The Aragón Family, The Middle Years

 In the summer of 1958, Michael and Anna were married. I performed the ceremony for these two precious souls at my parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. How strange life could be. Rolf Grover, the man who had kidnapped and tortured Michael, was his best man. In a few short years, Michael Aragón had been given three children, a wife, and two best friends, Rolf and I. It was a large wedding with over two hundred guests. People came from as far away as Spain. All the members of the Brotherhood attended with their families. Even Capo Romano came. While Don Gallo didn’t attend, he sent his best regards and several expensive gifts.

 Aragón took Anna on a honeymoon to Miami, Florida, spending two wonderful weeks there. At first when they made love it was awkward. It was left to Anna to teach Michael how to satisfy a woman without entering her. It was through the power of her love that he overcame the loss of his manhood. Visiting many of the finest restaurants in town, they drank and danced every night until the early morning hours. By the end of their stay in Miami, they had met many new friends of the Cuban upper class. Several had homes in Havana, Cuba, and Miami. Treating her as a princess, Anna was readily accepted by the Cubanos. Aragón liked these Cubanos. One couple in particular, the Romeros, became close to Aragón and Anna during their stay. The Romeros were millionaire industrialists in their early sixties who owned many factories and plants in Cuba.  Aragón and Alberto Romero had many things in common. Before leaving, the Aragóns promised to visit the Romeros in Havana the following year.

On their last day in Miami, the Romeros introduced their tall, sophisticated, handsome, son César, to the Aragóns. César was a man's man. An avid polo player, he kept himself in excellent physical condition. Michael and César were about the same age with similar interests. Aragón liked him. Laughing easily together, the two shared a mutual respect for one another. This was the beginning of their life long friendship.

A year later, 1959, was difficult for Cubanos of the upper classes.  Cuba fell to the communist leader, Fidel Castro.  Stripped of their wealth, the Romeros were forced to flee to Miami. They arrived in America with little more than the shirts on their backs. The Romero’s liquid assets, cash, stocks, and bonds had all been seized by the Castro Government.  With lands and properties seized, the Romeros were paupers. A shattered, broken Alberto Romero was left adrift on the stormy ocean of life.  A mutual friend concerned for the family placed the telephone call to Anna.  Upon hearing of their predicament, Michael and Anna flew immediately to Miami. Their first dinner together was an emotional one. The Romeros were a proud family.  Having lost everything, they felt betrayed. They had been good to their family and friends. And yet, life had dealt them this evil blow.

Aragón spoke to them of his friendship and help for the future. While counseling them about beginning a new life in America, he gave Alberto Romero a gift. Michael brought with him a briefcase with one hundred thousand dollars in cash. As Alberto opened the brief case, Dońa Romero cried knowing what Aragón had done for them. A misty-eyed Alberto thanked Anna and Aragón, promising to return the gift as soon as he was able to re-establish himself in his new country.  Aragón immediately refused repayment of the gift. It was a matter of honor.

By the following year, the Romeros purchased a restaurant and a small hotel in downtown Miami. Alberto and his wife worked hard. Their days began at five in the morning and ended at midnight.  Few workers were hired, and those that were, worked hard and admired the Romeros. Within months, the small hotel earned a well-deserved reputation for good service and cleanliness. Patrons spread the word. Soon the businesses were quite profitable.  By 1961, the Romeros bought a small radio station specializing in Cubano music. Dividing his time between the hotel and the radio station, Alberto improved both. His wife managed the restaurant and made it a hit with the locals. Through hard work and discipline, this too had become profitable. Alberto was once again self-sufficient.  But they would always be indebted to Anna and Michael.

About this same time, Michael Aragón reached an agreement with the Italians to enter Nevada.  This was to be the last move outside of California for the Family for many years to come.  Deciding that the Brotherhood would concentrate on expansion within the Southwest, the planning group now focused its efforts on two areas. Profits would be moved into legitimate businesses. Real estate and investments would be the keys to their future success.  Still, investments would only be made in the barrios.

