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Interview with: Armando Rodriguez
Interviewed by: Thomas Kreneck
Date: April 23, 1981
Archive Number: OH 359
I: (00:03) Why don’t we begin in this manner?
I: Starting with Judge Rodriguez and then going to Mr. Adiano. That’s the correct—Adriano(??). What, in your words, was Pachuco?
AR: Okay. In the discussion—my definition of Pachuco, as I have understood it, okay, throughout—as soon as I could understand what it was, was a particular era in which you had an identifiable character which they called “Pachuco,” had very definite characteristics; a code, and you have some now, okay? But they are—you might say—a carryover of that particular identifiable group with those characteristics.
I: What type?
AR: Like a cowboy or like a motorcycle gang now has certain characteristics? A hippie has certain characteristics.
AR: That, to me, is a Pachuco. He had his very identifiable characteristics.
I: When you’re talking about Pachuco, does a time frame come to mind to you? A particular period of time in U.S. history?
AR: Yes. I would say the latter ‘40s to around ‘50s; something like that.
I: Okay. What about you, Mr. Adiano? What, to you, is a Pachuco—or was a Pachuco—and what time period?
D: Okay. The time period I differ with the judge. The time period was the very early ‘40s.
AR: Oh, okay. The ‘40s.
D: 1940 up til, I would say 1953.
AR: (02:07) Oh, we don’t differ then, that’s—well, the reason I said 1940 was because I was born in ’40, so I wouldn’t know about-.
I: In fact, let’s establish some expertise here, okay? Starting with the judge; what’s your background? Where were you born? How did you come to contact with Pachucos?
AR: Okay. Well, I was born in Fifth Ward in 1940 at 1410 Rothwell.
AR: That is a street coming from town. You pass that bridge, and you get into the heart of what they call “The Bloody Fifth,” okay? That was right before Hennessey Settegast Park, right before Jones Elementary School, and of course, Saint Patrick’s Church where key (inaudible) area was there. I think that area of which I’m most familiar with is no more than about five or six blocks wide as you start out from town and it stretches out to maybe—I’m not counting—maybe eight blocks or ten blocks that goes on just a little bit. It was about—as a matter of fact, two bridges; one is what they call that bridge coming from town, the other one is Puente Negro, some would call it, and on the other side are some railroad tracks. So it’s kind of bounded in there, pretty much.
I: Of the Fifth Ward?
I: And your parents came to Houston when?
AR: Around 1908.
I: Okay. So you are a native-born Houstonian?
D: Born and raised in the Fifth Ward.
AR: Born right there in Fifth Ward.
I: Okay. Mr. Adiano, what’s your background?
D: (04:08) Okay, I was born in Pasadena, Texas, back in 1931, and I came to Houston in 1937.
D: So I was raised mostly in Houston and in the area of the Second Ward and my home was on the corner of St. Charles and Canal Street, and this is where I grew up.
I: Okay. And you became a Houston policeman as well?
D: Yes, I was the Chief Deputy Constable for Harris County for seven years.
I: All right. Okay, and your official capacity has been as Justice of the Peace?
AR: Well, I was a lawyer, of course, first, since ’69, and then I was appointed to the municipal court as a full-time district court judge, first of my descent, and then I was appointed to justice of the peace in ’73 and then just last year, elected by all the JPs as a presiding judge for the Harris County Justice of the Peace.
I: All right. And both of you saw individuals who were identifiable as Pachucos, in your minds at rather close proximity, I take it?
AR: Very close. Very close.
D: I’d say very!
I: Okay. First of all, beginning with the judge and then moving to Mr. Adriano, did Houston have Pachuco gangs?
I: Where were they located? Either one of you can answer.
AR: Okay, let me put this in proper reference now, and the reason I’m glad that Dotti(??) was here and we discovered this since the last few years—is many of the people that I know by face and sight and that was around and saw--functioning, moving, and living with families and everything—Dotti(??) knows also, by name. And so we’ve discovered this many, many times.
I: The same characters keep popping up, in other words?
AR: Well, he just knew the same ones, the same people that lived since he was a little older than me, he remembers their names and I remember their names because I heard them, and such, so it ties in.
I: All right.
AR: Okay, now what was the question?
I: The question was-.
D: Were there Pachuco gangs?
I: Were there Pachuco gangs here in Houston? Mr. Adriano?
D: Yes. Yes, there were. As a matter of fact, back in that frame of time, I guess you could say, they were the Second Ward Gang, there was the Fifth Ward Gang where the judge came from and I came from the Second Ward, and you had the Sixth Ward Gang which was the area up around Washington Avenue; the Third Ward, which is up around Dowling, and all these people couldn’t get along.
AR: (inaudible, speaking at same time)
D: They had the Magnolia Gang and they couldn’t get along one with another. But then you also-.
I: They couldn’t get along? Why? What was the beef?
D: Well, they used to have gang wars and gang fights.
AR: Well, they had territorial areas, okay? They had territories that they—usually, their neighborhood, and if one from another area traversed in their neighborhood, then they—you have to have a reason or sort of have permission or they were jealous of their territory.
I: Very territorial and-?
D: Right. It’s similar to what’s happening today in New York, for example. The Dukes and the whatever—names they have over there—The Dragons and so on and so forth.
I: Young Lords and that.
D: Right. Also, it brings back to memory that you had what was known as a black shirt gang, a maroon shirt gang, and this how they-.
I: Where were the maroon shirts?
D: Beg pardon?
I: Where were the maroon shirts?
I: We’ve heard about the black shirts, but the maroon?
D: Okay, the maroon shirts were some—a certain little gang that used to hang out at a place called El Alacran which is right over by the Blanc(??) Bridge, Puente Negro, up around where the Clayton Homes are now. They used to be known as El Alacran.
I: I see.
D: (08:58) Which is “The Scorpion,” and these folks had their own little gang over there, and of course, they all wore maroon shirts, and of course, I believe the folks from Second Ward wore the black shirts, and the other factor that would identify them is that most of these fellows had long hair—not as long as today, but they had a square cut with a ducktail.
AR: With a ducktail.
D: It’s called a ducktail.
AR: That’s right.
D: And then, of course, they wore these zoot suits with the real-.
AR: See what I’m talking about? Let me say this, also—let me say this. They had quality stuff. Their shoes were expensive, top-notch, kept very clean, immaculate.
I: They weren’t slobs.
AR: No, no. Not at all. They were very—they had the hat with the feather.
D: Hat with the feather.
AR: And the suits—I mean, they were quality suits—tailor-made. They were always proud of that. Their clothes tailor-made, silk shirts, everything very nice, which is what I was saying: identifiable. It wasn’t just, well, “These are the roughnecks in the neighborhood.” No, they had a very definite code of honor. A very definite code of honor.
