A commenter asks, in response to my comment:
It’s Norteno territory to the extent that I prominently wear my “N” tennis shoes a lot, and I just about claim Norteno myself. It’s not cool to root for the other side. Having about zero personal experience with gang culture, is it okay to wear a gang’s apparel on their turf if you’re not a part of that gang?
Sure, of course it is, as long as you are not an idiot about it. The thing you don’t understand is that just about everybody around here claims or represents one way or the other. People either claim Sureno or Norteno or maybe Bulldog. Even people not in gangs claim. Thing is, it is extremely difficult to figure out exactly who is really in these local ragtag kid gangs and who is not. There are the real hardcores, and the cops know all about them. But just about everybody else that age dresses and looks like a gangster. They wear colors and gang attire, but honestly, they are not in the gang the way the hardcores are. So just about everyone around that age is going to wear the colors and attire of that hood, even though most of them aren’t really in the gang at all. It’s like people in Boston wear Red Sox clothes. The gang is like the home team. I guess the others are called gang associates or something. It gets way hard to characterize. However, with me, no one cares, because I’m a 51 year old White guy. I can wear red, or an N on my shoes, or even flash 14 with my fingers and it’s just a great big stupid joke. I’m not in the gang; everyone knows that. If I go to a Sureno hood, people might see the N shoes and red shirt and I’m a middle aged White guy, so they know I’m not Norteno. But if I flash 14 gang sign at them, wow, that’s weird. What’s this older White guy doing flashing enemy gang signs at us? It’s not really a joke, but they wouldn’t know what to make of it either. It’s sort of criminal stupidity. They might just want to kick your ass so you don’t do anything so stupid again. Also, I can probably drive through full-on gang territory at 3 AM even with gang guys hanging out on their front porches and probably nothing would happen. If I was younger and Hispanic, they might want to know what I was doing there. But I’m a middle aged White guy, so they figure I’m irrelevant to the conflict. These guys are a lot smarter than you think. They aren’t idiots at all. You can joke around with these guys a lot and even threaten them if you know what you’re doing. I have threatened to kill a couple of them and nothing happened. You just charge at them with a really psycho but controlled look in your eyes and threaten to kill them unless they shut up. Don’t act angry or crazy. Just act like a totally cool, controlled, cold-blooded gangbanger bastard just like they are. I flip them off all the time and make obscene gestures at them, but it’s all a big joke and we are all on good terms. The main thing is to get them to respect you. If that takes getting in their face and threatening to murder them unless they shut up, they kind of respect that. That shows you’re not a pussy and you will stand up for yourself and fight. This is an extremely macho culture and they respect macho badass guys. One thing I cannot do is make fun of Nortenos. I used to call them “Busters” as a joke or when I was wearing a blue shirt, point to it and joke with them. “Busters” is what Surenos call Nortenos as an insult. Ok, that’s just not cool at all. They got really mad a few times when I did that and seriously acted like they were going to kick my ass. I thought for a bit and figured out that this is simply not acceptable. You can’t even joke about it. It’s just off-limits. These guys have very strict rules about what you can and can’t do. As I said, it’s impossible to know who’s in the gangs. One night we were joking around and someone pointed to my shoes and said I must claim Norteno. I said sure I do and everyone started laughing because it’s absurd. Then this one guy pulls up his shirt and there’s a t-shirt with “Nuestra Familia” on it. That’s a pretty hardcore Norteno symbol. He says, “Hey Bob! What do you say? Let’s go get down. Let’s go get a shotgun and kill some Scraps (insult Norteno name for Surenos). Let’s go!” I guess he was serious. He always seemed like a cool guy too, and I had no idea he was associated with a gang. It sounded kind of exciting, and Sureno gangbangers definitely deserve to get killed, but I’m not into capital felonies.