North Korean mortar shells and bayonets had cost Michael Aragón his friend Captain Peter Wellington. Those same mortar shells had taken Michael’s manhood. It was fortunate for him that Hawkins had made it to the CP shortly after the blast. Michael owed his life to this quiet unassuming man. It was Hawkins’ quick actions that stopped the bleeding. Within minutes of retaking the CP Hawkins had Michael transported to the aid station. He said a fast prayer and left.
Once stabilized, Michael was flown to Japan for better care. He had spent three months in an American military hospital in Tokyo. His recovery had been more mental than physical. His badly mangled genitals had left him impotent and he was devastated by the loss of his manhood. Coming to terms with it all had been too much for him. Michael was a shattered man filled with grief over Wellington’s death and his own personal pain. He was lost in the anger and hopelessness of it all. A man of forty, with years of experience under his belt, would have had difficulty accepting such a loss. But he was only twenty-seven. Knowing that he could never make love to a woman again was one hell of a blow to a young man. Combined with the loss of his dearest friend, Michael was only a shadow of the man he had once been.
As the last remaining Raider from Wellington’s crew, Michael Aragón was guilt ridden. Only he had survived. Over the last few months, he’d asked himself a thousand times, why not him? Why had he alone survived? He alternated from anger to hate and then to pity. Despite his intense pain and guilt Michael was able to keep it all bottled up inside. To the medical staff, he appeared strong and healthy. To the resident psychiatrist Michael was a model patient. Having convincingly overcome it all, the psychiatrist gave him a clean bill of health. It was April of 1951, when he received his medical release and honorable discharge from the Marines. With few belongings to dispose of it was as simple as packing up his bags and leaving the hospital. Michael Aragón was now operating on autopilot, just going through the motions. There was nothing left of his past and very little to look forward to, except that he was now a father.
Before leaving the hospital he received a two-month old letter from the O'Neils. The couple had been caring for the Wellington boys while Peter was away in Korea. The letter said that the boys would be ready for him when he arrived in Boston. There was no question in Michael’s mind that he would keep his word to Wellington. Just as he had done his duty for his country, he would honor his word to his dead friend. There were two little one-year-old packages for him to pick up. Their names were Peter and Kenneth Wellington. With all their family members dead, the boys had nobody else but him. It was up to Michael now.
The military transport flights from Tokyo to Boston had been long and bumpy. There were no frills, only other Marines to talk to and pass the time with. But Michael had nothing to say. He had no answers for his life and problems, only questions. There was nothing else. The boredom allowed him to question how he would live his new life once he arrived in the good old USA. His first decision was made for him. After picking up the boys in Boston, Michael would then go home to East Los Angeles. Back home to a lonely life full of nothingness.
When the plane finally touched down at the airport in Boston, he was relieved. He just wanted to get on with it. Michael had only four hours before his commercial flight left for Los Angeles. Taking a cab from the airport to Boston's East Side, he arrived at the O’Neil’s apartment in twenty minutes. The old couple greeted him warmly. But they had bad news. The one boy, Peter, had died a week earlier from complications resulting from Polio. The boy had contracted the illness a month earlier and it had killed him. Having nothing left to give, Michael couldn’t muster up the energy to react. To him it was one more of life’s cruel turns in the road. As he stood in the living room the woman brought out the young blonde boy, Kenneth. He was a tiny thing with white blonde hair and blue eyes. Mrs. O’Neil handed Michael a photograph taken of the boys a month before Kenneth’s brother had died. As she did, the little boy stared quietly and intently up at Michael. There was a sense of loneliness about him. When the woman introduced the shy little boy as Kenneth and brought him to Michael, little Kenneth said nothing. A tired Michael forced a smile. There was no response from the boy. They were two wounded spirits in need of help.
Bringing out the boy’s suitcase, Mrs. O’Neil placed it at Michael’s feet. It was clear that the visit was over. As she walked them to the door, the woman handed Michael a coat for the boy. The couple then said their goodbyes to Kenneth and bid them both farewell. Michael and his new son left the dimly lit apartment to enter a world full of shadows. The taxi ride to the airport was uneventful. Sitting quietly, Kenneth showed no emotions. Perhaps God had been kind and the boy would have no serious psychological damage. There seemed to be no fear or anxiety. Kenneth had only Michael now.
Michael and Kenneth made their flight just in time. Once settled in for the long flight to Los Angeles, Kenneth was soon asleep. There he slept in a plane with a stranger he’d just met. As for Michael, he adjusted several small white airline pillows around the boy’s sleeping body. Then he covered Kenneth with a soft blanket. After a few minutes, Michael also dropped off into a badly needed sleep. There were no noises as the passengers rested quietly until the plane landed in Los Angeles late in the evening. People rushing to get their carry-on luggage out of the overhead bins awakened Kenneth and Michael. Everywhere travelers grabbed at bags and adjusted their wrinkled clothes. Then the pushing began as the doors opened and the passengers rushed to leave the plane. As they deplaned the two were met by the smell of smoggy LA air so familiar to Michael. Carrying the small boy in his arms Michael pushed their way through the crowded airport to the baggage area. With bags in-hand Michael, flagged down a skycap to carry their luggage out of the main building to the pickup area. The savvy skycap quickly flagged down a taxi for Michael. As the cabbie placed the bags in the trunk Michael thanked the skycap, handing him a five dollar bill. Then he gently placed Kenneth on the back seat beside him and instructed the cabbie to drive them to the East Side. The look on the White cabby’s face showed his alarm at driving into the East LA barrio. His fears were soothed by the gift of a twenty-dollar bill. As they drove off into the night Michael was happy to be home.
It was early morning when Michael and his new son made it through the front door. Following close behind, the Cabby left the luggage on the living room floor. After receiving his second tip the cautious cabby raced to his cab leaving the barrio as quickly as he could. Michael was relieved that they were now alone. He could unwind as he walked Kenneth upstairs to the larger of the spare bedrooms. He then pulled back the covers to find that Jimmy had changed the sheets and blankets on the bed. Before leaving Japan, Michael made one telephone call. It was to his Cousin, Jimmy Leon. Michael had Jimmy open up the house and get it ready. Jimmy had asked what was happening and why Michael was coming home. Michael said he wanted no questions and instructed Jimmy to tell no one of his arrival. His cousin honored his request. The house was ready. After tucking the little boy in, he returned to the living room. There he sat tired, alone, and confused by the cards life had dealt him.