I: What—how would you describe that? I mean, can you give us points of that code of honor? I mean-.
AR: (10:30) Well, as I recall, they had, for instance, a lot of respect for their leader, okay? And they were very gentle and courteous to their inner circle. The only time--and the thing that is probably best publicized or most publicized about their being mean or vicious or this type of thing, was, again, in their protective nature, and when someone violated that code of honored or dishonored one of their own, this was—you might say a revenge or vengeance or defensive measure. It was a protective thing, which goes to the territorial. They were very proud of the things. As a matter of fact, one of the characteristics, if I remember correct, and I’m just—I didn’t even stop to think about this beforehand, so I’m just speaking spontaneously-.
I: Sure, that’s the best way.
AR: Was that they had a lot of respect for their elders, okay? These are the things I remember of that.
I: Do you agree with that, Mr. Adriano?
D: Yes, I do, very much so. As a matter of fact, at the time—I remember this very clearly—they used to go to church. Guys used to go to church on Sunday and they would kneel down. I attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and this is where I used to see them all the time. See, the other thing about it was this: that they were very respectful towards the part, that for example, myself—I was never involved with any of these gangs. I was kind of young at the time, but I remember that I could go to Fifth Ward and the guys knew me over there, and I could go to Sixth Ward and they knew me and they knew that I was not the type to fight or to get into any hassles with them, and they let me alone. They wouldn’t bother me and the same thing if someone, say, from Fifth Ward, had a girlfriend in Second Ward but he was a straight guy, he could come over and nobody would bother him.
I: It was only other people of their types that they identified in other places, coming through?
D: It was something like for example, if one of the Pachucos from Fifth Ward came over and he wanted to take a girl from one of the Pachucos from Second Ward, you know- (inaudible, speaking at same time).
AR: Again, violate their code of honor. This is, again, going through the rituals of getting clearance and so forth.
I: Oh, I see.
AR: (13:09) You know, so this is the thing. And many of the times—as the matter of fact, they had disdain for people within their own group or elsewhere that were messy; that were just disrespectful and this type of thing, so this is something that many times is not brought up about this era or these people.
I: What about criminal activity? Were they ever involved in criminal activity?
D: To my knowledge, yes, they were. But they were very far and in between. Most of the ones that were were either weeded out or they went on their own and things of this type. Now, you know, they eventually--or as always happens, there’s bound to be a killing or a stabbing or a shooting of some type, but this was part of how things were happening.
AR: And as I remember it at the end, the—what you call “criminal activity” has to be classified, because by criminal activity, you kind of take on the aspect of well, do they just go out robbing and stealing and so forth?
I: Yeah, okay.
AR: And this wasn’t the case. Now, as I said, they were protective, they were defensive, and I’m sure there was some breaking-in and so forth. But keep in mind, you have different levels of society, and we’re talking about the Pachuco—was not the normal robber or stealer, okay? He prided himself in the clothes he wore and what he did, and he got these through hard work—through hard work. Now, there were some—no doubt about it—that which you see—and nowadays, which often are confused for these. A pimp is a pimp, no matter what. As a matter of fact, many of them dress now like they used to dress then, with the best clothes and so forth; this type of thing, and so consequently, there’s this confusion and there were some people within the group--which I’m sure were Pachucos and some were not identifiable as such--which were involved, I’m sure, with the different bootlegging, drug traffic or this type of thing. So there was—yes, there was that involved in there. But this was not normally a characteristic of a Pachuco, okay?
I: Let me ask you this: do you all remember any individuals who had notoriety as Pachucos? The leaders of the organization—of the gang?
I: Could you—I mean, the names will not be used in his paper, but I’d like to have them recorded for the tape. Identifiable, say, as the Magnolia, Fifth Ward?
AR: Well, there are families. Families of them. I can’t think of someone—you know some.
D: Uh-hunh. (affirmative) Well, there was over in your area, of course, there was Martin Lopez.
AR: The Lopez family, right. That was a family.
D: There was Martin and Manuel Campos, two brothers. There was a fellow by the—they used to call him “Bootleg”(??) and of course, there was-
I: Who were they connected with?
D: They were connected with Fifth Ward.
D: And there was a fella—he was a mailman; as a matter of fact, he’s my mailman. They used to call him Mario Cabazen, “Big Headed Mario.”
AR: All had colorful names when you start getting-.
D: Oh, yeah. And down in the Alacran, there was Willy Lenegra(??) and there was David Garza; his brother, Balthazar Garza, his other brother, Pete; his other brother, George. It was a family. And over in Second Ward, the leader there was a fellow who was killed, as a matter of fact. His name was Fermin Ramos and he was known as “Chuca.” His running buddy, who was also killed, was a fellow by the name of Salvador. I don’t remember his last name, but they used to call him La Marana(??). And there was Chito and there was La Martina, and, of course, there was Jesse—Jesse Lopez.
AR: Uh-hunh. (affirmative) And there’s Lamas.
D: Yeah. Right, Tony Lamas.
I: Where was he from?
D: (17:48) Tony Lamas was from Fifth Ward.
I: Fifth Ward.
D: And over in the Magnolia area, you had Los Ramirez. They used to call them Los Juaroz(??).
I: Which translates as?
D: Okay, the burrough(??)—when you talk about a burrough(??), you’re talking about a green-eyed Mexican.
D: Okay? And they were very famous over here, of course. There was Los Malones. Their last name was Malone, but they were Mexican-Americans, but they used to call them Malones. And of course, there was the Las Guerellos and they were very, very, very famous.
I: What kind of family backgrounds did these particular individuals come from? I mean, I know it’s hard to generalize; maybe you can’t generalize, if that’s the case.
D: Okay. Well, for example, on the Ramos, most of their family—the father worked in concrete, was a cement worker, and of course, the family was into that. One of his brothers were into that, today. And they were all boxers. They were fighters.
I: I see.
D: And now, the other fellow, like Chito, for example, he only had—it was just he and his mother, and he had to leave school to work and this type of thing, so he really didn’t have any of the close family or any ties like Ramos. The rest of the fellows, I don’t really remember, but most of them—I’d like to make this point clear, and to something that the judge said, that most of them were pretty good folks, okay? But one of the things that I remember very correctly and very clearly in my mind is that all these people worked. They had jobs that they went to during the week, you know? Saturday and Sunday—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was something else, okay? You know, this was a time to get sharp, put on your zoot suit and go to a dance or something and if you got into a fight, well, you got into it, but the thing is I remember very well that some of these guys used to work downtown as delivery boys, and I remember seeing them on the bus and they used to wear khaki pants and the Dickies—it’s a brand name, very famous at the time—that you wore Dickies khaki pants, no cuff, you wore Stacy Adams, okay? You wore a white shirt and your pants were starched and you could get on the bus, okay, which was something like three cents at the time, to ride the bus—but you wouldn’t sit because you didn’t want to break the crease in your pants.
