“I could have had a better life and I could have had more opportunities, but I chose to go down the gang route”


La Stranger

The guy is Esmeralda’s homie and they were taking a picture in front of a street they tagged up.

Interview audio

Esmeralda Moreno was born in Los Angeles, California on December 27, 1977. She was raised around South Central, which brought her to a point to where her surroundings influenced her to join a gang and make it hard for her on the journey of life and make it out being successful.



Misael Pascual: Hello my name is Misael Pascual Moreno, and I will be interviewing Esmeralda Moreno. Today I will be asking you some questions about your life when you were younger.
Esmeralda Moreno: Ok.
MP: So the first question is, What year were you born?
EM: Nineteen seventy seven.
MP: Where were you born?
EM: I was born in Los Angeles, California. 
MP: What situations in your life make you join a gang?
EM: I don’t know, My life style, the people that I hung around with, it wasn’t a situation it was just the way of living in South Central, its how you were raised and what you saw so you automatically go the same path.
MP: How did the people around you influence you at that time?
EM: Well my friends would always be like,”oh your not down,” they would be like,”let’s do this,” and I knew in the back of my head that it was wrong but I still went ahead and did it because they were my friends, that’s the family that I had, back then that’s what I considered family I didn’t know any better I thought that they were always going to be there for me as gang members they say we’re family, but little did I know that I was wrong.
MP: How old were you when you started to get into gang violence?
EM: I was twelve years old.
MP: Did joining a gang make you make unwilling decisions?
EM: Yes. There’s a lot of stuff that I regret and I did, when I joined a gang.
MP: May u please tell me some examples of the things u did when you were in a gang.
Em: Well we would fight a lot with other people, use drugs, and do stuff that I regret. Due to being in a gang I ended up having a baby at fifteen and had to stop school to be able to provide for my son.
MP:  Did you ever get stereotyped for being in a gang?
EM : Definitely. 
MP: How did it make you feel?
EM: It makes you feel shamed it makes you feel like your not worth anything because people will always point fingers and criticize you, they don’t even know the truth or they don’t even know how you really are they would automatically judge you just because you were in a gang  they think your a bad person and they won’t take the opportunity to get to know you.
MP: What positive and negative outcomes did you get from being in a gang?
EM:  My positives is having my son at an early age, I don’t regret any of that, I believe that was my major thing that made me realize I was going down the wrong path because once my son was born I knew that I was living for somebody else and not for myself anymore so I had to stop all the dumb stuff that I was doing to be able to get a job and provide for my son, and the negative things was just that I could’ve waited to have a better life, finish school and due to me being in gangs I decided to not be in school anymore and just you know, not finishing school because I had to help my son and provide for my son so I could finish school way earlier and I ended up finishing school after because my priority was to give my son what he needed and not school.
MP: How did not finishing school make it harder for you throughout your life?
EM: Not finishing school was harder because you don’t get the same opportunity as everyone else, you could know the work but because you don’t have that peace of paper that they call diploma or a GED or a BA or anything like that you miss out on a lot of opportunities in life, they treat you like you are dumb and that you don’t know anything even though they do not know your life story or what you had to go through to be in the position you are. I am a big believer that school is our best option in life and it’s the way we are going to be able to succeed in life but unfortunately I made bad decisions of having a child which I had to provide for and school was not my priority at that time.
MP: What do you regret most about joining a gang?
EM: What I regret most about joining a gang is letting them influence me to do stuff that I regret and I will always regret, I could have had a better life and I could have had a lot of opportunities in life and I chose to go down the gang route. I lost a lot of friends because of gangs and you see a lot of things that mark your life forever, you see how your friends end up in jail, you see how your friends end up dead, you see a lot of suffering from parents, your friends girlfriends, family members and how they cry because they either end up in jail or dead. If I had an opportunity to go back I would not do it, I would continue going to school and finishing school and getting a better life to be able to provide now for my kids, but we learn and we live.
MP: What was the major cause of you joining a gang and how did you do it?
EM: My major cause was  because growing up we were always poor. I went through a lot of trauma when I was young and I felt that I didn’t have the love that I needed in my house so I had to seek it somewhere else. The trauma that I went through was just a lot that I got to a point in my life where I just didn’t care about anything else other than just thinking that I knew it all and I could do it all and th​at, my only friends and my family was my gang because I didn’t feel that I had the support and love within my home. 
MP: The final question is, how has your life changed from then till now? 
EM: My life has changed a lot. Once I got out of the gang and decided to straighten out my life I ended up having great opportunities, I have a very good job, I have two kids that I am trying to guide them through life and shop them what I went through so they won’t make the same mistakes, I have an amazing husband and today my priority is my family and making sure that they do not end up the same way I did when I was young.