With the presidency of John F. Kennedy came problems for the Italian Mafia. Robert Kennedy, the President’s brother and Attorney General, launched a campaign against the Italians. The pressure was on. By the summer of 1961, Don Gallo was indicted. Also, Don Mario Martini was arrested. Both men were later convicted on racketeering charges. Romano was made new Don of the entire Southwest. Over the years, Don Romano and Aragón had maintained good relations. Business had been excellent. Monies flowed into the Italian coffers. Problems were few and easily dealt with. They had grown to trust one another.

 While the American government continued its pressure on the Italians, the Family was never a target. The Brotherhood continued to invest its profits. Everywhere, the barrio businesses were growing.  Aragón and his Family were now making millions. They were big in real estate, owning buildings and apartments. The Family also moved into the import/export business. By December of 1963, Aragón was on the board of directors of five banks. He himself owned twenty businesses. His image as a legitimate businessman was intact. The Chicano community had long since forgotten his earlier deeds.

The boys, Kenny and Benjamin, were now handsome young teenagers.  Each was almost six foot tall, physically very strong and well developed. Their height and strength kept the other boys in the barrio from challenging them to fights. When necessary, Kenny and Benjamin were known to hold their own and then some. Kenneth had only two fights. These he had been unable to prevent. In each case, he had mangled his opponent. His image as a tough guy was intact.

Anna’s children had depth of character. Although living in the barrio, the boys were well mannered and well read. They lived in two worlds really.  As Aragón’s sons, they had to uphold the Family honor. As Anna’s little boys, they were taught to appreciate the arts and music.  Christina had grown into a beautiful young woman. Tall for her age, already five foot eight inches in height, she was elegant.  She spoke French, as well as Spanish. Artistically, Christina excelled.  A wonderfully talented artist, she painted exclusively in watercolors. In the evenings, she played the piano for her father and mother. Christina was well read, and astounded the family with her photographic memory. There was nothing she couldn’t be.  But above all, she was her father’s girl. Tough and independent, Christina took after Aragón.  While deferring to Kenneth and Benjamin, she remained her own person. She watched and listened carefully when her father’s guests arrived. Christina learned a great deal about the Family business. It was her secret wish to become involved.

 While still being an excellent mother and wife, Anna remained active in her own businesses.  She had truly become an excellent businesswoman who managed her affairs with wisdom. By now, she and Maria owned several businesses together. Her net worth now a small fortune; she had always been a shrewd investor. The stocks she selected had paid off handsomely.  Anna’s businesses continued to grow and expand.

 Aragón was now a happily married man with a growing family.  His life full, Michael and Anna grew to love each other more each day. They were the best of friends. Their days started with having coffee together. He always joined her for lunch and was almost never late for dinner.  Anna and he spent the evening hours talking together about business and investments, banking and interest rates. Aragón shared Anna’s interest in the stock market and its fluctuations. And finally, the Aragón’s talked about the children and their hopes and dreams for them.

It was 1964 when Anna and the children first went to Spain. The Romeros had bought a retirement home in Madrid and invited the Aragón’s to spend the summer with them. While Aragón couldn’t go, he sent Rolf to accompany Anna and the children. By the time Anna returned two months later, she was the proud owner of a Spanish villa in the southern part of Spain. As usual, Anna bought the distressed property for a fraction of its true worth. The owners had fallen on hard times and needed to sell. The estate was christened Estancia Aragón.  In shambles it was in need of rebuilding. For years, the owners had neglected minor repairs that now became major problems. Benjamin pestered Aragón about the project. Finally, Anna and Michael agreed to send him to Spain the following summer. Benjamin’s task was to rebuild Estancia Aragón.