I: Creasing pants.
D: That’s right. These dudes were clean, you know? Hey, man. They took a bath; they went to the barber shop regularly, got their hair fixed.
D: The whole bit. Although it was—you know, the greasy kid stuff there, you know?
D: (20:31) But these guys were something else. They really were.
I: Do you think that coming out of—I mean, why do you think they took this particular route? I mean, why they bought into that image? Is there any way you can make a generalization why a kid—I mean, was it because of The Depression? Did The Depression have anything to do with it? The ‘30s or what?
D: Well, I think from what I see of it, and you asked me about that background-
D: Most of them came from I’d say lower income.
I: Working—real working-class.
AR: Yes, very definitely. Not even middle class, okay? Their parents usually were renting and trying to save up maybe to buy a house, had enough to feed the kids, but not much more. And these—I think what I saw, and when you’re talking about the territorial part of it, then what I see is the families came from religious backgrounds which is where the code of honor came from, okay? They didn’t have maybe the loads of money for the environment to be maybe categorized it with the best—well, I’d say different types of manners, you might say, that British and this type of thing. The movies that they saw had a lot to do, I think, with that, also, in that they saw in the movies the happy endings, the resolution of problems and that the hero was always the good guy—or the victor was always the good guy. Their belief was that good would prevail over evil in the end, and I think this is very important. Very important because then they would—see, this tied in, too, because of their religion. They believed in God, they believed in doing the right thing and believing in respect and you could do that—you could do that and prevail in the end. This was shown by the movies. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tarzan—the dumbest of all heroes. “You Tarzan. Me Jane,” yet you could still outsmart those guys with all their fancy weapons and everything, and what did he do? He was just a guy that lived in the wild, lived a good, clean life, a simple man but he still had the respect. He was a king. The courtesy and all these things that they reflected in their lifestyle.
(23:36) Now, the fashion, I think, was the white pants and so forth, so they had to combine all these things into their lifestyle to maintain that clean, sharp-cut image, and consequently, the dress and the code of honor. This had to tie in with the territorial protection of their families, their little sisters. Not a stranger might come in from out and cross or violate or cause some disruption, so the balance came in. That’s where the balance came in, okay? Now, when you had this happen, you didn’t have just one person—just one person say—have to take up for himself because he knew—he knew—that all of his friends, his neighbors, were going to be right there to the death, if need be. They were going to be there. He could count on them. He didn’t have to say, “Hey, guys. What’s going to happen?” He’d say, “Hey, this is our territory. You don’t come in, or else you’ll answer to us, not just to me.” And by God, everybody stood there. Everybody stood behind him. Everybody was ready, consequently, your gang wars. Of course, whenever that happened to one person, then the other few people would feel the same way and want to get revenge or maintain their respect.
(25:15) Then so you had the most commonly used was the knife. As a matter of fact, I say the knife, but I think that came in later, because in the beginning--as I understand, and this I’ve heard many times--you could have gang wars or fights without shootings and knives. It was just an honor thing. “Hey, put up your dukes!” and you’d get with it, and if someone did pull out a knife, “Wait a minute, uh-uh” (negative). That goes right back to what we were relating before.
I: What do you—Dave, do you think the knife came in later?
D: Yes, as a matter of fact, I’m sure of it. As I recall, what would happen was if somebody got a complaint from them; for example, if a guy from Fifth Ward came over and there was a complaint made to the leader or whatever, then what would happen is they would meet. They would make arrangements for these two gangs to meet and the two people—the offended one and the one that did the offending—the offender—well, they would hook it on, you know? Just bare fist. And then, of course, you know, whoever won, why, it was over. The fight was over, and each gang would go back to their areas and that would be the end of that.
The knives came later on and this was, of course, during the war. But something I wanted to clarify from when the judge was talking, one of the things that made these types of fellows very protective was the fact that all of this took place during the Second World War. This meant that daddy was away. He was away from home, mama was working. She had to work the shipyards or some kind of defensive work, and this left the older brother or the older brothers to protect the home and to protect the area that their sisters and the rest of the family was growing up in, so this is one of the things that made it the way it was then.
(27:15) Now, getting back to the knives and stuff, this came later on; this came back—oh, I would say perhaps back in 1945 and up around-
AR: And after the ‘50s. Si.
D: And after, you see, because this is the time that the fellows started coming back from war and during the war, you couldn’t buy bullets, for example, in the very, very early ‘40s. You couldn’t get a .22 bullet, for example, and a knife was something you just couldn’t get ahold of. So you know, this came later on—the shootings and so forth.
I: What you all are talking about here is amazing, the early ‘40s, around then.
D: Okay now, going up into the ‘50s and stuff, these people had mellowed down by then. What I mean is most of your Pachucos were kind of getting older and mellowing down, getting married and they’d start to raise a family and stuff like that. Today, you run across, for example, a name that I mentioned a while ago, Jesse Lopez. You see him and you say, “Hey, man, that’s an old chuco there.” You know, “chuco viejo.”
D: This is a guy who still wears his little hat, you know, wears the khakis, and he’s clean, he’s sharp. Matter of fact, he’s got what? A big scar-
AR: Scars. Yeah.
D: On one of his cheeks, you know? This is something that happened to him.
I: You said, too, when you mentioned two of them got killed. What circumstances did they?
D: Okay, I did that. Chuca, who was the leader of the Second Ward Gang, was killed on Clinton Drive, and he was killed by a fellow by the name of Hernando Niento, who came from Fifth Ward, and it was strictly—it was not a gang-type killing. It was strictly personal thing. Chuca had taken some money from this fellow or something, and the fellow the following week—of course, he was working—went out with his paycheck, bought a pistol, found out where Chuca was and he went out there and shot him.
I: The guy go to prison?
D: As a—yeah. Yeah, he did. He went to prison for—I think they gave him something like 15 years and he was out in five. And the other one—the fellow that they used to call “Salvador.” His name was Salvador; they used to him La Marana—he was killed by David Garza and it was strictly I think more of an accident than anything else, because David did shoot him, but he shot him in the leg, and what happened was they took him to then-Jeff Davis Hospital.
I: That was the kiss of death right there.
D: Yeah, as a matter of fact, he caught gangrene in his leg and they had to cut his leg off, and then one of the fellows that went to visit him, he told him, he says, “Hey, man. Cover my leg, it’s cold. My leg is very cold.” He says, “What leg, man? You don’t have a leg.” So when the guy got up and looked, of course, his leg was gone, he went into shock and died. That’s what killed him.
I: I see.
