Our gang of performing artists just had a successful premiere a few days earlier so last Saturday, we celebrated that with some food, drinks, music and lots of laughter. The night ended and we left our host’s house in Scout Barrio and were driving home at a little over past midnight towards Nevada Square when upon reaching that last curve before getting to Nevada Square I was quite surprised by the empty road that led to the rotunda at the end of Loakan Road – it was a Saturday night, and usually the very young clientele of the bars located at the square would be spilling over to the road. The sight of some groups actually having their alcohol fix right on the roadside was not uncommon.
“Tahimik a,” I uttered to my passengers in the car which included my wife, my son and a couple of friends. It was the calm before a storm for as soon as I said that, the silence was broken by the sound of glass breaking.
My son is at that age when he’s very impressionable – and what parent wouldn’t be worried when your child chooses gangsters as role models. One can’t help but start to worry seriously when you see doodles in your child’s notebook that look exactly like the images you see spray painted on vandalized gates (including ours) and concrete fences all over the city. You worry even more when you find out what particular gang those images belong to and what that particular gang’s raison d’etre is. We’ve had a lot of talks with our children telling them of the violence that’s usually associated with these groups. My son would try to make it appear that he understood what we were trying to tell him during these talks, but I could also feel that he didn’t fully believe the stories of young boys and girls ending up in hospitals, or worse, dead, as a result of mostly senseless rumbles between gangs, of one gangster getting killed by another simply because he or she belonged to a different gang. I could sense that he probably thought that to discourage him from getting into these gangs, we were making up these stories.
A lot has been said about the very serious problem of gang wars in the city, but we could see that whatever is supposedly being done by the authorities is not enough.
From a distance I could see several young boys spilling out onto the road throwing whatever they could get their hands on towards the direction of one of the establishments in the area. I immediately stepped on the breaks. All of us froze for a moment. More rocks, bottles, and boys with lead pipes, behind me the line of cars were getting longer, not one car dared to go through the war zone. And then gunshots were fired: it wasn’t clear where the gunshots were coming from, and since there were no policemen in sight, I hoped they were warning shots being fired by the security guards in the area to break up the rumble. And then the thought of stray bullets entered my mind, so I started turning the car around to get away from there as fast as I could. As we drove the other way in total silence, I looked at the rear view mirror and saw my son’s shocked face, his eyes filled with terror. I asked him if he was ok, he lied and said yes. I asked him what he thought of what we just witnessed, and he admitted that until then he never thought that the stories we told him were true and that those rumbles really do happen.
It was a cold night, a slight drizzle was starting when we got home. We made some hot chocolate to calm ourselves and brought out mattresses and camped out in the living room for the night. After finishing his cup and getting under the covers, my son hugged me and said, “this is so nice and warm. It’s nice to be home on a rainy night like this.”