2018 Rich Mahan Best Student Portfolio
Story Description: The palomilla, a Spanish word meaning flock of doves, were groups of young Mexican men who banded together for solidarity and fraternity. These were the precursors to the the Latino gangs of the American Southwest, that kill for pride and territory in cities like Los Angeles and Oakland and Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is a city that has seen the loss of over 5,000 steel manufacturing jobs since the 1960s, and the gangs have become a reality faced by much of Pueblos youth. Police have identified more than 1,000 gang members within Pueblo, roughly nearly two percent of its population. The murder rate has soared, pushing it to the highest per capita in the state. Police Chief Luis Velez attributes this to gang rivalries over the gun trade and the exploding drug market. But what is often lost in most narratives on gang violence is a community of voices demanding change. Frontline churches welcome gang members, addicts, and dealers while former gang bangers have begun to mentor the youth and steer them away from repeating their pasts. Mothers and fathers who raise babies in gang territory speak of a sacrificial love that they must model for their children who are recruited by the gangs as early as 10 and 11. These images are of and for them.
Caption: Mourning doves on a wire in Pueblo's East Side, the sight of most gang violence and the territory of the Los Carnales Dukes. The palomilla, Spanish for "flock of doves," were groups of young Mexican men who banded together for solidarity and protection. They were the precursors to the Latino gangs of the American Southwest.