AR: (30:12) Now, to follow up from there, many of these people went to prison. Many of these. And I think the consequence of that was, again, because of the very nature of protectiveness and the follow up—like I said, they’re very revengeful, protecting their honor and so forth, is going to lead to violence. And naturally, once you get started, and I know this from experience with the police record, they got to follow up from there and just end up in prison. Many of these people have gone through prison and gotten out. I got a call just about three weeks—a month ago—from one of these people that was, as a matter of fact, having a problem with someone harassing him, and he was saying, “Look, I don’t want—I just came out of the joint. I’ve been in the joint; I don’t want to go back. I can take care of this problem myself, my way, but I’m turning to the authorities to do it for me.” So again—and when they went-.
I: They went back out.
AR: Yes, they have that—still that code of honor, you know, but when you’re forced to defend yourself, you’re forced to defend yourself, and they all knew that it might be-. [audio ends tape 1]
I: [second recording] –the relative sizes of these gangs, like Second Ward. Which was the biggest gang to the best of you all’s recollection?
AR: (inaudible, speaking at same time)
D: (00:13) The largest gang in numbers, I believe, was Second Ward. They were fairly even in numbers, But Second Ward, because of the fact that Second Ward was hooked up with Third Ward, okay? So you had two wards right there.
I: What are Magnolia? How-?
D: Now, Magnolia had a pretty good-sized gang. They had a pretty good-sized gang. Fifth Ward, I believe—but I would say Second Ward, Magnolia, Fifth Ward, and then Sixth Ward, and this is the way I would put them, as for size.
I: Okay. What was la Alacran differentiated from Second Ward, or was it the same?
D: Alacran would come in very last because they were a very small group.
AR: Uh-hunh. (affirmative)
D: They were a very small group. It’s just a very small area.
I: Did they consider themselves different than the rest of Second Ward, do you think? I mean, as Alacran.
D: No. No, they didn’t, you know, as far as being different, no.
I: Uh-hunh. (affirmative) What about as far as gang-?
AR: It was separate.
I: They had a separate gang?
D: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, they had their own little group over there.
AR: Another thing that I remember about that, for instance, and this was—of course, I had two other brothers. I remember that during say, baseball, football, and so forth, because they had like the red shield that they used to go to get in teams and so forth. They would then go into the neighborhood sandlots and play against each other on the field, you know? And they took this and there’s this competition, just like you have your school you’re playing for, this was the wards you’d play for and so forth. And another aspect that I remembered about it—and I don’t remember if they all got together or what—but I remember they used to play the Mexicans, for instance, against blacks, and this was a big thing then. And they would take sides and so it was—a lot of this was—the reason I remembered that is is it’s kind of hard to put into context because you’ve always heard that there was just a lot of violence there and so forth, and boy, you couldn’t even-. But you’ve got to remember that you used to get on the football and baseball fields and they’d have it out there.
D: (02:41) I remember a game very, very clearly, and it was Second Ward playing against Fifth Ward, and Chuca was one of the—oh, what do they call these guys with the striped shirt? Referee?
D: Yeah, he was one of them. Martin Lopez was one of the referees for Fifth Ward, and you know, here’s the football game going on back and forth, and here’s Martin Lopez—Martin Lopez and Chuca running besides the guys with a pistol in his belt, stuck in his waistband. But now there wasn’t any problem. After the game was over, they shook hands. Martin and his group went one way and Chuca and his group came home, and it was over.
I: I see.
D: It was just a thing of competition.
I: Now, you were most familiar with Second Ward, right?
I: Who was the leader of that group in Second Ward?
D: Chuca. Chuca Fermin.
I: I see. How many people were involved in that particular group in the Second Ward?
D: I can remember as many, perhaps, as 65.
I: How many—were there any women, girls--involved?
D: The girls that were involved were not directly involved, now. You know, they were girlfriends of some of the people. They would perhaps come to the Settegast Park with them, you know? But this was seldom. You didn’t see—well, like today, you know, the hippy with his old lady or whatever they call them nowadays.
D: This wasn’t the fact then.
I: That wasn’t?
D: No. Not as far as I can remember. Every once in a while, you’d catch—she was a wild girl, really. Of course, you know, most of the girls at that time-
AR: (inaudible) They were very protected.
D: Oh, God, man. If you got to see somebody’s—a girl’s knee, you went crazy, you know?
I: I see.
AR: Uh-hunh. (affirmative) Mr. Adriano, I’d like you to expound on what you mentioned earlier, that the (inaudible) of the gangs were comprised of family members, themselves; brothers and whatever—the immediate family. Yet, in the Second Ward, there was at least 65 members that were one gang, the maroon? What was it?
D: The black-shirters.
AR: Black-shirters. Okay. What I’m wondering is how did individuals such as yourself manage to stay from joining or being forced to, if that was the case, or what type of options did you have?
D: Mine was a very unique case.
D: When I was coming up, I was very skinny, very small, and you know, most of the fellows in my class, even in school, were much bigger than I was, so really, they didn’t even want me around. Now, I can say this much, that there were some kids that they used to try, like for example, you know, the bookworm? They used to try to get him into the gang, but if a guy didn’t want to go in, well, he wasn’t forced.
AR: That’s exactly right.
D: You know, they wouldn’t beat him up or anything.
AR: And that’s true, because-
D: It was his option.
AR: (05:41) I remember in coming up—and I’ve said this before, time and again—I was always protected and I was always good in school. I concentrated in school and teacher’s pet, right on through. But I never had any problems there because—and I was never in one--maybe one fight in elementary school throughout all of these supposedly violent times. And I saw many fights around me, but anytime that it involved me, I was always protected, and I remember even in fifth or sixth grade or such, and of course, then you had some of the older boys that had flunked which were bigger than the fifth or sixth graders.
I remember one guy that we were playing in the yard, and I forget what it was; a ball that was thrown by me or at me or something like that, you know? And then either I threw it back and this big old guy, which he got mad and he was big and he just got mad—he was going to come after me and right away, there were not one but three or four people who were there and the one that I remember was a patrol boy—who—Valentine was his name. He was a patrol boy, so he was bigger, too, and he came right away and got that guy and took him in. So there was nothing that was going to happen to me they were going to be protective around, you see, no matter where you were. If any of those guys were around, they’re going to be protected.
I: To the best of your recollection, how big was the gang in Fifth Ward? Did you ever hear any numbers?
AR: I wasn’t that familiar with numbers of the gang. I just knew individuals.
I: Were they fairly intelligent individuals or were they dumb, or moderate?
AR: No. You go from one extreme to the other. They had the dummies that followed along and some very, very sharp individuals.
I: Is that your impression, too?
D: Yes, it is.
I: From the Second Ward?
D: Yes, it is. Yeah. You had the same thing here.
