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The Other Side of the Tracks

in The Word is Text by

by Gonzo K.O.

It was the middle of the night when I heard a loud noise that woke me up.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

It brought back the memories.

I got out of bed and immediately went to make sure my dog was okay.

I knew already what the noise was without having to second guess, it was gunshots.

Growing up in an area that is not safe was a common thing to hear this noise. Around fourth of July our neighborhood child game was “firework or gunshot”.

As I went near a window, I could hear the neighborhood wake up to see what was going on (I love being Latina because everyone is in everyone’s business and loves to snoop and be a chismoso). I, of course, joined in and went outside.

The scene I was about to walk in was not a good one.

It was dark, and it was unclear at first what had happened, but there was something on the ground, not moving.

There the person was shot, lifeless and facing up at the sky almost as if pleading with a higher power. There was a man shot, he did not look older than 25, and he was dead. As per usual, the cops did not come until an hour after and the neighborhood had to see this. A young man shot to death by gun violence. It was not surprising to me how there was another body in the streets while his body ran down the street.

Now that isn’t something that should be normal, we shouldn’t be so numb to dead bodies and violence that it doesn’t phase us but that is the case not living in a nice neighborhood.

Since I was a child, I was told do not walk down a certain street, do not go to the park at night. As a child hearing this, I thought this was the norm, I thought this is how all children grew up. It was not until I went to a school outside of my neighborhood that I realized this was not  the case, I had other school friends parents not wanting to come over or even let them sleep over and realized it was because of the place I was living in.

I was the child from the poor, gun violence, gang violent streets.

So as I stood there watching from my yard with my family as the police finally arrived, I can see it in the neighbors faces, we are all use to this, we all can see gun violence and gang violence and not be afraid of it. As I was thinking I could overhead another neighbors conversation, “if that was my son I would have beat his ass for being associated with gangs.” I could see a tattoo on the body that was from a well known gang as I heard the women’s conversation.

Are we immune to this? Is this our normal?

I went to school the next day and told my classmates I was super tired since I had a long night because someone got shot. They looked at me with surprised eyes as I said this without any sadness or fear in my voice.

They asked me for details and when I told them it was from gang violence and the man died, I could see them physically back away from me and try to go somewhere else. We’re they too sensitive? Did I say something wrong? I did not understand.

I talked with my mom later that day and she told me there is stuff that people do not live through so they don’t understand how to handle those situations. I could see my mom had a point, there was no way I could bring this up at my school on the other side of the train tracks in the nice area without being looked at as a freak or a thug.

Is this why I do not see a need for gun control? I know if those gangs wanted guns they would get them. Why is it an issue now? Why was it not an issue when I was a child having to duck when I heard gunshots? Or the first time I saw a dead body from gang violence? Why is this an issue now? Guns have always been here, but when it crosses over the train tracks ,it becomes a big issue. So are they really doing this for the people? Or are they doing this because the gun violence is now in their backyards?

The El Popo Newspaper was first published in 1970 by students concerned about the lack of a Chicana and Chicano perspective in newspapers. As a result, students called the newspaper, El Popo. The paper was named El Popo after the volcano El Popocatepetl. Involved in Chicana/o Movement of the 60’s and 70’s, students saw a connection between the smoke spewing volcano ready to erupt and the student movement ready to engage. Thus, throughout the El Popo’s forty-six years, the name continues to symbolize and to represent the spirit of each generation of students that contribute to the pages of the El Popo Newspaper. Faculty Advisor/Publisher Carlos R. Guerrero, Ph.D.