Origins of the Latin Kings



Interview with Cha Cha Jimenez

Cha Cha: ...there's the Trojans, the Black Eagles, the Young Lords. Then they had the women's groups too. 'Cause then you had the Young Lordettes, the Imperial Aces and Queens. the Flaming Arrows, ...then
like the Black Eagles didn't have a women's group but they were just all Black Eagles. I mean the women
that hung around. So there were a lot of women...see this is what I mean it's not like it was... just males.
There was a lot of women involved in the gangs of that time. 'Cause it started more like a sports club...
it didn't even appear like a gang. It's just everybody had names. Oh the Paragons were there. 'Cause...
they'd do dances; they were good dancers. You know the Paragons. And the around
to the other dancers like to the Latin Kings so we used to go to those dances too. They were good
dancers but we were good organizers of the dances. We threw the dance. We made
the money on the dances. So then this is new rivalry or whatever.

I: Where are the Latin Kings at the time? In the same neighborhood or not in the
same neighborhood?

Cha Cha: No the Latin Kings were on Levaden Shore. They started there. For whatever reason..

I: Now were there Latin Kings before that?

Cha Cha: Phil Warby's in Kansas City now. He's a founder.. Paloma from the El Rincon is a Latin King
which probably has contact with him at this time. I know that last time I talked to somebody they went
there. I told 'em to go there. But I don't know what he's doing in Kansas City but I'm sure that he's
calm. He's living more with his family and stuff like that.

...But then you have Paco King that was killed in Humboldt Park. He was one of the main founders of
the Kings too. He was light skinned like me too...he saved me a couple of times in jail because...
people they just put hits on you don't even know that is. But I would have to go to him and
say you know can you take care this because I'd like to go to the yard. You know. I'm tired of
being locked up in my cell I'd like to go to the yard you know. Like because you know they'll put a hit
on you and they...send somebody new that's trying to become a member to attack you or whatever.
And the hit could have been first because it's a gang thing, it could have been for any little incident...
. So I had to get a few times when I was in jail but...,that's later. ...But then it, you know Paco King
and a lot of the older Kings, what I would just talk to them or send them a letter or a kite whatever and they would take care of it. So ___ ___ and it's already taken care of.

I: So at that point there's really no significant difference between the gangs that you mentioned
earlier and the Latin Kings? They're all kind of thought of as the same...

Cha Cha: Yeah we're on the same buzz.

: that time I think in the city it was like...a different type of a gang. You know, it was a gang that
was more nationalistic I guess. You know more concerned with their cultures, with their people cultures,
stuff like that..., that was the first phase of ganghood in Chicago... even there were the Hachas Viejas
and they were, all they were older but they want to organize... first as a social club and then as a gang. But...Chicago was still a segregated town and I guess... then we had to defend our community and
that's the way we do it then. Where ifyou go later then the gangs are fighting each other. Then they're
fighting for identity or something I guess. They're not fighting more for nationalistic reasons. So it's a
different type of gang. Where if you go today, they don't care why nothing but drugs. I mean they
just wanna make money.


I: How did the Young Lords and Latin Kings interact?

Cha Cha: ..That's a very good question because I almost like kind of left them out of the picture and they
played a very significant role. In fact we were talking about the urban renewal meeting that we went to and
that we kinda ripped off the place, we trashed the place basically. At that meeting there was Young Lords
andLatin Kings that went. And we had there was a branch of the Latin Kings that hung around Dayton and Armitage which was where the church was at. So when we took over the church, you know they were
involved in almost everything that we did because of all these activities that we had. We were also in
contact with the main branch of the Latin Kings in that...

And so you know we were closely tied at that time. The Latin Disciples didn't come till later. In fact they
came from the Latin Kings. There was like this flood outside the Latin Kings. So Horse and people like that,
the other animal from their group. My cousin's part of that too. They became the Young Latino Organization.
Which is kinda taken the YLO from the Young Lords Organization. And...this is showing the fact that they
didn't want to create any division, ... their division was between the Latin Kings and them that they wanted
to keep the respect of the Young Lords and that's why they used the YLO. But actually they were
competition role too. They wanted to create a leadership role too which is okay so they called it their
Young Latino Organization. ... I guess they wanted our name to be more Latino you know or something
I don't know. ...the point is that we never had any problems once we became political with any of the
other groups.

Maybe individually but not with any of them... we were united and the Young Lords were there as a group to
try to unite the street orginizations. The Latin Kings also, when we were in McCormick now, not many of them
were at McCormick seminary but lot of the Latin American Defense Organization that was working with the
Latin Kings was part of the takeover of the McCormick seminary. In fact Oped Lopez was sent to Texas where the Presbyterians were having their conference at the same time. It was synchronized at the same time as the
takeover. So while we take over McCormick seminary, Oped was telling the whole conference of Presbyterians
that their seminary had been taken over by the Young Lords.... Of course we also had, we were using the
phones of the seminary to call the media and everything else too. But I mean we had a specific to send
him there at that time and we had planned it like that.

