Porky with photo from Folsom prison, Guatemala City, March 31, 2001.


The Veterano, Guatemala City, March 31, 2001

These days Porky cuts ladies, mens, and childrens hair. He calls his barbershop Estetica The Best. "You know what this means," he asks pointing to the words THE BEST blazoned across his chest--"It's for THE BIG EIGHTEENTH STREET."

"When I was locked up in Folsom prison THE BEST was the secret code we used for 18th Street members who were in the Mexican Mafia prison gang. I got a picture of my buddies and me in la pinta. Spooky is to the left of me and Blacky is to the right. They are both doing life in the US. I was lucky. I got out after five years."

"I joined 18th Street back in the 70s when I was a little kid. In LA joining gangs was how you got respect. Over there in the US its about territory and money and guns and power. I was shot five times by an MS gang member. In self defense I shot him twice. He ended up in the cemetary and I ended up in jail. I was also heroin addict for 14 years. I knew I'd end up dead if I stayed in the States so I came back to Guatemala."

"In 93 when I first got here there was hardly any MS or 18th street gang members. How it started was with guys like me. Kids want to feel important and they hear stories about jail in the States, they see our tatoos, for them we're like gods. They want to imitate everything. But in Guatemala the cartels control the drugs. You can't make money. The kids just fight over a name or a number. They just kill each other for nothing."

"I guess I'm lucky. My dad taught me how to work, how to cut hair. I found Jesus and now I am married and have three kids and I'm out of the violence. You can never leave the gang. People always know you are 18th Street. I've got 18th Street in my heart. But all the violence, that is in my past. Now I have peace in my heart, a decent job and money in my pocket. The last thing Guatemala needs is gangs."

April 7, Bogota