After a while, exhausted and sore, he walked quietly through the house. Carrying Kenneth had been a strain. After many months of healing and therapy the internal scar tissue still remained tender. Whenever he exerted himself the dull pain around his groin area returned. His scars had healed but the lingering internal pain was still there. As Michael looked around the house, he could see that Jimmy had followed his instructions to the letter. The electricity and gas were on and the windows had been left open airing out the large house. Lifting the living room telephone receiver he found the line was dead. He would deal with this in the morning.
He needed a drink of whiskey very badly. Michael walked into the kitchen and took a glass from the cupboard. He then reached into the drawer next to the sink and pulled out a bottle of Jim Beam. His hands shook as he poured the dark brown liquid and gulped it down. He needed to calm his nerves and stop the pain in his groin. There was a second and then a third drink of whiskey in quick succession. By the fourth glass, he’d accomplished his mission. With his nerves calmed and the pain tolerable, Michael carried his glass and the bottle into the living room. Dropping onto the large overstuffed couch, he poured himself another glass of the mind numbing liquid. This time Michael sipped it slowly as he stared into the darkness. He was home but he wasn’t the same man who had once lived there. Michael was different, no longer a real man. Warm tears ran down his face as he thought about the loss of his manhood. His life had ended at the same time as Wellington’s. There was one exception. Wellington was at peace. Michael was left alive to be at war with himself. He was now a ghost of his former self living among men. The ghost drank the night away and finally fell asleep on the couch.
When he finally awoke from that drunken sleep the old grandfather clock chimed ten o’clock. It was morning. He dragged himself off the couch and stumbled into the kitchen. Suffering from a blinding headache, Michael started a pot of coffee. He then sat slumped at the kitchen table waiting for the thick black mix to brew. Michael rubbed his tired eyes while trying to collect his thoughts. The trip from Japan to Boston had drained him. The final leg from Boston to LA took what little was left. The drinking hadn’t helped either. When he was finally able to focus on his surroundings without pain, he looked around the kitchen. It was then that Michael noticed that the back door was open. He called to Kenneth but there was no answer. He walked quickly up the stairs and into the spare bedroom and found the bed empty. The boy wasn’t there. Next, he did a room-by-room search, again no Kenneth. Walking back to the kitchen his heart began pounding and his palms were sweaty. Michael was panicking. He raced outside searching the backyard but the boy wasn’t there. Michael next looked at the side yard and found the gate open. Now frightened for the child, his mind began to imagine the worst. He then quickly considered the possibility that the boy could have left the yard hours ago. Michael’s concerns grew. A one-year-old child could be anywhere. Thoughts of car accidents and worse began to flood his mind. Thinking that a stranger could have taken the boy, Michael was now in complete panic as he ran down the block in search of the little boy. Moving at a rapid pace he circled the block once looking into yards as he passed them. Still there was no sign of Kenny. Then as he turned the corner returning to his house, Michael saw something out of the corner of his eye. Kenny’s jacket was caught on a branch in a group of shrubs next to his neighbor’s home. Running up to the shrubs, Michael could hear talking. Coming near the house he heard a child’s voice. He followed the sounds making his way to the wooden porch. There behind the boards he could hear Kenny. Both relieved and angry Michael shouted at Kenny to come out. There was no reply. As he called out to Kenny a second time a board on the porch moved aside. Out came Kenny with a giggle and a broad smile.
Taking the boy by the hand, Michael scolded him as they made their way back home. When they finally reached the house a relieved Michael reached out and grabbed the boy. He held Kenny close, kissing the little boy’s forehead. It was at that moment that Michael realized how much he needed him. With the incident over, Michael made Kenny promise he would never leave the yard again. The boy nodded his head, yes. A relieved Michael left to do his chores. The rest of the day was spent cleaning his house. He went room-by-room washing, scrubbing, mopping floors and washing laundry. Michael had scrubbed the bathrooms until they were shipshape. The kitchen was now clean. He had made the place livable for him and Kenny.
It had been three days since his return home. That night Michael awoke to find Kenny cuddled close to him on the couch. The boy had no one else. His mother and father were gone and so was his brother. Aragón was now his life. Michael was the strong wall that stood between the little boy and the world. The two spent the night close together, the wounded warrior and the lost child. Both had a need to be filled. The following morning Kenny was up early joining Michael for breakfast. From that day on the boy stayed close by. Kenny now trusted Michael.
It had been a week and ten bottles of whiskey, since Michael’s homecoming. He drank himself to sleep every night. He was trying to fill the great void in his life. But the transition from warrior to father hadn’t been an easy one. His first responsibility was now to Kenneth or Kenny, as he called him. As a new father, Michael was no longer his own man. Over those ten days the boy had accepted Michael as a father figure. Michael always kept him nearby as he scrubbed and cleaned. With his home now shipshape and Kenneth adjusted, Michael Aragón was ready to move on with his life. The first pain and deep hurt that came with the loss of his manhood was now hidden safely behind a wall somewhere in his soul. Being surrounded by familiar things and having a routine made his life more normal. The heavy drinking and crying his eyes out had done the trick. The hate and anger were now sealed shut in a remote place in his mind. The worst of it was behind him now.
Two weeks after his return from Korea a very weary, troubled Michael came to me at the parish to make his confession. I was shocked at his gaunt appearance. The loss of so much weight left his face looking haggard. His eyes were hollow and vacant. Michael’s appearance was haunting. Gone was the muscular frame I’d known. Now tall and reedy, his clothes hung loosely on him. When I finally recovered from the shock of his appearance, I noticed the little boy he had in tow. I was surprised but asked no questions. Still, I was moved with great concern and pity for the man before me. After inviting them in, it was clear that Michael was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As we sat and talked his hands trembled and his words were slow and imprecise. He spoke as if he were unsure of the meaning of the words and was unable to fashion a single coherent chain of thoughts. Korea had left his mind uncertain, disjointed.
This time, without prodding from me, Michael asked to be confessed. In the past, I would’ve been the one to make the first move on the subject. But this time there was no need for me to hint or cajole. His soul cried out for mercy and forgiveness. So we left young Kenneth with my housekeeper, Flora, and proceeded to the confessional. His confession began with the sins of Hawaii and moved to his involvement with the Family. Finally, Michael’s time in Korea tore through his soul and into the words of his confession. I’d heard and seen many things in my life. As a priest, I’d heard the most evil and vile things. But I had never heard of killing on this massive a scale. It was too much to imagine. Crying as he described the bloody mangling and enormous loss of life, Michael spoke for over an hour about the inhuman carnage. His soul was weighted down with the guilt of having killed so many. Thousands had died in a few short hours and he had killed many of them. The battles he’d witnessed in the Pacific were nothing compared to the slaughter of Korea. Then he spoke of his loss. First, he talked about the death of Peter Wellington, his friend. He was crushed by the loss of Wellington. Now the last of the original Raiders Michael was feeling the guilt of it. He wanted to know why he was spared. But there are no simple answers in such matters. And then, with anguish in his words, Michael spoke of the sacrifice of his manhood. The words spoken in a whisper were hard for him to say. It was as if he were speaking about the death of another. When he spoke of his wounds and impotency, Michael was angry and in despair. Michael Aragón felt cheated by God. He was in search of someone or something to blame. First it was God. Then the guilty party was Colonel Hawkins. Finally it was the Marines. All were guilty in his twisted mind. As he flew into a tirade of anger and blame he broke down. Crying like a child at the loss of a parent, in Michael’s mind, his life was over.