Benjamin was a serious young man, much like his grandfather before him. Physically, he took after his mother’s side of the family, tall and handsome. Levy would have been proud of him.  Light haired and with a pale complexion, his blue-green eyes were much like his mother’s. A German-Jew, she had been very different from her darker complexioned husband.  Sturdy and strong, Ben Aragón was a natural leader. He was intelligent and wise beyond his years, and he made his father, Michael Aragón, proud. Anna worshiped him. He was all she wanted him to be.  It was arranged that the Romeros would watch over him while at the estate in the Andalucía. The Romeros were delighted to help.  Alberto Romero worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that Benjamin's orders were followed by the Spanish workers. But he never interfered with Ben’s wishes. It was Benjamin who ran the project. With no disagreements, the workers rebuilt the estate ahead of schedule.

The following year, the entire family went back to Spain for a month.  Aragón and César spent many days together at the estate playing cards and smoking Cuban cigars, while Rolf and Anna spent their time visiting Madrid and other Spanish historical sites. Kenny went off daily into the countryside visiting ruins. Ben spent his time with the workmen and Alberto, improving the estate’s vineyards and orchards.  A grown up Christina, immersed herself with Mama Romero learning the Flamenco. Once she realized her father’s love for the art, Christina became addicted to mastering the dance. The Gypsies took her under their wing and taught her the finer points of the art. They liked this unpretentious young American woman. Always willing to learn and apply herself, she had won them over.

he month had been too short.  Soon the family had to return to Los Angeles, leaving Benjamin behind with the Romeros.  Ben became the grandson Alberto had always wanted. A businessman at heart, he understood Ben’s need to win and excel. The two spent countless hours learning Spanish business together. Alberto introduced Ben to many influential Spaniards and established him as an accepted person in several social circles. As his Spanish improved, so did his prospects. The Spaniards liked this young handsome American.

That same year Anna bought a home in Beverly Hills as an investment. She and Benjamin negotiated an excellent purchase price. Aragón's one request was that the family remain living on the East Side. Anna honored his request, knowing that he needed to stay close to his roots.  Agreeing only to spend weekends at the Beverly Hills house, the family remained happy.

The day that Michael Aragón had spoken of many years before had finally arrived. The Family was now a power unto itself. Having suffered at the hands of the government, the Italians were losing control of the business. Many were now in jail. Everywhere their mafia was under attack.  While the Chicanos had not revolted directly, they began to take more of the profits. As the Italians exerted less and less control, they were no longer telling these Mexican-Americans what they could do.  Aragón wisely showed them continued respect by consulting with them on his every move.  He had kept Levy's counsel.

The following year, Aragón and the family went to Spain for a vacation. Rolf, César Romero and his fiancée, the Countessa Domanique Dolmeque, joined them. This was the first year I went along.  My duties at the parish had become oppressive and my health was suffering, so I decided to go away on holiday. My days were spent visiting Spanish churches with Anna and Alberto.  Evenings were spent drinking fine wines, smoking cigars, and playing cards with Michael, César, and Rolf. Rolf and Kenny spent their days visiting ruins and castles. Rolf bought antique weapons including swords and muskets for his weapons gallery at the Beverly Hills shooting range.  Later, he bought Spanish knighthood armor, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Anna, Benjamin, and the Countessa were off learning about Spanish business.  Determined to gain a foothold in clothing manufacturing, Anna immersed herself in Spanish haute couture.  Christina spent her days with the gypsies improving her Flamenco dancing skills.  During one of the last weeks of vacation the family managed to get down to the Gypsy caves in Granada and spent several evenings watching the Flamenco dancers. The candle lit caves gave the dance a special quality. The practiced dancers executed their steps with a controlled sexual fervor.

The family went north to spend their final week of vacation in Pamplona at the running of the bulls.  On that very early morning of the final day of the Fiesta De San Fermin, several thousand people waited for the rockets to explode high overhead. The Guardia De Civil did its best to control the large unruly mob of people eagerly awaiting the bulls and the blood they would spill.  Aragón and Kenny wearing their Spanish berets and scarves, prepared for the run. Rolf and Benjamin cheered them on from the behind the safety of a fence. The rest of us watched from a bridge as the rockets exploded. As the bulls were released, a distance of one American city block behind the runners, a loud cheer went up from the crowd and the huddled runners began lunging forward. The runners surged forward, Aragón and Kenny could hear the thunderous sound of the bulls. Running along the narrow cobblestone streets, they tried to keep ahead of the bulls. There was no shelter to be found as the windows and doors of the two-story white washed Spanish homes on either side of the narrow street were boarded over.  This narrow cobblestone street, barely fifteen feet across in some areas, became the runners’ field of honor. They had no way to escape or hide from the oncoming bulls.