I: Kind of ran the gamut of intelligence?
AR: Oh, yeah. Sure.
I: Did they consider themselves—did they use the word “Pachuco?”
I: Was it considered a derisive term? I mean, did they-?
I: Pejorative at all?
AR: (08:28) Well, you know, it was, like I said, an identifiable group. As a matter of fact, in the later years, I think, there was one that was exemplified in the movies, which was called “Tin-Tan,” which was a big character. (buzzing, audio pauses and resumes)
Well, I was saying, this character, Tin-Tan, which came out in the movies. Of course, they exaggerated it somewhat, you know?
AR: But everybody got a big kick out of him because he was a comedian, but he used the uniform of the Pachuco, and boy, he was a sharp dancer. They were good dancers.
I: Did they go to dances?
AR: Oh, yeah! That’s another thing I was going to mention. They used to go to dances. I mean, they were proud of their dancing and all these things, so as we talk about it, I can recall the various activities. It was a whole lifestyle; a whole lifestyle that was carried out with these characteristics, you know?
I: What about educational levels? Did they—in the Second Ward, were they the school dropouts, or did they go through school, or-?
D: Most of them went to school. For example, this one fellow that I mentioned, Chito, his name is Frank Dominguez, he went all the way through high school, as I recall, and although he had to work after school and so on and so forth, and today, he’s very, very much involved with young kids and baseball. This was one of his favorite sports and it’s what he’s doing today. He’s a very talented person. Very smart. There were some others. Well, Mario, for example, the one I said got his own (inaudible) in Fifth Ward. He’s a mailman. He works for the post office. (inaudible, speaking at same time)
AR: (10:26) Most of the ones that I recall either just finished high school or never finished high school, from that year. Now, their younger brothers or certain other families did finish high school and go through college and so forth, but the actual Pachucos themselves, I would say most of them did not finish high school. As a matter of fact, again, unfortunately, as I said, many of them that were in the heart of it at that time, ended up in prison.
D: You have to remember, too, that times then were not as they are today, you see, and times were hard. Prior to this, people were very, very brazos(??) at the time. I remember that although I lived right there on Canal and St. Charles, Settegast Park was something like eight blocks away, but the only time we could go there was at night because if we went during the day, it was mostly Anglos living around that area and man, they would stone you to death!
AR: Uh-hunh. (affirmative)
D: And you know, that’s one of the things. The other thing is that in sports today, every kid has an opportunity. We had real good sports at the time, guys that went out for sports, but they did not have the opportunity that they do today, you see? So therefore, most of the ones that did drop out naturally gave a chance to their younger brothers who were coming up and said, “Hey, look, man, I didn’t finish, but you’re going to.”
AR: School was very important to them.
D: This is one of the things.
AR: Very important. They stressed education, but again, it’s a product of the times to help make a living for your family and other obligations which-.
I: How did they view the Anglo and black communities, would you say? Now, that’s a very subjective thing and we should ask them, but to the best of you all’s knowledge? Did they see that interaction with the Anglo community to be adversarial?
AR: Yes. It was competition. It was competitive all the way.
D: (12:36) Now, the Second Ward Gang had some blacks in the gang. I can remember a guy by the name of Willy Green, and he had a big (inaudible). It was five or six, okay? Not very many. But you didn’t have any Anglos.
I: No Anglos?
D: No. Later on in years, there was a fellow that came on into the gang. His name was John Moore, and he didn’t pass no time, something. He was already in bed and would have known and he got some time in the joint. So, of course, that took him out of circulation. But again, the times were very, very hard.
I: You’re positive about the black shirts and all being from Magnolia? They were from Second Ward or-?
D: (13:25) Well, I couldn’t swear to it-.
D: But as I recall, this was the way it went.
I: I see.
D: And Alacran was the maroon shirts. Maybe it’s reversed; I don’t know. I really can’t swear to that, again.
I: I see.
AR: In your opinion, would you say the Anglos were organized like the Mexican-Americans were in terms of having Pachuco gangs? Or what did they have in equivalence?
D: Well, the only thing that I could say to that is the fact that for example, up around the Settegast Park, there was a guy named William Verascos(??), Christopher Asco and three or four of his brothers, and they were the ones who wouldn’t let us come around the Settegast Park. The Verascos and some others, you know. But they were nothing like the rest of them.
AR: Yeah, I think what they had, and as I can recall, now, were—oh, they weren’t anything like Pachucos. They were hoodlums or this type of—different characteristics altogether.
D: See, the other thing that-
AR: They weren’t—for instance, they weren’t clean. They weren’t—those characteristics that we identified.
I: What about the police department? How did-?
D: (14:42) Okay, this is what I was going to say. You see, that’s the other thing that-.
I: Let me interrupt you. (pauses, resumes) Okay, go ahead.
D: Okay, the other thing that I was going to say is the fact that you see that they had the police department on their side. Anytime an Anglo calls—would call the cops, you know, they came right there and they saw a Mexican, hey, man, you were the bad dude. You know, you were the bad guy. There was—for example, I remember back at the time when we were able to go Settegast Park, there was this black guy, his name was Harold, and he was from Alacran. And by this time, we could get along with him pretty well, and we went over to Settegast Park and we were playing softball. So here comes the horse police and these two police officers get off and they said, “Hey, nigger, you can’t play here.” Well, this guy had been raised in Alacran, so he could speak Spanish just like I can. And he told him, “Hey, hombre! Yo soy Cubano. Yo no soy negro.” (Spanish). You know me, I’m a Cuban, I’m not a Negro.” So you know, of course, then, they left him alone. Hey, if he’s Cuban, he’s okay. But you know, this is one of the things that, again, if for example, if we were to go there during the day and some little old lady was sitting on the porch and she’d call out and say, “Hey, there’s a bunch of Mexicans playing out here at Settegast Park,” they’d send a patrol car and they’d chase us back home. You could not play at the park here today.
AR: The police department was definitely adverse or antagonistic to the Pachucos.
I: Do you think the Pachucos perceived this? Do you think they saw that?
AR: Oh, yes. Of course. They weren’t that dumb. They knew that the police department were their enemy. That was part of—they were reinforced later on that protectiveness, because you know, hey, you have here, “the man,” which is what they called it, with the power, and when he comes in there, he’s going to come in there to abuse, not to protect. You’re going to come in there and he’s going to—you know, wipe you out.
I: How do you think the Mexican-American community as a whole—and this is very subjective kind of thing—how did the people in the community view Pachucos in those times, in the early ‘40s? That’s very—I understand that’s very-?
AR: When you say “as a whole,” that’s what makes it difficult.
I: Yes. Can you identify a particular group that might have viewed them one way or another group that might have viewed them as in another?
