Destiny's Children: A Legacy of War and Gangs

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Carlos’s Story, Part 2

CARLOS: I was a gang leader, not one of the veterans, but a homeboy with authority on the street. Everyone idolizes you. Everyone thinks, “I want respect.”

CARLOS: But what is respect really? What is the truth in life?

Although Carlos remains “firme” with the homeboys from the 18th Street gang, he also starts to think more about his family and his future.

CARLOS: The streets were one part of my life. My daily routine was to leave early every day. I got up at 6 a.m., ate half my breakfast, dressed and left to work in our cornfields.

CARLOS: After finishing working in the cornfields around midday, I’d go home, shower and go to meet my gang.

CARLOS: Thinking back to when you were small maybe you never had the love you wanted someone to give you. Then kiss a little one and it gives you a feeling of harmony to embrace them.

CARLOS: At least for me this harmony comes out. It’s a pleasure to hold and hug them and see them laugh.

CARLOS: I find happiness living in my natural world. This was my life. The cornfield feeds me — breakfast, lunch and dinner. For that I must work; if I don’t, I don’t eat.

Carlos has some mixed feelings. The work is physically hard on his mom.

CARLOS: Other people also see this work differently.

CARLOS: In Guatemala people are so racist. They look at you as if to say: “Ah, there’s an animal. You’re a peasant. You were born a peasant and will die one.”

CARLOS: My mom always dressed my littlest sister Annie in traditional native clothes. So she became the princess of the house.

CARLOS: In your fields you are king. No one can tell you what to do.

CARLOS: She always gave me good advice. I tried to make my mom feel good and make her proud of me, but this was hard because people always painted me as the “bad” one.

CARLOS: My mother was a midwife; she was a healer. She was a person who wouldn’t let sickness, fevers, or any illness stop her. She would go out to where people needed her.

CARLOS: And it didn’t matter where. There were times she had to walk hours to get to the places. She felt happy in her work. I believe she was born gifted with power to keep many people alive.

CARLOS: You always face rejection — because you aren’t well dressed, because you have the face of a delinquent, because you look native Mayan. You struggle inside not to feel rejected.

CARLOS: What’s more important: your image or what you know?