“Payback: The Cost Of Being a Gangster,” by Erik Soto with Williams Wallis, was about a boy who was a gangster who was raised in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. This book talks about his life from when he was younger to the present where his life is now as he is disabled. Erik is the child of immigrants; both his mother and father came from El Salvador as they fled from the terror in their homeland. His parents immigrated to the United States so that he can have a better life for their child than they had when they were younger.Order now
Like his parents, Erik is a proud Latino. Although Erik had so many great opportunities to be someone important in life, the way his parents had hoped, he had actually made it harder for them. Erik wrote this book to honor his parents, but most importantly he wrote it to help young people realize that it better to stay out of the violence and troubles that the gang life would bring them. Instead he wants the kids to stay in school, study hard, and stay away from crimes. Sooner in Erik’s life his father passes away.
He was He knew as a young kid it was easier for him to get involved in the gang life as that life brought easy money and personal power. According to Erik, “Boyle Heights was the prison of my youth and the battlefield of my adolescence. ” Now he refers to Boyle Heights as a “gang wasteland”. The neighborhood Erik lived at the time was just a gang- infested neighborhood, as the average citizen is a prisoner at night. There were no Boy Scout troops, sports teams, camping grounds, or parents that spend time with their children, just pure gangsters that looked for trouble.
Boyle Heights was a place for immigrants, a place where poverty was at every corner. Erik’s parents didn’t spend as much quality time with him, as they never attended a football game or go to any of his school events such as other kids parent would go. Erik’s father was a workaholic who always had two jobs and the only time Erik would be able to spend time with his father was when they were doing chores such as cutting the grass or stomping on recycled cans in the driveway beside their house. His parents felt that education was more important than religion.
According to Erik “ The gang life lingers, omnipresent, outside the schoolroom- seeming to offer gratifying excitement, a sense of power and control, and easy money- it’s hard for kids who have little or nothing to resist. ” Erik was always surrounded by death, either hearing about it at school or seeing it in the streets. He even describes the one time him and his father went to take his mother to the airport, and as they were pulling away from their house and on Dacotah a guy comes out of the projects running fast, beside him came another guy shooting at him with a nine millimeter handgun.
As his father tried to get them to safety he put the car in reverse and backed up the hill as fast as he could. He says that school is a blur, but he enjoyed learning, but real life was outside of school and in the streets. He remembers being able to play sports and hang out with friends during the day but as night came the streets were for the gangs. There were always pops and gunshots at night, he can still hear them in his head as he claims they echo. Erik said he remembers living in parallel universes, during the daytime world going to school and hanging out with friends.
Then during the nighttime the gangs would come and do their violent crimes. As Erik got older he became attracted to the night. During the day he would respect his teachers at school, but at night the influence of gangs was strong and overcame him. He was curious about the gang life, he had heard about gangs from as long as he can remember and always saw gangsters constantly on the street. In gangs when a homeboy is killed, he has to be avenged, no exceptions. Respect is everything and territory is sacred.
When Erik’s father noticed he was moving towards the gang lifestyle he would punish him severely. Which made Erik rebel even more against his father’s authority. Erik became a gangster at the age of thirteen, he joined the White Fence Gang (WF) as a matter of survival, but once he was in the game it became a matter of power it was about being strong or “macho. ” Before Erik could be with the WF he had to go through initiations, the first one was where he had to get jumped in and the other initiation was going to a spot where VN (an enemy gang) hangs out to play basketball and to shoot at them.
That was his first violent crime, he even remembers the boy that got hurt his name was Mouse, he had known him since he went to school with him. Mouse became a quadriplegic, just like Erik Mouse joined because it was either joining or getting beat down by the VNEs every day. As Erik grew so did the gang life, the death rates, dangerous encounters, and also partying. To him it was a new way to life; he would always get a thrill out of it. He felt it overpowering him making him believe he was invincible.
By the time Erik’s parents found out he was in the White Fence it was already too late for them to do anything about it. Erik was soon kicked out of the house when his father found out about the guns Erik had hidden around the house. Erik then moved from house to house until his mother came looking for him telling him to come back and live with them, Erik moved back home but this time he respected his parents wishes which meant no guns (yet Erik had one small handgun under his pillow or mattress for protection) or any homeboys could not come over.
Later on Erik falls in love with Michelle (which is now his wife), they later have a son named Justin, which they all live in the small house in Boyle Heights including his parents. Later Erik’s parents moved out into a house in the San Fernando Valley, so Erik and his wife and kid still lived in Boyle Heights. Erik met Vago, which later became his most important partner in crime. They started cooking methamphetamine in ten thousand- dollar batches; Vago even rented a house on a dirt road in the remote area of Corona. There was also the time when Michelle and Erik went to jail for the first time.
One of Erik’s his worst memory was at the time when he’s married and father of two kids. When an enemy was talking smack to Justin while sitting on Erik’s lap, Erik contains himself from wanting to do anything threating the enemy in front of Justin. Erik then later saw himself in the enemy, as he would talk smack to other gangsters on the street with their kids. Then when Justin going inside the house with Michelle, Erik goes to the room and gets a gun and looks for him. He saw the enemy with some friends in a car and as they saw Erik pull up with the gun they left the scene as fast as they could.
But it was all Erik could do to protect his family. Later in life, Erik and Michelle leave each other, Erik did love Michelle and he thinks she is a great mother to his kids. He said it was too hard to live with them while being in a gang, he said he never brought his gang life into his personal life with his family. Michelle thought it was hard to balance the two lives, so she left with the kids. Now in present time, Erik is now a quadriplegic after being shot in the neck on January 3, 2002, while driving with his friend who was sitting in the passenger seat, sadly he was killed.
That’s when Erik realized what goes around comes around. He now spends his days in a wheel chair and nights on a motorized bed; he has to sleep with an oxygen machine. His mother and other nurses take care of him since he is disabled now, he needs help for everything from showering, having to use the resting, to even eating. But, Erik understands the pain that he has made others suffers, so he deals with it thinking it is karma for all the wrong he has done in life. His life now brings him great pain since now he relives the memories he had during the gang lifestyle, which brought pain to many of his loved ones.
He can only thing he can do is take responsibility for his actions. My life is a tad bit similar to Erik’s as in family and moral wise; my parents were also immigrants to this country. Both of my parents are from Mexico, yet they met here in California, got married, and had three kids (including me). My parents taught us that education was way more important than the gang life and made sure we stayed away from that lifestyle. My parents taught us to be someone important in life, to make sure that we don’t end up like them living by paychecks by every week or two.
Most of my relatives from both of my parents side are or were involved in some sort of gang, so my parents moved away from them to start a new life on their own. My father was like Erik’s father, he is a workaholic, and my dad has two jobs to maintain our lifestyle. My father works hard to make sure we get the education we deserve since he didn’t get to finish school since he needed to help feed his family. My father also fought of addiction as he use to do drugs and binge drink when he was younger, even before my older brother was born.
Yet my father has now conquered the addiction and has been sober ever since my older brother was born, was never depressed and he has never tried to killed himself. We were also never around violence like Erik at all; it would have been shocking for us to hear that someone was killed in our block really. Although Erik and I have a different lifestyle, both of our parents taught the same morals about gangs. Yet my parents made sure we stayed away from it, but I’m sure if my parents lived the way they use to live we would have been involved in gang activity just like their family members.