As his confession ended I could feel his emptiness. There is a time when a soul has seen and done too much. At first, the soul adjusts to the sin and pain by cocooning itself. Much like an onion it wraps layer upon layer of protection around itself. Finally, the very protection it seeks entombs it. Isolated and sealed-off the soul feeds on itself. In this state, a man’s only hope is God. Michael Aragón was such a soul. Giving him his penance, I asked Michael to pray for himself and Kenneth. Then I directed him to return after prayers to the rectory. Michael prayed there in the church for over an hour emptying his soul of the poisons of war and death. Giving up Wellington’s soul to Lord Jesus, he asked Father God to make him a good papa to Kenny. In the end, he asked God to give him back his manhood. Then he returned to me at the rectory. I invited him to lunch. As we drank the sweet wine and ate the hot Mexican food together in the rectory garden, dear Flora kept the boy entertained and finally put him down for a nap. Drunk, we talked for several hours about his future and his responsibility to Kenneth. I thanked God that He’d given Michael the boy. The boy was his bridge to the future. With Kenneth depending on him there would be little time for pity parties. Michael would have to do his duty to his fallen friend and raise young Kenneth to become a good and decent man. Hugging him, I promised that God would heal all wounds. I told Michael that all would be well, affirming God’s grace and love. As his priest, I was sure of God’s grace. As his friend, I had my doubts. Finally, I made him promise that he would be the best father he could be. In the end, Michael gave his solemn word.
I can still remember those many years ago, a shattered Michael and tiny blonde Kenneth walking away hand-in-hand from the parish that afternoon. He left that day a more introspective man, one in search of an uncertain future. The battle for his soul had only begun. Tender with Kenneth, Michael transferred his love of self to the boy. Though he battled with self-hate, a wounded Aragón would give his love to the little boy and reserve his hate for himself. In a sense the world had transformed a loving young man into a killing machine devoid of feelings. Unable to give of himself to a woman, he saw the world as a place of war. Without the ability to demonstrate physical love he became a warrior first and a man second.
After he left my parish I went to his parents. As I suspected, he’d not told them of his return. When I gave them the news of Michael’s loss his father was brave but his mother wept hard and long. Papa and Mama wanted to go see Michael immediately but I asked them to wait a while. I explained that he would approach them when he was ready. I assured them that I knew what was best. They agreed to wait for Michael to make the first move. Next, I told them of their new grandson, Kenneth. They were both shocked and overjoyed. Many questions were left unanswered. In the end, we prayed.
The next few months were hard for Michael. For days on end, he wandered around the big house until the very early morning hours feeling anxious and alone. In the early morning hours, when he could no longer run from his fears, he was forced to think it all through. Michael finally accepted that he could never have what other men could. He could never marry or make love to a woman again. Those many long and sleepless nights also gave him time to think about what the future might have in store. Finally, he came to the understanding that for the rest of his life it would be only he and Kenny. There would be no one else. His only reason for being was his son, Kenny. And over the next few months they truly became father and son. They were good for each other. Michael doted on his little boy. As they became closer, he spent many hours each day playing with boy. As they played, the boy sensed Michael’s emptiness and need for love. The young boy filled the void. Michael’s love for Kenneth helped to heal his own broken heart and gave him a reason to go on.
They were a great deal alike both in temperament and personality. Each had a need to be loved, an emptiness to be filled. Because of this, for the rest of their lives Michael and Kenneth would have a deep and abiding love for one another. Having reconciled himself to his lot in life, Michael’s mind began to mend. But his soul did not find peace, it was only numbed. He gained weight and his body began to return to its former robust self. The ravages of the war fell away leaving Michael’s body almost whole again.
With his home and family life under control the time had come for Michael to reach out to the outside world. He and Kenny went first to his parents. From the moment they laid eyes on Kenny, he was theirs. Papa and Mama fell in love with their new grandson. Mama was instantly concerned with his welfare. As time went on they couldn’t get enough of him. Mama mothered the boy. Michael welcomed her attention knowing that Kenny needed a woman’s influence in his life. Kenny became their only topic at breakfast. Mama now had someone else to cook for. Her grandson became her life. Kenneth’s every need became her responsibility. She insisted on shopping for his clothes. When buying Michael’s groceries Mama made sure that Kenny had little gifts. She took the boy with her wherever she went. He was now her baby boy. It was this love that helped Kenny adjust to his new environment. Being given the stability and love he needed, Kenny blossomed. It was now time for Michael Aragón to go back to the real world; he had hidden long enough. He made ready to return to the Family.
As acting head of the Family, Jimmy Leon had been true to his word. He’d followed Michael’s instructions to the letter. Jimmy had kept the Family just as Michael wanted. He never overstepped his bounds and had followed the plan Michael had given him. Levy was right blood, is thicker than water. Michael’s cousin had kept faith with him. In Michael’s absence, the Family had resisted change and any growth beyond those barrios that Michael Aragón had initiated. Jimmy concentrated only on Family consolidation. Each barrio was given a seat on the Council. Once a member, the barrios were required to organize along the lines of the Brotherhood families. All barrio gangs were required to restructure into a military-like organization. Taking their seats on the Council seriously, the veteranos acted responsibly in Michael’s absence. There had been monthly meetings and only matters of importance were discussed. All decisions were arrived at democratically.
The first meeting with Jimmy was held at Michael’s house. Feeling it wasn’t his place to ask about the boy, Jimmy said nothing when he saw Kenny playing in the living room. He was happy that Michael had someone in his life. Michael, sensing Jimmy’s interest in the boy, explained that Kenny was now his son. Jimmy said nothing in response as he observed the toll Korea had taken on his cousin. He’d heard from others that Korea was a hellhole. He believed that the eyes were the gateway to the heart. That familiar vacant look in Aragón’s eyes told Jimmy everything he needed to know. He’d seen the same look during the last war. The man in front of him had lost much of himself. Michael Aragón was a changed man, colder, harder. Gone was the last of his innocence. As the two men got down to business, Jimmy knew that something profound had happened to his cousin over there. Hoping to help somehow, he assured Michael that all was as he had ordered. They discussed the various barrios and the veteranos. Later they talked about the Council and the decisions it had made while Michael had been away. Michael was particularly concerned about the Family’s relations with the Italians. Jimmy promised Michael that the Don and his Capo, Romano, were happy with the Family.