Michael and Kenneth had run fast and hard to keep ahead of the racing bulls.  As the first group of bulls reached the runners, they gored one young man. When Aragón raced forward, he saw a young Spaniard gored and thrown against the gleaming white washed wall. A second Spaniard’s limp body was being dragged by a large black bull along the surface of a wall, haphazardly smearing bright red blood for several feet. Finally, the young man was thrown clear. As the bulls continued to collide with the closely packed runners, more young men fell hard onto the stone street and were trampled. Many tripped over the fallen runners while attempting to avoid the large dangerous horns of the raging bulls. The smell of blood was in the air and the bulls reacted accordingly. There was panic among the runners as many more fell to the ground.  They were no longer safe as the bulls trampled and gored many. The street ended at the narrow gate entrance of the bull ring. It was perhaps ten feet across. There many more runners fell. As one man attempted to move past his fallen comrades, he was quickly pulled down into the pile-up of fallen bodies. As the bulls made their way into the arena, they trampled the pile of runners.

When Kenny and Aragón came upon the pile-up of runners at the entrance to the bull ring, a few fallen runners attempted to grab onto them to be lifted up onto their feet. In a panic, Kenny punched one of the young men hard in the face. The young Spaniard quickly loosened his grip on Kenny's leg and fell backwards onto the ground. Both Kenny and Aragón made it safely into the bullring to the cheers and applause of the waiting Spaniards. Kenny wanted no more of the festivities and climbed to the safety of the seating above. He watched as his father proved his manhood. Aragón proceeded to fight the young bulls with his rolled up newspaper.

The day ended with a celebration at a local bistro. Aragón and Kenny were toasted by the family for their bravery. Anna and Christina teased Aragón about his having run slower than the younger men. Kenny went to his father's defense, explaining that Papi had hung back to protect his frightened son. We all laughed. The party lasted until early the next morning. The Romeros, Anna, Christina, and Uncle Rolf retired early. Uncle César, Kenneth, Benjamin, and Aragón drank the strong red Spanish wine and smoked cigars into the early morning hours.

The following day, Aragón left the family with Rolf in Spain and returned to Los Angeles to attend to business obligations. The Brotherhood was in need of guidance. A few barrio wars had started. Renegade vatos had decided to strike out on their own, bringing in Mexicano drugs. They had to be stopped and warnings sent to the south. This meant dead bodies.

 Anna and the others remained with the Romeros at their large estate enjoying their company. Over the years, Anna and Dońa Romero had become very close. They had a great deal in common. Both had come from wealthy families. Each had suffered in life. And most importantly, both understood and cherished the concept of friendship. It was on this occasion that Dońa Romero asked Anna to help her son. She requested that Anna ask Michael to assist her son to get started in business.  Anna agreed.

Before leaving for home, Anna and Benjamin negotiated their first Spanish business purchase with the help of César Romero. They bought an import and export company that specialized in Spanish antiques. César arranged for the Spanish family who sold the business to agree to maintain a small interest and continue to manage it. For César’s work, Anna gave him fifty percent of the venture. This he gladly accepted. Knowing that she had an eye for antiques and was an excellent negotiator, Dońa Romero was asked if she would become a buyer for the firm.  Delighted, she accepted the position. Agreeing to keep her own hours and accept payments of antiques rather than monies, in this way the Dońa felt less like an employee and more like family.

Leaving the following week to return to Los Angeles, the Aragóns had found a second home.  They had been treated as royalty during their stay. The trip had been made very special by the Romeros. The Aragóns had been introduced to Spanish high society and had been accepted by them. This was their introduction into the world of Spain's blue bloods and would prove very useful in the future.

