The ‘Tagger’ Who Brought Peace to the Barrios

Angel-Of-Peace-angels-10952900-426-414

East Los Angeles. A cop putting handcuffs on a 14-year-old “tagger” named Paz.

There’s no resistance and few words are spoken. In spite of himself, the cop keeps glancing at Paz’s work in progress. An angel surrounded by names of gang members.

Not just any angel. The loving look it had automatically made him smile. A sense of peace descended – for just a moment – and the cop thought of his deceased mother. The moment passed as he walked Paz to the squad car.

Paz was homeless. By choice. She never knew her parents. She bounced from one foster home to another throughout her life. When she turned ten she started running away from the foster homes.

Each time she was caught, she was passed on to another home. At first, she was only able to hid from the cops for days. With practice it turned into months. She was 13-years old the last time she ran away to East Los Angeles. One year, and counting, until she was caught again.

Paz was able to do what many people in East Los Angeles couldn’t get away with. She intermingled with all the gangs without injury. The fact was, people liked being around Paz. She made them feel better about themselves.

While Paz was in custody a fight broke out between the Bloods and the Crips on North Gage street near the I-10. Two Crips were killed. No arrests made. Other outbursts soon followed.

The Clarence Street Locos ambushed two Gage Maraville boys, and beat them to death. Meanwhile the King Cobras had declared war on the City Terrace homies and members of both gangs were patrolling the neighborhoods looking for trouble.

It took a year, but Paz was finally able to escape from her temporary guardians, returning to the barrios of East Los Angeles. She knew now that she was on a mission. Her life came into more clarity the last year as she pursued her art.

A member of the East Los Angeles Dukes took Paz in and provided her a place to sleep in his house. A day later, Paz was painting a mural. It was on the side of a small liquor store in Boyle Heights.

Nearby residents were amazed that no one bothered Paz. Gang members would stop by and look at her work, often without saying anything. The angel she was creating was her most ambitious work to date.

It glowed with some inner lighting she’d never used before, something reminiscent of Renaissance masters like Raphael, or Botticelli. As the days turned to weeks Paz knew it was her greatest, and last work.

Groups of people began gathering at the tiny liquor store, day and night, silently studying the angel. The King Cobras and The Terrence Street gang called off their war. Peace was declared between the Bloods and the Crips.

Shortly after the painting was completed Paz was hit by an out-of-control garbage truck and died on the scene. As an ambulance took her lifeless body away crowds began to gather in front of the angel as word got out.

People filed by and gasped with wonder. Somehow, it had to be a miracle, the angel’s face had changed, and now Paz was smiling down on all of them!

As It Stands, I’d love to see a miracle happen in all the barrios of the world.

 

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, Vietnam veteran, freelance writer, blogger, married 43 years with three sons and five grandchildren.

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