And when we got the demands, $25,000 went towards a health clinic that was run by the Latin Kings in the
west town community. So you know they played important role in several things. Of course they were in all
of our marches and demonstrations. Especially the one about Don Pedro de Campos where we had 10,000 people and we marched right through Division and Damen. Right through the heart of the west town
community at that time. So it started in Lincoln Park... that long march to show the unity that we were fighting for the entire Puerto Rican community and for poor people. Not you know this Puerto Rican community but
we wanted go through the areas that were important and Division and Damen was a very important area
at that time when we had that march.

....the Puerto Rican substance abuse program and Basta was the Mexican substance abuse program back
at that time... I helped to set up at that time. And I worked for Basta, I was a counselor at their program for a while. But yeah Paloma was is a big leader in the Kings. He's been involved with the political parade.
Also Max Torres. Torres, Torres. Max Torres is also one of the Kings and he was involved with the
___ parade and ... he may be one of the founders too. I don't know Max. Max has been around for
a while. And I know Rafiel Rios is if not one of the founders one of like the next level or something.
You know....

Some of the other organizations that we worked with and that we marched together, they were, that
we hadlearned from that were like Spanish action community that was involved in the riots, in the
Division Street riots and in terms of keeping the peace during the riot but also not forgetting you know
about police abuse. So you know they wanted peace with justice. They later on had a conflict with the Caballeros of San Juan who we also admired in their own way. So we were kinda admiring, we had a
lot of respect for these organizations even though they were kind of fighting each other. We didn't want
to see them fighting each other. We had asked people who had fought many many different people we
were seeking unityas the young lords. We were more trying to keep the community together and that...
it was okay to have contradictions amoung the people but that those were minor contradictions. They were, they're not that important,... The contradictions between the enemy, the common enemy are more
significant that the ones with the people and so we have to put the contradictions between the people
aside and focus more on our common enemy you know.

And that's what's gonna unite the community. So this is what we believed in the Young Lords at that
time and so we were seeking unity with the adults... We were trying to keep the peace you know at
that time. And we were trying to keep the peace with the youth also. I mean we held we had two truces
that, you know not that we believe in truce but that's was what they came up with. You know we got...
the street organizations together and they decided to on their own to make a truce. And it held for a
time and when it didn't hold we held another one. Meaning that you know to keep'em united cause we
wanted to unite the entire community. Mexican and Puerto Rican community at that time.

So I guess you know that was our rule. Our rule was to you know we didn't want to fight another
Puerto Rican organization and that. You know what it, we don't see ourselves as a political campaign
that I got involved with later. You know that's just a temporary campaign where sometimes you have to
kind of argue with each other... where we were fighting more for humanitarian issues. They were not
political campaign issues. So again you know we have to keep the right perspective in that. And sometime
even today I see people or I hear about people arguing about things that are petty, that can go away
tomorrow you know, that come and go but what we need to focus on is our common problems and how
we can solve those common problems together and how and all those little insignificant disputes can be
settled amoung ourselves and should be...

  It's like the, we should learn from the African American community. They learned to unite and to solve
their own problems and keep aliens out, out of our own issues and our own problems that we should
resolve amoung ourselves. So I mean we're in the learning process, we're not at the same level as the
African American communit yis right now. But you know we're just learning. But...eventually we'll get there. But... I see a lot of divisions...that's hurting us, that's crippling us in terms of advancing... But I'm preaching
again and I don't wanna preach. But that's sort of the same way that we felt at that time. You know
trying to build unity, unite with the many to defeat the few was a slogan that we used.

I: ... when in your opinion did the Kings split off and no longer have a kind of a common agenda
with the Young Lords? What year would you put that?

Cha Cha: ...we always,... have a you know common agenda. I mean we're still close. A lot of the Young
Lords when we kind of disbanded you know as an organization. I mean as a prominent organization... Because...they were from the streets and then because some of them still had problems and relapses or
whatever you want to call 'em where they went back to jail, a lot of the Young Lords became leaders.
Cosmo Torres is one of the big top leaders of the Latin Kings in the jail; he just got out. I mean I heard
that he just got out. And he's one of the top people of the Kings. And he's of the people that are
running the Kings. So ..he was a Young Lord and I don't know if ... he's still a Young Lord and he's
political and he's clear on a lot of things except you know he's still in jail.

You know when you're in a situation of survival you know you act in a different way... I can understand
where why he would be acting in that way in jail you know as a member of a gang. Actually knowing
Cosmo the way I know him, I'm sure that he's instilling a lot of positive ideas within the Kings. Within
the members there. So I'm sure that he's doing his organizing there. I know...when he... was a member
of the Trojans in Lincoln Park and then when the Young Lords became political they joined with the
Young Lords.