The Family business had grown. There had been no difficulties and the barrios had been controlled. Pimps and prostitutes had been kept in line. The numbers racket had been profitable. Dope had been delivered on-time and distributed efficiently. Finally, they discussed the legitimate businesses. Jimmy reported that all was going well on that front as well. All businesses were showing healthy profits. The veteranos running them were giving customers good service. Michael was happy when the meeting ended and the two parted.
Taking Kenny with him, Michael went to see Levy at his store. The old man was happy to see Michael but was startled by his appearance. It was an older more cynical man that stood before him. His young friend had been damaged somehow and Levy knew it. Having lost a great deal of weight Michael seemed to care little about his appearance. Detached and remote, Levy’s friend, had changed dramatically. Levy had seen it before in the Germany he had left behind. Many men he’d known had been broken by the humiliation and confiscation of their property and livelihood. The Germans took away their dignity and will to go on. They were wounded souls wandering about looking for a purpose in life. Michael had the same ghost-like appearance. Levy instinctively hugged him as a father would a hurting son. His affection for Michael was genuine.
When Levy finally noticed the boy, he picked him up and kissed him on the forehead and then offered Kenny some candy. It was then that Michael told Levy of his new son. Michael had a new son and Levy a second grandson. When they spoke of the Family businesses Levy had no need to bring out the books. He detailed the financials from memory assuring Michael that business had been good. The Family was becoming rich. The cash was handled judiciously and the careful collection of all monies had been done daily. The revenues spoke for themselves. If there had been problems collections would have suffered. To Benjamin Levy’s knowledge, Jimmy had enforced discipline and there had been no problems. New barrios joining the Brotherhood had fallen into line. As they restructured, a steady increase in monthly receipts from each barrio had occurred. The new veteranos had shown respect for the Brotherhood and had acted responsibly. Levy’s only concern was the lack of growth outside of the existing barrios. Feeling that the Family should expand as soon as possible, he worried that a rival Mexican group would make a move in the open territories. This could prove to be a problem for the Family. He didn’t trust the Mexicans from the south. Levy advised Michael to move to the other barrios more quickly.
After business was finished the three went for dinner at the Aragón’s café. Papa and Mama joined them at the table as they ate. Mama bounced Kenny on her knee and played noisily with her grandson. Papa also made the boy the center of attention. Papa and Levy drank beer and laughed as old men do. Levy had found his new family; he was an Aragón. Michael seemed more at peace in their presence. He felt good to be in Levy’s company. They spent several hours at the restaurant before leaving to get Kenny to bed. Levy left a happy man knowing that Michael was home and safe. Michael made his way home knowing that he wasn’t alone in the world.
The next week, Michael called for a council meeting to be held. The date was set and the place chosen was Tijuana, Mexico. A restaurant was rented for the meeting. Thirty members were present when Jimmy introduced Michael to the Council. Standing and addressing the Council members he spoke of the last year's successful consolidation. He then discussed the need for absolute secrecy and its importance to the Brotherhood’s relationships with the outside world. Next, Michael spoke of the Italians and their power, telling the Council that one day the Family would be as powerful as the Italianos. Everyone present agreed. He then spoke of a day when power would pass from the Italians to the Chicanos and the need to plan for such a time.
It was at this meeting that Michael placed before the Council his ten-year plan. The plan called for the Brotherhood to be in all the western states by 1960. Each barrio would be selected carefully. First, the Council would establish a planning group consisting of ten men who were to be chosen by secret ballot. This group would be responsible for assisting new members to the Council and the Brotherhood. The vote was placed before them and agreement was unanimous. A list with thirty names was passed around the table. Each family had one vote. By the end of the meeting ten names had been chosen. Michael’s was among them. That day Michael Aragón was chosen to lead the planning group. With business done the men drank a toast to the Brotherhood and its future. They spent the rest of the evening talking and drinking. By the time the Council meeting was over everyone present understood what the Family’s future could bring.
The next months brought about a dramatic change to the Council. It had matured. Working quickly the planning group completed its timetables for moving across the Southwestern United States. Targets were chosen and barrios placed on a list. The Council agreed to expand to all of the California barrios first. Second would be the move into Arizona, followed by New Mexico. Next would be Colorado and then Texas. The last state would be Nevada, the stronghold of the Italians. It was agreed that the Brotherhood would gather names of relatives who lived in the targeted barrios across the Southwest. Next, potential contacts would be identified. Once an agreement was reached by the planning group, emissaries would be sent. Membership on the Council would be offered only once. If resistance was found the matter would be discussed by the Council. At that time, a plan would be put in place to break the resistance.
Several members of the planning group offered solutions for breaking resistance. Each family would provide trusted soldiers to be sent into the target barrio. The Council would support them and the cost of their moves. The soldiers would then begin to infiltrate the local barrio families. Once enough information was gathered the Council would decide the fate of those responsible for resisting the Brotherhood's efforts. In time, a suitable replacement would be found for the resistors. The Council accepted the proposal and the plan implemented.
By 1952, the Brotherhood was beginning its new path to the Family’s future. California was now completely under the control of the Family. Fresno, Stockton, Oakland, and Sacramento were the last barrios to gain seats on the Council. There had been resistance only in Fresno. All of the families of California saw the benefits of the Brotherhood except the Rojas brothers. One by one, all the other barrios came into the fold. Each barrio’s representative accepted the Council’s power and absolute authority. Having made agreements with their rivals, the Council ordered the Rojas brothers eliminated. Ralph Mendez, an ex-marine, would be the new leader of the barrio in Fresno. Two weeks later, the Rojas brothers were no more. Before each move Michael consulted the Italians. The Italian Mafia was happy with the new revenues, profits were up. Don Gallo had begun to take notice and was attending the meetings with Romano and Michael. Profits from the barrios now made Don Gallo a power to be respected throughout the Italian Mafia. Over the years, Romano and Michael developed a strong friendship. Their strong bond was based upon the fact that Michael had never lied to the Capo. Trust meant everything to Romano. As Capo to Don Gallo, Romano had to be kept informed every step of the way. Michael had taken great care to ensure that there were no surprises. In this way the Italians could anticipate the growth of their network. The two handled enforcement and collections in a business-like way. Thanks to Levy’s meticulous book keeping abilities not one dollar went unaccounted for. The Italians appreciated the need to account for every dollar.