It was 1966, and Anna's businesses were growing. With the help of Aragón's cousin the attorney, she opened an office on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Anna incorporated her new business and decided to concentrate on women’s clothing and perfumes. Benjamin and Anna called the new corporation “Ultra International.” Arranging to have her products manufactured in Spain, Anna and César agreed to have his new wife join the venture as president of the company in Spain. Bringing to the venture her profile as a member of high society and royalty, the Countessa came with many contacts in haute couture. She was well known to those in the fashion business in both Italy and France. When her friends heard of her new venture, they did all they could to make the business a success. The clothing line was given the name Von Furstenburge after Anna’s dead husband’s family name. Ambiance was the name Anna gave to her new line of perfume. Almost immediately, buyers from Europe and the United States began calling in large orders. An overnight success, the Von Furstenburge clothing label became the one to buy. French and American magazines began courting the Contessa everywhere she went. She attended galas, parties given by the members of the international haute couture set, Hollywood movie screenings, and other important social events. As Von Furstenburge became internationally known, her name became a household word. Anna remained the silent partner.  More interested in money than fame, she pushed her staff to aggressively market her products and the Contessa’s image. Benjamin helped as best he could.  But his main emphasis was school.

Aragón viewed Spain as a safe, out of the way, place to visit.  Becoming interested in the possibility of investing Family money there, Michael approached César with the idea. Once agreements had been reached, César acted as Aragón's agent in Spain. That month, an American corporation called The Wellington Group was formed with Aragón as CEO and César as president. Michael did this as a way to pay tribute to his fallen friend, Kenny’s dead father, Captain Wellington. Funds for the venture were moved from banks in Mexico and deposited in the Banco De Madrid. César now had access to two million dollars. This was the beginning of the movement of Family money outside of the United States and Mexico. Buying small, light manufacturing plants, César’s new businesses produced airplane parts, auto parts, and luxury boating equipment. These industries were selected because of their expansion capabilities.  Every new company was headed by a member of Spain's dilatant, cash strapped aristocracy in need of an income. These could open up the necessary doors in government, smoothing the way for success. The day-to-day management was handled by carefully selected executives with proven track records. Within the first year, César had purchased five small companies. They were all successful.

By 1968, César had successfully expanded the Family business by purchasing several Spanish construction companies. He concentrated on the building of exclusive high-rise apartments and ultra modern office buildings on the Spanish Riviera of Costa del Sol. Again, César chose members of Spain’s elite as fronts to act as business partners and competent executives for each venture. With the help of their friends in the Spanish government, the new construction business began to win large government housing and industrial complex contracts. By year’s end, several building projects were underway. The complex web of Family money, American know-how, the financially needy Spanish elite, and greedy government officials was spun and grew far and wide very quickly.

That same year, Aragón arranged for the planning group and their wives to visit with César in Spain.  Staying at luxury condominiums provided courtesy of their newly created company, Construction Del Sol, César arranged bus trips to their other businesses throughout Spain. Soon after their trip, the Council, the Brotherhood’s leaders, agreed to more funding for Spain.  Taking this opportunity to sell the Commission on the concept of investing closer to home, César recommended moving money into Central and South America. In the end, the Commission agreed to fund the new Latin American ventures, but also wanted into France and Italy.

Understanding that Michael Aragón had given him the opportunity of a lifetime, César was determined to make the most of it. His new wife had given him the social standing he needed.  Now, the Aragóns gave him and his wife an opportunity to make a fortune. Learning a great deal about his family and himself, Aragón had taught César the meaning of true friendship. The Romeros owed this shadowy figure everything, the ultimate debt of honor. Michael and Anna were now family to the Romeros.  If ever there was a need, the Romeros would stand with them.  If the Aragón’s ever wanted his hand or his arm, he would cut it off for them. Theirs was now a blood bond between families.