AR: (17:16) Well, I would say the older members viewed them as a problem because, again, there was a question of gangs and of course, when you talk about older members, usually they don’t get involved with what’s going on in the community itself. They’re usually inside and I’m talking about say, over 50, or say, 45 and above, which these people—maybe they don’t have any kids or their kids are already grown up, and all they’re worried about is just peace and quiet, because-
I: For example-
AR: Let me finish. Because it was not peace and quiet, let me put it that way. It was not peace and quiet. There was a lot of noise. There was a lot of activity. I mean, we’ve been just identifying certain—but this was a constant, literally constant going around, that anything that happened in the neighborhood, they were aware of, okay? So you get the older Anglos—if you get somebody just walking up and down the street, that’s going to bother them, you know? And there’s—consequently, that’s one thing that I would say about it, because that characteristic—the younger, say middle-age or say, under 45, yet not in the teenage—in that area where the Pachucos would be, mostly—then this group, I think, recognized a little more of what their involvement, their concern was.
As a matter of fact, they called on them many times for their errands, their jobs, their needs, for assistance; this type of thing. I remember and David mentioned about religion and so forth—my mother was right there in the heart of it, right on Fifth Ward. We used to have a rosary every afternoon, and the kids would come in; the little kids, the Pachucos, all of them would come in in two or three of our rooms and kneel down and go through the whole rosary every day.
I: What was your father’s view of them? Did he ever express an opinion towards them?
AR: Not that I recall.
I: Because he was one of the founding members of the Mexican-American community and he could be considered to be an elder in the Fifth Ward among the Mexican-Americans here-
I: And I was wondering what his attitude was toward it.
AR: I really couldn’t say because I don’t remember discussing it.
I: He never went on tirades against them or for them, one way or the other?
AR: Not that I recall.
I: Okay. I see. What do you think? What in the Second Ward? How did the community-?
D: It was just about—saying, I think the difference is that for example, the older—not the Pachuco themselves but the bit older folks, a lot of them used to take it as something with the times, you know? El cosa del tiempo. (Spanish) This type of thing, you know? Hey, this is a trend and these kids are going to follow it, and there’s nothing that you can do about it, really. A bunch of them did turn to them for one thing or another; help, for example.
I: But they didn’t see them as a criminal element, did they?
D: (21:01) Some—of course, you had your individuals in there that they did.
I: What about the age group of the Pachuco? At this time in the early ‘40s, how old were these guys?
AR: Well, that’s what I meant with not even thinking about it, essentially, I would say usually they’d be teenagers, or at most in their early 20s.
D: As I recall, they were in their early 20s and even 17—between 17 and 22-23, something like that.
I: What about distinctive physical characteristics? Pardon me. Like tattoos; did they have tattoos?
D: They had tattoos, but they had the Indian ink type tattoos. They didn’t have the professional-type tattoo.
AR: Right. Exactly. Yeah. That’s right.
D: You know, you sit at the corner and some guy would take some Indian ink with a needle and poke you in the arm, you know, and put your initials up there or you would have perhaps your initials right here.
I: Why? Has anybody ever found out why they put the initials—the things here on the hands?
D: (22:04) Well, this used to be like, for example, the guys from Second Ward used to have “2ND”—Second, and that’s it.
I: Between their—and where their thumb and their index finger comes together?
I: I wonder—have you ever thought about that, judge? Why they had them? Why they put a tattoo there at that distinctive place?
AR: The only tattoos that I remember that were across the knuckles or something like this, you know, and that’s just a matter of identification as such. They could put “LUCK” or you know, a star of a girl’s name, or this type of thing. Again, and I don’t know of any reason for it except you just-.
D: I remember that they-
AR: The Mexicans or whoever else they saw.
D: The real brave guy used to put on there, “Born to Die,” go along with that.
I: Yeah, I saw that.
D: But he was really tough, then. Most of the fellows that I can recall have something up here on their biceps here. And then again, they’d wear long shirts and long-sleeved shirts and they wouldn’t exhibit all that.
AR: I wonder, and I was thinking when we started relating to the early part of the ‘40s and latter part of the ‘30s and early ‘50s, that came in later on with the knives and the guns, too, David, as I recall. That wasn’t the first-.
D: You mean the tattoos?
AR: Yeah, the tattoos.
D: No, the tattoos came like after the war.
AR: That’s what I’m talking about, when I was born.
I: Okay, now that’s very—the earlier Pachucos didn’t have the tattoos?
AR: No, Uh-uh (negative). Very clean. Clean.
I: I see. Okay. Clean. Okay. Yet they still had –they wore the zoot suits?
AR: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah.
I: And also they wore the khaki pants, too, that type?
AR: Uh-hunh. (affirmative)
I: I see.
D: As he said, starched.
I: You mean with the big legs at the bottom?
D: Oh, yeah. The big legs. The regular Dickies, but, you know, they were very, very high. They were starched.
AR: That’s what these are.
D: You know, almost stiff. And the other factor that I can remember is that at that time, they used to have a shoe and the brand name was Packard. And man, if you wore Packards, you were uptown, you know? And what you would try to do, you would try to keep your foot real stiff, where you wouldn’t put a crease on them. So consequently, you’d be walking like a duck. But that’s—that was a-
AR: But they were immaculate!
D: That’s right.
AR: The shoes, man, it was-.
I: Shine. No slovery.
AR: Oh yeah, right.
D: There used to be a place right there on Texas between Travis and right there, right next to Kelly’s. It used to be a newsstand and they used to have some shine boys there, and you’d go out and you’d buy you a nice pair of shoes, and the first thing you’d do, you would take them there to the shoeshine stand.
I: Weren’t they already shined, though?
D: (24:55) No, you would have them wash those.
AR: Well, they were shined, but this was to protect them.
D: This was the trend. Yeah. You would have them dyed in ox blood and highly, highly polished, and then you would put them back in the box and take them home, and then you would put them on Saturday night.
AR: Yeah, so they won’t crease as quickly.
D: See, like creases here—you wouldn’t have that, see.
I: Oh, sure.
D: So you’d walk around stiff-legged. But you know, hey, these guys were proud.
I: They took it deadly serious.
D: Oh, absolutely.
AR: Oh, yes. Very serious.
D: Now, if you wanted to pick a fight with one of them, step on his shoe.
I: Oh, yeah!
AR: Oh, yeah!
I: I can imagine! Why did they fade away? Why did the Pachucos fade away? I mean, I’m talking about the ones in the early ‘40s.
D: Well, I think that goes back to what I said a little while ago, was most of them grew up, they got married and started having their own families and just settled down. Just settled down; that’s all it was. There’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of them that are still alive, still working and they’re nice people. They’re good people.
I: Hector, did you have some questions you wanted to follow up with?