It was Family soldiers that ensured that the streets were kept under the strictest controls. The Mexicans had been true to their word. They never pushed for more than five percent and now Aragón controlled the streets. With each new barrio came greater control. Distribution network expansion followed. The Family included the new areas with military precision. The Council now directed the planning group to approach the Italians about the move into Arizona and New Mexico. Everyone knew that this would send shock waves through the Italian Mafia. When news of the meeting reached Romano, he quickly contacted the Don. Don Gallo scheduled a meeting with Romano to discuss the pending proposal from the Mexicans. The discussions were serious and they had to be discussed directly with Jimmy Leon. The Mexicans and Italians met on neutral ground. The Biltmore was again chosen as the location. Don Gallo spoke first and expressed his concern about how such a drastic move would be seen by the other Italian dons. Before carrying the proposal forward he would need to understand all of the benefits and problems associated with such a move. The Don asked Jimmy these questions directly. In turn, Jimmy asked Michael to speak on behalf of the proposal.
Michael began by speaking directly to Don Gallo explaining that he and Romano had worked very closely together to make the business work. He reminded the Don that the Chicano families had honored all agreements that had been reached by both parties. Assuring the Don that the Family had kept its word Michael thanked the Don for his having kept his part of the bargain. Michael then explained that the move would be beneficial for both parties and reminded the Don that the Family had shown him the benefits of the current arrangement. Speaking of how profits had grown and how problems on the streets of the barrios had been few, he contrasted the arrangement with problems in the Negro sections of town. Michael then stopped so that Don Gallo might speak.
Directing his comments to Jimmy the Don agreed with what Michael had said. Both sides had met their obligations with honor. In this matter the Don had no concern. But he wasn’t the only one who would sanction the new agreement. He cautioned that the Family’s wish to move outside of California might be viewed by some as a power play or worse, a positioning to take Italian markets at some future time. Waiting for Jimmy's response the Don asked him what he should say to this. Michael had anticipated the question and had prepared Jimmy with an answer. Jimmy assured Don Gallo that it was not, and had never been, the Family’s intention to overstep its bounds. He explained that for the Family it was a business transaction with honor. Jimmy then promised that the Chicanos would never break their word. "Our Family has built its business within the barrios, never venturing outside into the White or Nigger sections of town. We’ve remained doing business with our own kind. We have no intention of changing that. And we know these are your fields we tend, not our own." Jimmy’s words were sincere and meant to give the Don assurances about Chicano intentions.
Jimmy then explained that the Family had a second reason beyond the simple need to expand. He warned the Don that there were others who wished to begin offering products in the barrios. Jimmy told him that the Family had been approached. Others had offered ten percent of the profits if the Chicanos agreed. After giving the Don his sacred word of allegiance, Jimmy Leon shared with the Don the Family’s debt of gratitude to him and Capo Romano. Further, Jimmy assured the Don that the Family wished only to continue their relationship with the Italians. Jimmy again cautioned the Don explaining that others outside of the Family’s control didn’t see the benefit of an agreement with the Italians. Waiting for the Don's response Jimmy had said as much as Michael had told him to say.
"Who are these people who are offering this wonderful proposal?" Don Gallo asked in an arrogant tone. Michael watched the Don and listened carefully. Watching and listening intently, Romano said nothing. Not wanting to overstep his bounds, Michael respectfully asked the Don if he could speak. The Don looked first at Romano and then nodded his approval condescendingly. Michael assured the Don that the California families had made their choice, telling him that the families understood that blood was thicker than water. Neither the Don nor Capo Romano liked what they heard. Sensing the anger growing in the Don, Michael quickly changed his tactic. Michael stated calmly that there were times when one must choose to stand with a friend rather than move with a cousin. Michael said no more. He had sent the message and was sure Romano got it.
An obviously angry Don asked if Jimmy and Michael would excuse themselves and wait in the next room while he and Romano spoke. Once the Mexicans left the room, the Don exploded. Shouting at Romano, he demanded, "What is this bullshit about?" Then he asked Romano, "Who do these chili pepper eaters think they’re dealing with? These Mexican sons of bitches are trying to take us for a ride. I should blow their brains out right here and now!" His words were menacing and dripping with hate. Growing angrier by the minute, the Don was ready to kill. Romano had never seen Don Gallo so crazy. Knowing that he had to intercede on Michael's behalf, Romano respectfully asked Don Gallo if he could speak. Agreeing the Don told Romano to talk quickly, threatening that he had something to take care of. Reaching into his coat pocket the Don pulled out a revolver. He checked it for bullets and took off the safety. Placing it back in his coat pocket he signaled for Romano to talk. Now desperate, Romano could see that the Don was clearly out of control. Fearing for Michael and Jimmy’s lives, the Capo explained to Don Romano that Michael had sent them a message. While not saying the words, he had told them that the Mexican cousins from the south were offering the deal. Being careful not to overstep his bounds Romano assured the Don that he believed Michael when he said that the Chicanos had sided with a friend. Explaining that the friend he had spoken of was the Don, Romano assured him that the Chicanos were seeking his help. He stopped and waited for the Don to respond.
An angry, irrational Don Gallo asked if his Capo really believed that it was the Mexican cousins from south of the border offering the deal. Romano nodded, yes. "So, why would they side with us?" The Don asked out loud. Offering the Don his view, Romano explained that these were Mexican-Americans that they were dealing with. "They have no ties to the old country, just like we have no ties to Sicily. The Sicilians run their business and we run ours. The Mexicans in the south are as foreign to the Chicanos as the Sicilians in the old country are to us." The advice offered by Romano was flawless. As he walked around the room the Don said nothing for a minute or two. Picking up the chilled champagne bottle he poured himself a drink. The Don made up his mind as he sipped his champagne. Looking angrily at the door leading to the suite where Michael and Jimmy were waiting Don Gallo reached into his coat pocket and removed the pistol. Holding it in his hand, he removed his coat. As he tossed the jacket on the sofa, Don Gallo turned, looking pensively at Romano. Standing for a moment in the center of the room he held his pistol at the ready. Walking to the window he stared off into the distance for a long while. The silence was threatening. Suddenly, he ordered Romano to let the Mexicans in. Capo Romano had done all he could. It was now up to his Don. If Romano said one more word he could find himself buried in the same shallow grave as the Mexicans.