While her husband continued to grow his business interests, so did Anna. She and Benjamin bought homes in Santa Barbara, California, and the desert resort town of Palm Springs. Her assets were now listed at twenty-eight million dollars. That same year, a rich Anna paid for the wedding of her god-daughter, little Maria and Vincente, one of Kenneth’s life-long friends. As the daughter of Miguel, one of Michael’s original bodyguards, and her best friend of many years, Maria, the Aragón’s were honored to help. Although both Maria and Vincente were very young, Miguel agreed to the wedding only because Vincente had just completed Army boot camp and was preparing to leave for a tour of duty in Vietnam. Two of Kenny’s other friends, Roberto and Sammy, were also on their way to the war.

Looking forward to the wedding and reception, Anna gave a great deal of money. Nothing was too good for the young couple and cost was no object. Anna and Maria coordinated the entire affair. I presided over the ceremony and Kenny was proud to be Vincente’s best man. The wedding held at the Bel Air Hotel was a large affair with three hundred guests attending, many coming from as far away as Spain, Italy, and France. From the limousine provided by Anna's corporation, to the flowers from Maria's new flower shop, all was perfection. It was Anna's crowning moment. She and Maria planned the entire wedding through Maria’s wedding businesses. The reception was catered by one of Maria's companies. Little Maria’s dress was hand-made and dresses for the bridesmaids were provided by her bridal shop.  Tuxedos were rented from her tuxedo shop.  Now partners, Maria and Old Valdez provided the music.  Valdez conducted a full orchestra at the reception with style and the grace of a maestro.

Little Maria and Vincente had a wedding to remember.  The reception was exceptional. The guests were treated to the best the Aragón's money could buy. The cutting of the five tier white cake, drinking of imported French champagne from Maria’s slipper, and the tossing of the bouquet, I still remember today.  Aragón was asked to dance with the young bride who had been like a daughter to him.  Little Maria had a special place in his heart.  They danced the traditional Waltz as all eyes were on them. Then it was Rolf's turn, and finally, Uncle César. As the guests looked on, each of the three men dancing with Little Maria, were the picture of class, grace, and power. But there was something more, a sense of animal magnetism and a hint of the predator. Theirs was a presence of danger wrapped in a vale of civility.

Staying with the Romeros, the newlyweds were sent to Spain for their honeymoon. For the two weeks before Vincente left for war, the young couple lived like a king and queen. Nothing was too good for them.  Their last week was spent at a hotel suite in Costa del Sol, overlooking the ocean. They ate, drank, laughed, and made love.  Then they danced and made love some more.  A long way from East Los Angeles, Spain was a time in their life they would never forget.

As the war in Vietnam raged, in 1969, Aragón and Anna saw Benjamin and Christina off to college.  Both had been accepted to Harvard.  Benjamin had chosen to concentrate on a degree in business and Christina on a degree in political science with an emphasis on pre-law.  The parting was hard on their parents. The thought of their two children attending college at the other end of the country was difficult for them to accept. Nonetheless, the two left for Harvard.  Kenny remained close to Aragón, deciding to attend Cal State Los Angeles.

During this time Kenny and Aragón became even closer.  The only other men who became close to Kenny were César and Rolf.  When he wasn't with his father, Kenneth was in Beverly Hills with Uncle Rolf, learning about guns. The two spent many hours shooting and cleaning weapons together.  Kenny learned much about antique guns from his uncle. He also learned a great deal about life and people.  Kenny’s Uncle César taught him how to have fun. Several times a year his uncle would come to California on business. He always stayed at their villa in Santa Barbara. It was César who first taught Kenny about polo. The people at the polo club liked his uncle.  Whenever he was in town the villa was filled with friends.  Uncle's favorite restaurant was El Cielito, high up on the Riviera overlooking the City of Santa Barbara and the Channel. Uncle César took Kenny to many restaurants where he knew the owners on a first name basis and often prepared special meals for him.