AR: Why would you say that they faded away?
H: Why? I really don’t—I haven’t researched it, in my own personal opinion.
AR: Well, you lived there.
H: (26:23) Oh, yeah. You see, my concept—it’s varied somewhat slightly from you all’s. I mean, I’m in agreement with what I’ve heard. However, I’d like to add that in my opinion, Pachuco has still persisted, even up to today. Now, that mode of clothing as you all were describing—the big-brimmed hats, the long coats that came down practically to the knees, the baggy pants, the chains—all that has gone out, in a sense, but a new mode of clothing came in, because of tailor friends. Like for instance, when I was growing up in Memorial in the mid-50s, it was fashionable to have tailor-made pants from Palmer Tailors downtown.
H: Right around Sammy’s—you know, where you were talking about the bootblack? The person that used to serve, and the guy’s name was Sammy. We used to go there, and the idea was to take—and in answer to your question, Thomas, as to why they wanted to take that manufacturer’s shine off their shoe, okay? So that it last longer, plus it would give it a—it was for a reflection of how much interest you took in your own attire, in your own people. The guys in our groups and the other groups would gauge you by how you dressed, how you styled. I remember when I learned how to shine my own shoes, it was not uncommon for me to spend four hours per shoe, spit-shining them. Or I used to do my own pressing of my own pants, you know, the khaki pants; my shirts, you mentioned the silk shirts. All that, I was a byproduct of all that. Yet, we didn’t carry the label “Pachuco” as such, at least not among ourselves, but we were a designated group anywhere. And the kids at (inaudible) Society would point us out as Pachucos, but not in the context that you, judge, were saying was in rim hats and particular zoot suit or outfit as such.
AR: Weren’t you talking about a transition period?
H: Well, it was a spillover.
AR: (28:48) Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. We’re using different terms when we’re talking about-.
I: Time periods.
H: Yeah, time periods. Yeah.
I: This—you all have strictly defined it within a chronological time period, which is all right because we want to find out about these.
AR: What I’m saying is what he’s talking about is a transition period, then, from what we were terming as “Pachuco” into terms of what is now whatever that’s called, which he said well, some are still called Pachucos. But I would say about that is yes, there’s some Pachucos still around, but it’s not in the same context what you’re thinking about because I see and I can name some that still have. Well, look at better shoes.
H: Right. Their stasis.
AR: Yeah. Right.
H: I spoke to Mark when I got here.
AR: And there’s people that still—I have some cousins who wouldn’t wear nothing but, and so forth. But this is why I’m saying a transition because naturally, you’re not going to get to just one time when boom, everything is changed from there. There are going to be some carryover, which you’re saying “carryover” and I say “transition,” to what is now whatever they’re called, which I wouldn’t call them Pachucos.
AR: There’s some specific Pachuco that are characteristics around, but there might be one or two Pachucos.
I: They got arrested quite a bit. I mean, did the police put upon them pretty readily, or-?
AR: (30:26) As often as they could.
D: When they could catch them.
AR: Yeah, right.
D: These guys were fast.
AR: No, but the police were definitely a problem to anything that they did. Again, of course, they were identified easily. As a matter of fact, part of the problem was that they were clean-cut, that they had nice shoes, that they had nice clothing. They got picked on for that. “Where can you get this kind of stuff?” and so forth. You know, so just the fact that that in itself, which are good characteristics, presented a problem for them. The police were a negative, negative element in that, as far as I know.
D: (31:10) There was one police officer in particular. His name is--he’s gone now—his name was, they used to call him “Tiny Roman.”
I: Yeah, sure.
H: He used to work at the Pan American Night Club.
D: Okay, and I remember when I was a kid, I must have been 14-15—he used to come by there in Second Ward, and whenever he came by, man, the street was clean. Everybody split. And as soon as he passed by, well, everybody’d come back out. But I remember him coming by with a paddy wagon and picking up perhaps 20-30 kids. There was nothing he could charge them with, okay? But what he would do—this guy had maybe a size 14 foot. He was a big man—13-14—and what he would do, he would ride in the back of the paddy wagon, and he would ride- [end audio tape 2].
I: [begin tape 3] Okay, he would come?
D: (00:03) Okay, what would happen, they would pick up maybe 20-25 kids. There was nothing they could file on them, nothing to charge them with, but what he would do, he would take, for example, and open the door here, at this corner, and man, he would boot you right in the behind. At the middle of the block, he’d land low and often just boot you right in the behind and go on for whatever many blocks it took, okay? And then, the paddy wagon would turn back and you’d better not be caught, because then he would find something to charge you with.
I: Good community police relationship.
D: Very good, yeah.
I: Very good. What, he just didn’t like Mexicans? Or what was-?
D: Ah, not necessarily Mexicans. He just-.
I: That’s a brutal thing to do to somebody.
D: (00:50) Well, no, he just didn’t want to catch you on the streets whatever times he came through.
AR: Well, to be fair, with the police department, I think they thought they were doing some good, okay? And that’s the thing, it’s a common trend of I think even now anybody goes to the police department, they eventually begin to get the—as we call it, “police syndrome,” and this is nothing new—that they’ve begun to think that it’s the whole world against them. So they go out there and they do something—they do it will all good intentions, you know? It may be the worst abuse in the world, but again, they believe that they’re teaching somebody a lesson, and at the time, of course, maybe at least, I don’t know; in the areas that I’m familiar with, the justice maybe ideals or development wasn’t as far along as it is now. Certainly, they didn’t have any Civil Rights Movements—anything like this. The policeman was the law. He was it. Whatever he said, your head was on the block, either way. He was the final determinate.
I: Was this guy, Tiny, was he the one that patrolled Second Ward, or was it wider, more police than that?
D: Oh, it was way more than that.
AR: It was—he was only one of the ones. I guess he was especially noticeable because he was extra big. Everyone in the room knows Tiny.
D: He was about 6 foot 8.
AR: As a matter of fact, he had a lot of friends. He had a lot of friends in the Pachucos themselves. Because that’s where I relate back. I’m sure he thought he was teaching them a lesson, he was doing them some good and keeping them out of trouble in his own way, and the other people—of course, they saw us—as I said, he was the last word. He was the law. So what he did, they had no choice but to tolerate, okay?
Now, I’m not saying that a few of them didn’t go past that and then maybe go to his superior. Maybe not in the early years, but eventually things got to the point and Tiny was removed from there. I’m sure that’s probably why so many people know him—they moved him around as people got wise and complained. But I think that’s an important element there, that to the policemen on the beat, here was the answer. In other words, there was no court system, that policeman is it. His word is law.
I: You all mentioned the Pachucos and the blacks. What were their views of blacks, would you say? Was it-?
D: As far as my own personal experience with blacks, I—we never had any problems with them.
