By James Clark
Younglove Avenue, just a short distance from the Safeway on Mission Street, was draped in violence on Sept. 29.
What started as a verbal altercation among family members escalated into a physical brawl that left a mother wounded and one of her sons in critical condition, while the other sat in Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of attempted homicide.
Both men, Freddy and Juan Antonio Cardenas, have criminal records consisting of weapons possession. Their records include violent as well as nonviolent crimes, stated Zach Friend, Santa Cruz Police Department spokesperson.
The two brothers are known gang affiliates, according to Lieutenant Steve Clark, who said that the brothers had been “involved in gang-related incidents for as long as I can remember.”
Although the shooting was reported as a case of domestic violence, it left many speculating the impact of gang activity on domestic life.
Arnold Vasquez is a gang detective of the investigative division of the SCPD. He spoke of how the financial advantages and status of being a leading gang member keep many from leaving, yet even those who want to may have trouble getting out.
“If someone grows out of it and wants to move on, it doesn’t mean they can just leave the gang,” Vasquez said. “Once you’re out, if a gang member needs you to do something like hide a murder weapon, you have to do it, or else you may face consequences.”
Santana described how high-ranking gang members couldn’t get out, and usually face reprisal from fellow gang members. Yet another difficulty in escaping this lifestyle comes not from fellow gang members, but from the community at large.
The city of Santa Cruz has two main gangs, the NorteÃ±o and the SureÃ±o, Clark said. “The NorteÃ±o associates with the color red, the letter N, and the number 14, due to N being the 14th letter in the alphabet. The NorteÃ±o is the smaller of the two and tends to be more present on the West Side.”
The SureÃ±o, by contrast, is larger and affiliates with the number 13 and the color blue, added Clark.
Counselor Robert Santana, who works at several different prisons, shared his thoughts on the matter. “Once you’re in, you’re in,” he said, continuing, “When all you know is violence, and you live in that type of world, that’s what you rely on.”
Santana described gang structure as being “highly militaristic. There are ranks; you have generals, captains, and so on, with soldiers at the bottom.” Similar to the military, once someone becomes a high-ranking member, it becomes a way of life, Santana said.
UCSC Professor Angela Davis, well-known for her critique of the American prison system, recently spoke at the Practical Activism Conference on campus.
Though she said that she “would be hesitant to speak on this situation specifically,” she did say that people in violent professions are more likely to take that violence home with them.
Sally Cardenas was taken to the Dominican hospital in stable condition via air ambulance, and her son Freddy was flown to an out-of-county trauma center in serious condition. At press time, Friend said both were stable and seemed likely to recover.