HS: So what is your connection to Cholo graffiti? Why did you take such care in documenting this?
Howard Gribble: A very interesting piece! First of all the roll-call lists half a dozen members by their given names rather than the gang nicknames so often seen.
Secondly, we have the "RXS" marking on the left. In her excellent book "Wallbangin' " author Susan A. Phillips offers considerable speculation as to the meaning of the "R-S" marking often observed in early gang graffiti. At least in this case, the meaning is clear. To the right we have spelled out the gang name, "Royal Saints".
Under the "RXS" is "CxS" for "con safos", which means "protected by God". And without a doubt, one would expect nothing less than God's blessing for them for they are, after all, the "Royal Saints"!
Political awareness is also represented by the "Chicano Power" at extreme right. Such sentiments were rarely seen with gang graffiti at the time.
Howard Gribble: "Jardin" (Spanish for "flower garden") is an archaic gang name for the South Los Angeles community of Gardena. The term fell out of popular usage at least 40 years ago and only an Original Gangster (called a Veterano in Chicano gangs) would remember this bit of trivia today. "Gilbert" did this clean piece of work.
HS: How large of a geographic area do these pictures cover?
Howard Gribble: "Los Tulies" was a part of North Redondo Beach, which was also known as "Jim Town" in the 1950s. The few remaining gangsters in the increasingly gentrified Redondo Beach now prefer "North Side Redondo" or, as also included here, R13. Loco, presumably the writer here, has also seen fit to express his affection for Gloria.
HS: Did you deliberately seek out gang graffiti to photograph or did you photograph what you happened across in your normal travels?
Howard Gribble: More than half a century before Dog Town became a popular line of merchandise for skateboarders there was a neighborhood in Los Angeles bearing that nickname. It took its name from the city animal shelter (or, as it was known then, the "dog pound") located nearby. The clothing logo, rendered in classic Chicano gang style lettering, is obviously "inspired" by (if not ripped off from) these old placas. It seems highly unlikely that the homies would trademark their vandalism so they missed out...but who of us would have ever guessed?
"Trese", which appears below, is Spanish for the number 13, which was an important icon in gang grafitti.
Howard Gribble: "Deadeye" from Dog Town has created this placa with a deft hand. It should be noted that the swastika, as used here, is more of a decorative device than a political symbol. Most gang members of the time would have had only the vaguest notion of its association with the Nazis.
Howard Gribble: The Chola Queens were a female gang from Lawndale. In an interesting and common departure from proper grammar, their gang nicknames are proceeded by "La", the Spanish equivalent of "The". Other members at the time included "La Chica", "La Chuca" "La Negra" and "La Shorty".
HS: I know you have commented on the use of swastikas in the placas as a pretty common motif, but you're opinion is that they are probably not related to Nazi/race politics? Why do you think it is as common as it is?