Before Romano called to the Mexicans the Don shouted that he would work with them. With his back still turned to Romano, Don Gallo placed the pistol on a nearby table. A relieved Romano heard the Don grumbling that he would talk to the other Italian families and champion this expansion. This he would do in an effort to stop the Mexicans from the south from gaining a foothold in Italian territories. The Don recognized that the Chicanos were burning a bridge with their relatives to the south. They would be doing the unforgivable, siding with others against their own kind.
Once Jimmy and Michael were back in the room, Don Gallo expressed the difficulty of his predicament. He told Jimmy Leon that he would have to go to New York and meet with the other Italian families to discuss the matter. The Don stressed that he was making no promises. He explained that a vote would first have to be taken. If the results were favorable then the don responsible for Arizona and New Mexico would have to be persuaded. The meeting was at an end. Curtly waiving the Mexicans away the Don told Jimmy that the Chicanos would receive his answer within the month. Thanking them, Don Gallo excused himself and left the suite.
Knowing that the Italians would be watching his every move Michael needed to do something decisive. He decided to contact a Mexican crime family in Mexico and stage a meeting. His plan was to make the Italians aware of the contact. But before this happened, he would let Romano know that the meeting was taking place. Knowing what angered Romano, Michael wanted no mistakes, no miscalculations. There would be no surprises. Capo Romano needed to be in control of all situations at all times.
The Morales family had been small time hoodlums for years. Operated out of Tijuana, Mexico, their specialty was smuggling contraband across the border between Mexico and the United States. The Tijuana family had many distant relatives in the barrio of East Los Angeles. Michael trusted the East LA Morales’. One of Michael’s lieutenants, Steven Morales, was related to the Tijuana, Morales’. Michael trusted the ex-marine who had fought in the South Pacific. Honest and dedicated to the Family, Steven would carry a note to Antonio Morales. While he didn't personally know the head of the Tijuana Morales', Steven did know how to reach him.
Antonio Morales reluctantly agreed to a meeting with the Brotherhood. Morales and other Mexicans from the south considered their Chicano cousins from the north to be arrogant. They disliked the fact that the Chicanos had forgotten their roots. Their Mexican cousins believed them to be turncoats. The Mexicans felt that the Chicanos had lost their ability to speak Spanish properly and had adulterated the Spanish language with English. Even worse, the Chicanos knew little of the more important aspects of Mexican customs.
That week Michael informed Romano that a meeting had been requested by the Tijuana Mexicans to discuss the possibility of a mutually beneficial alliance. Michael told Romano that he would be attending. The date was set. Anticipating Romano’s response Michael was tailed by three cars. The Italians followed him from Los Angeles into Tijuana. Each car tailed him for a short period of time. Every fifteen or twenty minutes the Italians changed tails.
The meeting was held at a popular restaurant, El Presidente. Michael Aragón had established contact with the heavy-set, balding man for a possible purchase of a Mexican bank. Morales had many questions about the Family and its business interests. Located on the Avendida Revolution, this obvious location made it easy for the Italians to follow. Michael didn’t want his witnesses to get lost. Giving them plenty of time to park and get into the restaurant, Michael finally entered. Morales, a portly man, wore a black suit and shirt with a red tie. His black and white shoes made him look like a gangster figure from the roaring twenties. Approaching Morales, the two men shook hands and sat at a large booth. The Italians sat across the busy restaurant from Morales and Michael, watching their every move. It was obvious that the Italians were to report immediately back to Romano. Revealing as little as possible, Michael guided the conversation back to banking. That was the extent of the conversation. With questions satisfied, the meeting quickly ended. Neither the Chicano nor the Mexican had an interest in belaboring the points. The two men shook hands and left the restaurant.
As Michael left the restaurant and returned to Los Angeles, the Italians followed close behind. During the long trip back, the Italians followed Michael at some distance tailing him as before. Once Michael entered East LA, the Italians left him to report to Romano. The bait had been laid out and the Italian’s had taken it. Michael had made it easy for them to provide proof of the Mexican connection. Don Gallo would take news of the meeting with him back East. By knowing where the meeting was to take place, Romano was made to look very good by his inside connection, Michael Aragón.
Two weeks later the Italian families met in New York. On the table was the Mexican offer. Speaking to the Commission about the potential benefits and problems Don Gallo based his opinions on the fact that the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans must never join forces. The meeting held in Tijuana was proof of that. Everyone at the table knew that this would change the balance of power in the Southwest for all time. Once Don Gallo completed his presentation, the don of the Arizona and New Mexico territories, Mario Martini, spoke. The fact that Don Gallo had a man on the inside of the Mexican gangs made the decision easier. Agreeing in principle with Don Gallo, Martini felt it was better for his family to use the Mexicans to control the streets in their own barrios. Assured by Don Gallo that the Mexicans could be controlled, Don Martini saw that his profits would be higher with less Italian soldiers. The Commission agreed. The Mexican-Americans would be allowed to expand into Arizona and New Mexico. But there would be conditions. First, since the Mexicans would receive more territory, they would get less of a percentage. Their take would now be three percent. In addition, Don Gallo’s request would be honored. The Mexicans would maintain California, but at a one percent profit. Second, conditions were set to ensure that control was truly maintained. After the first year, the agreement would be revisited. During the first year, if there were any problems, the Mexicans would lose all rights to the new territory. This was the deal that Don Gallo was ordered to take back to his Mexicans.
As the Don had promised, he gave the Mexicans his response to their proposal within a month of their last meeting. The parties met a week after the Don’s return from New York. He gave the Mexicans the Commission’s ultimatums telling them that there could be no negotiations. The Italian demands were accepted without question just as directed by Michael.
Levy was right, the Family needed to grow. With Levy’s guidance Michael was prepared for the outcome. The two had spent many hours discussing what might happen. It was Benjamin who felt the Italians would cut the profit margin for additional territories. Having anticipated the move by the Italians the loss of two percent in California wasn’t a problem. The Brotherhood was willing to forfeit the two-percent for control of the new barrios. Beyond the money, the Brotherhood needed to consolidate power in all the barrios of the Southwest before rival Chicano gangs gained a foothold. Levy’s warnings had been heeded.
According to Levy the difficult task now would be connecting with the police and judges that the Italians owned. Gaining political clout would take time and money. Michael and the planning group understood that one day they would be strong enough to challenge the Italians; it would only be a matter of time. But this couldn’t be done without political muscle. Knowing that it had taken the Italians two generations to become connected to the powerful, Levy cautioned Michael that money hadn’t been enough to guarantee cooperation. "With the powerful," Levy said, "trust is what’s needed." Judges were political people, able to be persuaded through elections. And elections cost money. People running for office needed friends. The police were another matter. Greed could be the only reason for a cop to cooperate. And greed was a dangerous thing; its appetite could never be satisfied. A renegade cop was by nature an unstable asset. His greed could turn to cruelty. The Family would have to select its cops very carefully. The Chicanos had only just begun to become part of the American system. Gaining powerful contacts was now a priority for the Brotherhood. These political allies would have to be carefully cultivated. Michael’s planning group would implement these activities. The Brotherhood would need many powerful friends and he would ensure that they bought them.
