As part of the 'Where I live' series, the Al Jazeera Magazine asked people from around the world how their lives have been influenced by where they live. Meet El Guero Loco, a member of the Los Cacos 13 gang in Nezahualcoyotl.
El Guero Loco or Crazy Blondie is a 31-year-old member of the Los Cacos 13 - one of the oldest and largest gangs in Mexico's notorious Nezahualcoyotl, a slum so large it is, in fact, a city.
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El Guero Loco grew up in the La Perla neighbourhood of Nezahualcoyotl and left school when he was just 12 years old. "What I really liked was to hang in the streets and have fun," he says.
He first encountered gang culture in Mexicali, a city on the US-Mexico border where he lived for six years, but it was upon returning to Nezahualcoyotl that he undertook his gang initiation, which involved being beaten by other gang members. Upon passing that and becoming a member of Los Cacos 13, he was required to follow his gang's call to duty - whether it meant fighting rival gangs, committing a crime or merely attending a party.
"We fight other gangs to defend our territory or even because we don’t like them. We hang out toghether, drink some beer and smoke weed," he says. "For a long time, many of us worked by robbing people, houses or even little businesses just to take their money or expensive stuff."
Then, in 2011, he ended up serving time in the Neza-Bordo prison, one of México’s most dangerous jails.
"I [served] some time for stealing a car and extortion," he explains. "One of my mates and I stole a car, the police found us riding it a few days later and the couple we stole from recognised us."
He was sentenced to 19 years, but only served one because he participated in a recently introduced oral justice system. "I took my guilt from the very beginning and at the end, the people whose car I stole forgave me but asked me [to pay] 50,000 pesos [around $4,000 dollars] for the psychological damage I caused," he explains.
Since leaving prison, he says he still attends parties with his old friends and gets into fights with rival gang members but no longer steals for a living. Now he makes his money from occasional jobs working in construction, as a carpenter or by painting houses. But despite living a quieter life, he believes there is still a battle he must fight daily. "I don't like discrimination against us," he says. "People and police always stare at us and I can see they think we hide a gun under our oversized clothes, a gun we are going to use to assault them. Sometimes, when I need to take the bus, the bus driver doesn't let me because he is afraid that I might do something bad."
Source: Al Jazeera