No Vale Nada La Vida, La Vida no Vale Nada
(There is no value in life, life is worth nothing).
Comienza Siempre Llorando, Y Así Llorando Se Acaba
(It begins always in crying, and like that in crying it ends).
Por Eso Es Que En Este Mundo, La Vida no Vale Nada
(That is why in this world, life is worth nothing).
— Camino De Guanajuato (The Road to Guanajuato)
Que bonitos son los hombres que se matan pecho a pecho
(How beautiful are the men who kill each other chest to chest).
Con su pistola en la mano defendiendo su derecho
(Each with their pistol in hand defending his own rights).
— El Corrido del Teniente y de Gonzales (The Ballad of the Lieutenant and Gonzalez)
I'm very proud of my grandfathers who fought for the revolution in Mexico under Pancho Villa, "el Jefe del Norte." When I was a young teenager, I would accompany my beloved grandmother to the movie theater that featured Spanish-language movies. We watched popular Mexican movie stars such as Pedro Infante, Luis Aguilar and Cantinflas in movies about the Mexican Charros, the Ranchito, and the Mexican Revolution.
The movies often included Mexican folk ballads (corridos) about the difficult and often violent life of the people of Mexico after the Revolution. These were highly emotional songs filled with pride and the honor of real hombres both peon and Caballero. The songs of the Mariachis and a few drinks take me back to this period and the great honor I felt for my people—people of great moral character.
There was even honor among former thieves, as General Villa himself was once a bandit. During this time, men faced each other on the battlefield or in tiny cantinas armed with pistols or machetes and knowing the next contest might be their last. Any man who harmed women or children was a coward worthy of hanging.
In 1967, while riding with a Quan Canh Vietnamese military policeman through the narrow streets of Nha Trang, Vietnam, the Q.C. questioned my ethnic background, saying I looked more like a Vietnamese than an American. On the dirt street, I drew a crude map of the U.S., and then drew Mexico's outline beneath it. He shook his head to show he still did not understand.
A few minutes later, he suddenly tapped me hard and smiled. He motioned with his hand a large "X" across his chest saying, "You same same." He then used his hands to mimic the brim of a huge hat. He then said, "You same same…Cu cur Ru cu cu…paloma!" as he belted out the words from a famous Mexican folk song ("Cucurrucucu Paloma").
He then directed me to the little movie theater in town where my old Mexican movie heroes were still receiving top billing. It was strange to see them with Vietnamese subtitles, but the Vietnamese people loved Mexican movies and Mexican corridos too. They admired these Mexican charro knights on horseback.
This proud noble warrior culture was fostered also from our Native American heritage. Almost everyone from the American Southwest has some Native American blood in his genealogy. The Mexican people are largely mestizo (a mix of Spanish and Indian). Native American and Indigenous Mexican tribes held great esteem for warriors who fought not just with skill, but also with honor and courage. A warrior was judged by the greatness of the warriors he met in combat. Some warriors struck their enemy with a "coup stick" in battle and counted coup rather than killing rival warriors.
Like the Sicilian Mafia and other ethnic gangs before them, Hispanic gangs developed and transferred this warrior mentality into their criminal gang culture. They developed unwritten codes of conduct and rules of engagement. The greatest glory was given to gang members who fought equal or bigger rivals in a "fair" fight.
"Rat packing" an opponent showed no bravery or honor at all. "Mano-a-mano" (Spanish for "hand to hand") was the accepted true test of a warrior. But in the 1940's Zoot Suit era combat devolved into bottles, bumper jacks, tire irons, and switchblade knives. Popular Cholo culture credits the White Fence gang with the escalation to the first drive-by shooting in the 1950s.
However, the church was still neutral and sacred, no gang member would attack another while he was with his mother or other family members, and non-gang members from the gang barrios were usually fairly safe. This code of conduct was most strongly enforced in juvenile halls, jails, and prisons. Child molesters, rapists, and abusers of the elderly were in mortal danger from the gang inmates as sure of swift retribution given any trader or snitch.
The Mexican Mafia prison gang was influenced by several warrior codes of conduct. "Jap" Mike Kudo, a Japanese-American who was a member of a Hispanic gang and an early member of the Mexican Mafia, introduced the gang to the Samurai Bushido code and the book of the Five Rings.
Sun-Tzu's "The Art of War" was required reading. Almost all Hispanic prisoners study the history of the ancient warrior tribes of Mexico and often even learn their Nahuatl language.
In 1992, the Mexican Mafia altered the traditional Hispanic gang code of conduct and put out the edict to all Sureño gang members that there could be no more "drive-by shootings" to prevent the killing of innocent victims.
As I have written about before, a gang member's children, parents, and other family members were not to be retaliated against for the violations of the code committed by the gang member. Even the brutal Aryan Brotherhood held to this standard and was split when some members ordered the murder of member Steve Barn's elderly father. Even the "Dogs of War" protected the innocent.
There are "gangs" today that pride themselves in wanton savagery with a "no quarter asked, no quarter given" philosophy. They attempt to justify pitiless barbarian acts and torture in the name of twisted fanatical cult religions or occult worship. They slaughter and rape innocent men, women, and children and dismember their bodies to prove their virility. They're uncivilized monsters, soulless fiends and cowards.
I'm talking about the fanatical Muslim terrorists and the demented Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) or cartels. Today, these two groups are attempting to form an unholy trinity by recruiting and uniting with American street gangs. In Anthony Kimery's "Unholy Trinity" in the August 2009 issue of Homeland Security Today, the author documents some of the incidents in Latin America showing this connection between Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and the DTOs.
Kimery writes, "The evolving alliance between jihadists, narco-cartels, and street gangs personify the three greatest cross-border threats faced by the United States: terrorism, narcotics, and crime. Just because their alliance may not entirely make sense from an American perspective, does not mean that it is beyond the realm of possibility—or probability. All indications are that the threads are coming together."
In a conversation I recently had with former Mexican Mafia member Ramon "Mundo" Mendoza about this unholy trinity, he remarked, "Any gang alliances with Muslim fanatics and Mexican cartel thugs should be abhorrent to any self-respecting gang member. What barrio warrior joins with Satan worshipers (like worshipers of Santa Muerte) and baby killers, and thinks that makes him a man?" Mundo added, "In my day these are the kind of cowards that the Mexican Mafia would have killed in prison."
The lure of filthy lucre is too great. Gang members betray the ancient warrior's code of conduct for new tires and fancy rims, or a dime bag of dope. Honor is replaced by "bling."
And instead of earning his street "creds," a Cholo will tattoo fake ones on his face. His loyalty to his own barrio is replaced by loyalty to far-off Sinaloa, Mexico. Instead of imitating the great Aztec warrior chief Montezuma, he now will imitate the cowardly terrorist Osama bin Laden.
My Latino brothers, these Muslim fanatic hordes are the same ones your Spanish ancestor "El Cid" drove back into Africa. And do you really think that these Mexican drug thugs are what you could call noble warriors and macho men? Or are they just pitiless punks with guns?