For a lot of my other homeboys, it wasn't really like that. They were just together to hang out. For me, I took it like that. I was really serious about it. It got more and more serious with West Side Chicanos because one of our homeboys ended up killing one of their homeboys. A lot of my partners went to jail. . . . From there it was like hide and seek, laying low, we couldn't hardly go anywhere because there were so many fools after us. For a long time we weren't really doing nothing.

That's when break-dancing came out. So a lot of the neighborhoods (gangs), they got smaller and smaller. Some neighborhoods, they weren't even neighborhoods no more because of break-dancing. All the younger kids got into break-dancing and started doing that instead of being part of gangs. That was like in the mid-'80s. For that time, when I was 17, for a good two years, our neighborhood was really quiet. There really was nothing going on. Everybody was into that. Not only that, but the jean-pressing, New Boy style, punk rock style. All that was all in. So the neighborhood was pretty much obsolete.

And those movies came out, that movie Colors came out, man, and we had people coming to us, "Jump me in, I want to be from LCM." So right then and there, man, our neighborhood blew up again. Also, all the youngsters from the Eastside Las Cuatro Milpas, started getting together. The younger generation starting coming up -- they are back.

NT: The movie Colors triggered it?

RM: Oh man, big time, That movie had everybody jumping off. Neighborhoods came out of the woodwork. That's where BHHP, Hispanic Homeboys came up, South Side Posse, . . . Dope Man Association, Hispanics Causing Panic, a lot of these brand new neighborhoods, popping up all over the place. That's when our neighborhoods started getting strong again.

NT: Are you from Southside or Eastside LCM? (Las Cuatro Milpas means "the four fields." The gang has four divisions across the metropolitan area, Eastside, Southside, Northside and Westside.)

RM: I originally got jumped into Westside LCM. I have a cousin I used to hang out with when I was younger. He was from Westside LCM and I got jumped into the Westside Milpas. But I lived in south Phoenix, so I would always go over to hang out in west Phoenix.

I don't claim a side now because I'm from LCM. Sides don't mean anything to me now. But back then, I was from Westside Milpas. At that time (mid-1980s) there wasn't a Southside Milpas. At that time, the neighborhood broke up (as break-dancing took off), and I kind of drifted away, too. I had a girlfriend, two kids, I was kicking it. My ex-old lady, we broke up, she took my two kids and that's a whole other story. Some of the guys from east Phoenix moved to south Phoenix, and I started hanging out with them. At about that time, this Colors came out.

NT: What year?

RM: '88 or '89. (Colors was made in 1988.) And everything started jumping off, especially in south Phoenix right there with us. All kinds of guys wanted to get jumped into Southside LCM. So we started that one up. Then my brother, he got his own clique going up in west side Phoenix, far west side Phoenix and they jumped up, a big old clique jumped up out there. And then a cousin (of a Southside LCM member) . . . he started claiming Northside LCM up there . . . and they fucking blew up, and they had a big old clique going on up there. . . . Within a half year, it was just huge; I mean the neighborhood was just huge.

That's when it got really serious. For me, that's when gangbanging came to a whole other level. That's when it started involving guns. Before, it was fist fighting. Before, people were getting shot and killed, but you had it mostly in some of the neighborhoods that are so old and some of the fighting between those guys was so serious they were killing each other. But in our neighborhood, we really didn't have that kind of a hatred with another neighborhood like that, other than West Side Chicanos. And because of the time lapse, (the fighting) between our neighborhoods, it was dead.

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