In the mean time, the Brotherhood would watch and wait. Growing the business within the barrios and adding new ones was the priority. Big money was needed to get to where they wanted to be. And Levy would make every penny count. They would also begin to look for opportunities to gain friends everywhere they could. Levy advised that political campaigns were the place to begin. This meant pay-offs. But the money would have to be clean. It would have to be traceable back to a legitimate source. As the Brotherhood began to buy clout they started small. Levy gave a few thousand here and a few thousand there. Each business owner was advised by Levy who to vote for and how much to give. That is how the money came from legitimate businesses. Next, immediate family members were called upon to give money. Finally friends were brought into the game. Brotherhood money was funneled through trusted friends in order to make more friends. As a result, new friends began to appear, friends with power. When the first Chicano congressman in California ran for office the Family pulled out all stops. Businesses, family, and friends gave money. Envelopes full of cash appeared at his doorstep. Fundraisers were held and the money poured in. The Brotherhood had a friend for life.
It was now July of 1952, and Michael Aragón was growing into his role as the silent leader of the California families. With Levy’s help he learned his craft well. Jimmy Leon continued to be the front man. It was Aragón who personally saw to expansion into new barrios. With new territory came more money. And more money brought with it greater power. As power was gained Levy preached caution and restraint. Aragón listened to his good friend and learned. Benjamin first wanted intelligence gathered and analyzed insisting that each step be well-planned and executed. Next, came the detailed plans. Finally, after the Council agreed on the strategy the plan was implemented. Nothing was left to chance. Money had to be protected, nurtured. As time passed, the Brotherhood grew. The new council members had to be taught the Brotherhood’s way of doing business. Concerned with controlling the collection and flow of monies Levy directed all new families on how to handle cash. He also oversaw the use of funds. Aragón’s planning group saw to that as well.
With expansion into the southwestern states exploding, Aragón’s time became precious. There was barely enough time for his son and his legitimate businesses. The Brotherhood took up what little time was left. Thankful that he had Benjamin Levy, Michael used him as his counselor on all matters. Levy counseled him on his dealings within the Brotherhood and with the Italians. Regularly attending meetings, Levy was always treated with respect and the veteranos listened carefully to his advice. Never was his counsel on money matters neglected. When he spoke the men acted. Every purchase of property Aragón made was now sanctioned by Levy. Even the recent purchase of a Mexican bank didn't move forward until Benjamin agreed. The two were now always together.
During those winter months the rains and winds were heavy. The atmosphere was dark and depressing. It was as if the world was oppressed. Both Levy and Aragón felt uneasy. Even Jimmy felt the depression. Aragón thought it odd that Levy wanted to maintain his liquor store given his heavy involvement with Brotherhood businesses. But Levy insisted on being his own man with his own business. It was understood that Benjamin would always be his own man.
It was late in the evening and Aragón was at home with Kenny. The rain was pouring down. The loud thunder shook his nerves as lightening flashed in the skies. Having just put the boy to bed for the night, Michael had gone into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee. While pouring a cup, Miguel, one of Michael’s personal bodyguards, called to him from the living room. When he got to there, Michael found Jimmy standing quietly and looking anxious. Angry and upset, Jimmy blurted out the bad news. "Michael, I have some something to tell you. Old Man Levy’s just been killed." Jimmy went no further, knowing that this would be a heavy blow to Aragón. Everyone knew that he and Levy were almost like father and son. A stunned Aragón sat down on the living room sofa. Not wanting to believe what he had just been told, his voice shook with emotion as Aragón asked Jimmy what had happened. "One of our guys accidentally killed him." Jimmy told him not wanting to go any further. "What the hell do you mean one of our guys killed him?" Aragón demanded now confused and angry. "It was Lucero. He's been chipping. The guy got loaded on Horse again and went to Levy's liquor store. He was pissed-off and stoned; he was showing off for his guys. Then Lucero started giving Benjamin a hard time over collection receipts. Before he knew it one of his people accidentally shot Levy in the head." Jimmy could only shake his head in disgust as he ended his explanation.
In a state of shock Aragón couldn’t think clearly. He remained quiet for several minutes then he poured himself a Scotch. As Michael watched the rain coming down hard from the large living room windows he regained his self-control. Michael would do what he’d always done. Just as in battle, he would control his thoughts. Survival was always the first order of business and all other thoughts second. His disciplined mind had been well-trained by war. He would deal with Lucero and his men first. Then he would mourn. Walking back to the couch from the window, he ordered Jimmy to get Lucero and his men out of East LA. They were to be taken to the Sanchez family in Bakersfield. He wanted no mistakes, no trail for the police to follow. Lucero knew too much and had to be safely tucked away somewhere. Then Aragón threw Jimmy a set of keys. He ordered him to have all of Levy's accounting books and ledgers taken from his house. Aragón wanted them safely tucked away in his own home. This needed to be done immediately. Levy’s house was to be left neat and clean. Great caution had to be taken to make things appear as normal as possible. The last thing he told Jimmy was to put the word out on the street that a couple of young Negro guys were seen at the liquor store just before the shooting took place. As the men left to carry out Aragón’s orders Jimmy turned to Aragón. "Michael," he shouted from the front door, "I'm sorry. I know you loved the old guy." With those words Jimmy smiled weakly at Aragón closing the door behind him.
Levy's grandson, Benjamin, was being babysat by Maria, Miguel's wife. Calling to Miguel, Aragón ordered him to get to Maria and let her know what had happened. She was to remain with the boy and pretend that all was normal. After ordering his body guards to leave him alone a shattered Aragón spent the rest of the night alone wandering the old house. In his life, he had only had two real friends, but now Wellington and Levy were both gone. He felt confused and angry that Levy was gone. Aragón buried his face in his hands as tears rolled down his cheeks. He was tired of being strong and losing those closest to him. He felt cursed. First, his brother was killed and then all of his Raider friends. Later, Wellington was killed. And now Benjamin Levy was dead. They were all gone. Once again he was alone. Aragón spent the night remembering Levy and all the things he had taught him, he felt empty. He was void of any feelings and emotion. Once again, he was reconciled to his fate. He accepted his destiny to lead a lonely life. Finally, a drunken Aragón fell asleep in the early morning hours. Exhausted, as he drifted into the blackness of sleep his last thoughts were of his friend Benjamin.
