My next interview for future San Clemente legends took me to the heart of San Clemente’s Varrio Chico gang.  My two interviewees have been running the streets and running drugs in San Clemente for decades.  They are shot callers who if needed can make your life very difficult.  These two may not be respected in corporate boardrooms or intellectual circles but on the streets of SC they are a force to be reckoned with.  Due in part to the recent gang injection, which puts restriction on those the police consider gang members, I have changed their names to Mr. X and Mr. Z.

Upon entering Mr. X’s room, it became readily apparent that these two still turned to unconventional means to make a living.   The air oozed of marijuana and these future legends, who are cousins, were hard at work processing trimmings from their recent harvest into weed oil.  While Mr. X and Mr. Z argued over the intricacies of the extraction process I found a nice leather chair in front of the 70-inch T.V. to get ready.  For those who think gangsters are stupid you should spend a day at Mr. X’s house. Math and science are not only constantly talked about but are used continually.   “Hey McCormack you want a bong hit?” Mr. Z, a thick bald head Mexican asked.  No that’s all right but thanks.  I could tell they were busy, so I decided to get this thing going.

San Clemente's police chief talking about the virtues of the gang injunction.

Who is the best cook in your families?  They both looked at me in dead silence. Come on now who is the best cook?  Mr. X, who was sitting at a T.V. tray working on his weed experiment spoke up, “No one in the family is a cook.”  “Ya, were all a bunch of alcoholics.” Added Mr. Z.  The statement made me chuckle but then I reminded Mr. Z that we once ran all over town looking for carnitas a family member had made.  “Oh, I remember that. We never found the carnitas but got drunk instead.”   Ok, even though we never found the carnitas who was the one cooking that day?  “That’s my uncle. He does make good carnitias on holidays or family events when every one is drinking.” He then reminded me again that, “ The whole family is a bunch of drunks.  Mr. X used to turkey baste speed.”  Well, I will make sure to include that. What was the first food you ate outside your culture?  Surprisingly, Mr. X said he didn’t remember.  I looked to Mr. Z, who was bringing a bucket of water over to the T.V. tray “Hamburgers and fish were the first things I remember.” What kind of fish do you like?  Now looking back on it I should have seen his next statement coming and due to the derogatory nature of his response I’m compelled to omit it.

I then asked what type of food do you like? Mr. X, a big guy with an oversize wife beater on turned to me,  “look at me,? I love everything…but veggies.”   Well what is your favorite thing, “ I don’t’ know…I like fried chicken tacos from Pedro’s (it is a inexpensive fast food Mexican restaurant in San Clemente that locals eat when they are short on funds) and their bean, cheese and rise burrito but I don’t like their carne asada.”  Before he could finish Mr. Z jumped in, “Ya Pedro’s. Their bean, cheese and potato burritos.”  Are you guys serious?  “Fuck ya” they both replied at about the same time.

Alright, what is your favorite restaurant? Mr. Z, who was chuckling, “ El Marichi, until my home boy robbed the place. He robbed them blind, took them for a lot of money.” I will take that out? “No, fuck it, he already did his time.” Ok, I turned to Mr. X for an answer but he was concentrated on his project.  Why do you two think that Mexican food is so popular?  “You tell me, you’re the white one.” Mr. Z stated. Mr. X was laughing in agreement, “ I don’t know.”  I decided to re-frame the question.  Why do you think some white people love Mexican food but hate Mexicans?  “Because were the ones making it.”  I tried to get Mr. Z to respond but by this time they were ready to start injecting gas into their experiment.  And I had to meet up with my Italian family from Canada.  I told them thanks.  “No worries McCormack sorry I didn’t’ give you that much.” Replied Mr. X.  No problem I got what I needed.


About ocbarrios

Professor for Cal State Fullerton's Barrio Studies class for Fall 2011 semester

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