Enjoying learning from Uncle César, Kenneth was taught the art of being a gentleman and a ladies man.  Women loved Uncle César. Everywhere they went women flirted with him. He took Kenny to the men’s clothing shops on State Street in Santa Barbara and had them both fitted for new suits. Later, after shopping, they went sailing in the Santa Barbara Channel together.  Uncle had a small thirty-foot sailboat that he kept at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. Sailing until late afternoon, they then returned to the harbor for an early dinner.

What Kenny liked most about his two uncles was their respect for his father. Whenever Michael's name came up in a conversation, both used it with the greatest respect. There was no question in Kenny’s mind about their loyalty to Michael. When Aragón and Kenneth’s uncles were together at the villa, they played cards, drank, and laughed the afternoons and evenings away.  Kenny’s favorite times were when they played cards together. Smoking expensive Cuban cigars and drinking brandies, the three played poker into the early morning hours. On the weekends the four would go down to the pier and have breakfast. In the early afternoons, they’d drive up to a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley or sail. When visiting a winery, the group would spend the day tasting wines, returning in the late afternoon with several cases.

As far back as Kenny could remember Uncle Rolf had always been with the family on holidays.  It was probably because he lived close by. Always up at the Beverly Hills house or the villa in Santa Barbara, when Kenny's brother and sister came home from college on holiday, Rolf would spend as much time with them as possible. Never marrying, his life had always been dedicated to Anna. They were more than friends, a great deal like a brother and sister.

By 1970, life for the Aragóns and the rest of America was changing. In the barrios many of the young men were returning from Vietnam. The world outside had begun to change those in the barrio. There was anger in the air. Everywhere there were protests. The young were against the war in Vietnam. The Blacks and Chicanos were fighting against racism and racial prejudice.  There had been riots and killings. The White kids were marching in the streets and claiming to be flower children.  Aragón's generation couldn't understand these young people and their disrespectful ideas.

Never the less, the Family businesses across the Southwest were booming. Drug sales were going through the roof. Annual sales were at two billion dollars. Aragón and the planning group were now investing heavily in Spain, Italy, France, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Argentina.  Monies were sorted in the U.S. and shipped to the Mexican bank. From there, monies were wired back into the United States to shell corporations.  The Family then used the funds to pay off the wholesalers.

It was now time for Kenny's graduation from college. It was 1972, and all three of the children were receiving their degrees. Aragón and Anna traveled back to Harvard to attend Benjamin and Christina's graduations. Kenny remained in Los Angeles preparing for his own graduation.  After the ceremonies at Harvard the four returned to Los Angeles to attend Kenny's graduation.

It was agreed that Christina would return to Harvard Law School that next fall and Benjamin would attend graduate school at Harvard and complete his Masters in Business Administration and Kenny would join his father's business. I was unhappy about this decision, understanding what this meant to Kenneth’s immortal soul. Aragón had now joined his son with the Family.  Kenneth was the heir apparent.

Knowing life was changing for them, the children spent the summer together in Europe. Uncle César arranged for them to visit the Countessa’s family and friends in Italy and France. This was to be the last time the three would spend a long vacation together. They enjoyed European high society. Uncle César knew anyone who was anybody. They were introduced to heads of state, the jet set, and countless aristocrats. Attending numerous galas and parties, life was a fairy tale world for them. They spoke to one another of their dreams for the future.  Benjamin wanted to become an international financier. Christina’s interests moved her toward becoming a famous trial lawyer.  And Kenneth wanted nothing more than to someday run the Family business.

Aragón knew that the world around him was changing. He could see the old power structure of America giving way to a newer and more confused group of leaders. His own world of organized crime had also begun to change radically. A power in decline, the Italians were finished. The world had outgrown them. The Blacks now controlled their own streets. The Hispanics, Cubanos, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans were all now controlling their own barrios. There were now too many drug users to be serviced and too many drug dealers. The Whites at all social levels were using. Now, no one was in control. The business had become an open market. Everyday Whites came into the barrio looking to score large amounts of dope.  The Families were now wholesaling. This was not a challenge to the Italians. It was the simple meeting of a demand.

12/20/2015 09:07 AM