The next morning Michael received a call from Maria. The police had been to her home. They questioned her about what she knew. They had seemed convinced when she told them the old man had no enemies in the barrio. Before leaving with little Ben Levy they had taken Levy's personal papers from the house. As the conversation ended Maria told Aragón how sorry she was that Levy was dead. Everyone knew how close they had been.
Two days later, Aragón received a visit from the Department of Social Services. The police had found a will. Having no other living relatives, Levy’s instructions were to leave the boy under Michael’s guardianship. Arrangements were made for the boy to be picked up through Aragón’s attorney, Fienstein. By the following day, Aragón had a second son and Maria was drafted to care for both boys. Now having to be strong for all of them, Aragón would be the immovable wall standing between them and the cruel, ugly world outside. He solemnly promised himself that his boys would never be hurt. Aragón would follow Levy’s advice and provide insurance for his boys. And there was no insurance like money. He would be sure that they had plenty of it.
Lucero and his four men still had to be dealt with. It was decided that the men could never return to LA. Three were executed outright in the desert before reaching Bakersfield. Only Lucero and one other were left alive. They now knew the price to be paid for talking. Their lips would remain sealed. The word was sent out to the Brotherhood that Lucero was no longer one of them. No longer a member of the brotherhood, Lucero would pay with something more meaningful than the loss of his life. He was now a stranger with no friends. Worse than that, he had no power. That was the one thing that mattered to him. His whole reason for being was to have power. Now he had none. No longer able to show-off for his friends, Lucero had lost the respect he’d sought. By this act Aragón had failed to heed Levy's advice. He had done Lucero a small disservice. He should have killed him but never do him a small disservice.
Soon after Levy was killed Michael came to me to make his confession. This is how I learned of the important role that Levy had played in the Brotherhood’s affairs and in Aragón’s personal life. The two had been a great deal alike. Each had been raised to be independent. And life’s unfairness had forced them both to be strong. Aragón missed Levy a great deal. His death had left a great void in Michael’s life. Fortunately Levy’s grandson, little Benjamin, helped Aragón to cope with the loss. For him, little Ben was a part of his grandfather. He was piece of Levy that Aragón would always cherish. Somehow this comforted him.
As the weeks passed after Benjamin Levy’s death Aragón became a dutiful father to both boys. He grew to love little Benjamin as his own. He was happy that Kenny had someone to spend time with. Aragón watched the boys grow close in their short time together. Michael rarely went out without his sons. Aragón spent as much time as possible with them at home. Perhaps it was the fear of losing one of them that kept him from taking them out in public to often. Michael was a dedicated father but he never spoiled them. In fact he was a strong disciplinarian. Both boys learned quickly that their father wouldn’t tolerate foolishness. They were taught very early the meaning of respect and honor and the importance of obeying without question. He wanted them to grow into strong serious young men. So he kept on them. He allowed them to play hard but he forced them to work just as hard. Doting on his two sons, he cooked all their meals and read them stories at night. When Aragón was away, Mama Aragón would take them to her home and cook for them. She loved both her grandsons. Papa Aragón would bring them to the café to show them off to his patrons. Proud of his little men, Papa was given to spoiling them whenever they were at his restaurant. In his eyes they could do no wrong. Aragón was unhappy with his father’s permissiveness. This caused the two to have words on several occasions about the boys being spoiled. He insisted that his father be more disciplined. Each time Papa agreed. Once Aragón left, Papa resumed his spoiling of his little men. After all, they were his grandsons. Who knew better than their grandpa.
On the rare occasion that Aragón went out alone he dined at the El Cid Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Watching the Flamenco dancers was his passion. He marveled at the discipline of the dancers and their dedication to their art. Aragón spent many hours learning the intricate moves. With all that had happened the only person he felt safe to spend time with was his cousin Jimmy. They dined together and spent their nights listening to the haunting Spanish guitar music. Both enjoyed the guitar playing and Gypsy dancers. The Flamenco became Aragón's diversion from his life at home and work. The owner of the El Cid, Señor Cadiz, became Aragón’s friend. Often he joined Michael and Jimmy for dinner. The tall, elegant Spaniard frequently invited him to rehearsals for new acts coming in from Spain. Over the months, Aragón broke away and spent a few hours watching rehearsals.
Time was passing quickly, winter quickly became summer. It was a long, hot summer. The grind of each day meant little to him. Levy’s death had left a large hole in Aragón’s life. Long weeks turned into longer months. The Commission agreed to allow the Brotherhood to move into Arizona. Emissaries were sent to several barrios and the results were better than expected. The Arizona families were ready for a change. They needed outside support to stop the gang warfare within the barrios. Acting as intermediaries, the California families negotiated truces. Within a few months agreements were reached. Now the Arizona Chicanos were ready to deal. Four of the Arizona family heads were invited to join the Council. This pleased the Italians. Don Gallo and Romano were happy that the plan was on schedule. Soon after that the Commission agreed to the move into New Mexico.
By September of 1952, the first joint Brotherhood Council meeting was held in Los Angeles. The Arizona families accepted council rules for all future business. As always, they were allowed to control their own barrios. They would run their own businesses and begin to reorganize along the lines of the California families. Each veterano took the oath of loyalty pledging his life and honor. The words were loud and strong, "Blood in, Blood out." This is when the Mexican-American Mafia, La Eme, was born. When Aragón was asked to speak he gave the new members a clear understanding of Family honor. There was one Family with one common goal and one set of rules. If these were violated a price had to be paid. And there was only one acceptable payment, that was the forfeiting of a human life.
February of 1953 had arrived, and Michael Aragón was tired. The New Mexico families were in the fold. With the Eme now in Santa Fe, Aragón had returned to his roots. Leaving Spain for the New World, it was to Santa Fe, that the Aragóns had gone in the Sixteenth Century. There they had lived until his grandfather moved the family to Los Angeles, in the nineteen twenties. Leaving behind the high country that had been the family’s home for over three hundred years, the Aragóns had come to find work in California. It was a place to start a new life. East Los Angeles was where Papa Aragón’s new roots were. And there they were to stay.
Aragón’s days were long and his evenings short. This left little time of his own. He was now alone and feeling overwhelmed. When he spent time with me at the rectory, I pestered him. I wanted Aragón to come back to the Church. We spoke often of the boys. Their future was my greatest concern. The boys needed a responsible father. His sons had to be better cared for. He knew that I was right but this was not the time. That same month, I sent him a woman named Anna. She was in need of help and protection. I asked Aragón to place the woman to work as his housekeeper. He finally agreed. From that moment on his life would never be the same.
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