AR: (03:56) That’s what I was going to say. It’s just another identifiable group that you had competition with and they were treated like everyone else. It was equality—real equality then. Everybody was the same.
I: But in the ‘40s, Settegast Park during the day was off-limits to the Mexican-American community?
D: As I recall, yes.
AR: Swimming pools and a bunch of other stuff.
D: We didn’t have swimming pools. We used to go swimming in Buffalo Bayou. That was our swimming pool.
AR: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
D: There’s the railroad that crosses over Buffalo Bayou by Clayton Homes. I remember real clear we used to—buck naked—run up the bank and we’d wait for the train to come by and then, you know, here’d be ten kids running ahead of the train and they’d jump in off the bridge into the water. And you didn’t have no choice; you had to jump off or get runned over. And then-
AR: One of the games, yeah.
D: That was one of the games that we played and this went on until a fellow by the name of Frank Silra(??), somebody had dumped an old bedspring into the bayou and of course, when he jumped in, his foot got hung in there. Everybody came up but him, so that cut that hole out.
I: Drowned? Did he drown?
D: Yeah, he drowned. I think so. But that was some of the games we used to play. Now, the other thing—getting back to the police—it’s funny but Alacran being as small as it was, I remember there’s sort of a drop; sort of like a hill-type thing, and if anybody—and the police were chasing somebody and he made it down that hill, he was safe because the police would not go down there.
AR: Would not go down.
D: (05:44) One officer or two officers were not go down into that hole by themselves.
AR: By the Community Center?
D: Right. They wouldn’t go back in that area. Now, you know, they had 20 or 30 of them, they would go.
D: But otherwise, hey, man, if you made it down there, you got it made.
I: How many streets were in Alacran? I mean, generally, how big was the area?
D: Okay, there was the area—Alacran was—the boundaries were Gable Street, Buffalo Bayou, Canal; maybe not even Canal, perhaps Ramos, and then all the way up here to Flynn. It’s a very small area. Very, very small.
I: I see.
D: But I remember here in the ‘40s, the late ‘30s—very late ‘30s and perhaps ’38-’39, people used to live in cardboard houses, a real shanty town. You know, the first big rain that came along, well, of course, they would get washed away and you’d get some more cardboard.
I: Do you have any idea how the name—how they picked up the name?
D: There used to be a lot of scorpions in there.
AR: There ain’t no scorpions.
D: Came from the banks of the Buffalo Bayou.
I: When did it first, to your knowledge, become peopled by Mexican-Americans?
D: As long as I can remember.
I: It was always?
D: As long as I can remember. Used to be very famous for making bootleg beer.
I: Uh-hunh. (affirmative) Well, I have no further questions. What about you, Hector?
H: No. I think we pretty much covered the questions on my list.
I: Yeah, we really appreciate the help and we’d like to thank you for your participation.
AR: (07:34) There’s one comment I was thinking about as we were talking because I remember later on, the different gangs and relating to gangs that we’re talking about, it was the first question that you asked. There was a—oh, I forget what the name of it is—a street over here where a gang was very famous for different fights, stealings, robberies and things that they were doing. The Pachuco gangs at that time were not created to rob and steal and commit crimes.
D: You’re talking about the Brady Street Gang.
AR: Brady is one of them, but this was before that. Oh, I can’t think of the name of this gang, out towards Tidwell.
I: Laura Koppe?
AR: The Laura Koppe Gang. Right, Laura Koppe Gang. See, this is entirely different.
I: Were they Anglos or blacks, or-?
AR: Laura Koppe is Anglo. This is after the time. This is (inaudible). Laura Koppes are Johnny-Come-Latelies, as far as that goes.
I: But they were thieves and thugs. I mean, they were mean.
AR: Exactly. That’s why I mentioned these. Well, these guys were mean! Pachucos—they could be very, very vicious. They had to be. That’s the difference that I’m talking about. That’s the distinction that I want to emphasize in here: that they weren’t gangs that were created to exploit. They were gangs that were created by the times, the needs, protective. More like societies that were mean—no doubt about it—there were some pretty vicious fights and they had to be pretty vicious people, i.e. a lot of them ended up in prison, but they were that way by necessity rather than by desire to do harm. As a general rule, I want to make sure about that interpretation.
I: Sure, that’s worth emphasizing.
D: (09:45) If you take a guy like, for example, Martin Lopez, he was a decorated war hero. But boy, you did something to this dude, man, he’d put the hurt on you.
I: Oh. Yes.
D: He was a nice guy, but don’t do anything wrong to him because he’d cut you up in a minute. Whack the blade of his knife on you and walk away.
AR: So what I mean to emphasize is while these people were just pussycats, and were trying to avoid fights and no, they’d face up to it. They wouldn’t avoid a fight, you know, but they usually wouldn’t start one, either. Okay? I think those are very important characteristics that are lost in when you talk about gangs; you see like even in the movies you see now, well, that’s what I remember, again, having lived through that or lived close to it or in it without really being a-
I: A participant yourself?
AR: Yeah. Right.
I: One thing else I wanted to—were they bilingual or did they speak mainly Spanish or did they know English and Spanish? Were they bilingual individuals?
D: As far as I remember, they were—everybody, yes.
H: Did they speak a specific dialect in Spanish? Did they have their own language?
D: They had—there was a slang.
AR: I was going to say—they were not only bilingual, they were more than bilingual. They spoke—the name “dialects” as in being more than one language as such because-. Yeah, not only that, but they had—if I recall right—their own separate language or code. As a matter of fact, terminology that was—well, their own names, where you’d say El Gato might mean one specific one and everything, unless they’re sorgo(??) and so forth. They could speak, for instance, in a terminology that you could known Spanish, English, French, and everything else and not understand them, yet they’re speaking-.
I: They had kind of a Pachuco language then?
D: (12:16) They had a slang, a whole-.
AR: Right, “guido.” You know what a guido is?
I: No, I don’t. What is it?
AR: Isn’t that a quarter or something like that?
I: That’s a quarter?
D: La quida. (Spanish)
H: You’ll find a lot of so-called Pachuco words or bastardized English or American words.
AR: Well, no doubt. Everything is, you know?
H: Well, in seeing some of the research that I’ve done on the Pachucos, (buzzing) I noticed some of the words they words were Indians, Aztec Indian words.
AR: I was going to say—but some of that didn’t come from either English or Spanish.
AR: What are words, like quida?
AR: What was that?
D: It’s a quarter.
H: It’s a bastardized American word, okay?
AR: Yeah, right. Okay.
H: The same thing as garaje. That’s another example. Garage. (audio cuts, resumes)
I: (13:13) And I want to terminate that because I know that time’s running late. I want to terminate the interview, and it was extremely informative.