My name is David Pina. I am 32 years old and I am from the city of Montebello. It’s right next door to East LA. Now I live in Boyle Heights. It’s a different neighborhood, but it’s not that far from work.
I have been out of prison now; I want to say about nine and a half months. I have just finished doing nine years, so I am just trying to stay on the right track, and that is pretty much it.
Interviewer displays the photographs.
Damn! (Laughs.) Shit, I look younger. I look crazy! I look like... oh man!
Man, it’s a big difference! I look like my brother, damn.
That’s crazy. That looks really crazy. Those came out cool man! I think my mom would have liked to have seen that. She passed away in 2007 when I was in prison. This looks weird. I am not used to seeing myself like that. It’s kind of funny.
It’s like two different people. I’m like my dad in the pictures without all that stuff on my body and my face. You can kind of tell my dad’s features. In this one, I look younger, but in this one, I look older. I look like my brother. I think I am just used to seeing this (looking at the tattooed picture) and this one shocks me! It’s good. You did a good job, eh? You did a good job.
My family is going to trip out when I show them these! What do the tattoos mean to me? A lot of it is bullshit, a lot of prison stuff mainly. The ones on my face are prison things or my gang, gang-related tattoos. A lot of the ones on my body are prison things and they mean certain things from prison. When I went to prison I was not this fresh (points to the photoshopped picture), but I did not have nothing really. By the time I came out, I had everything done. I think I like it better without the tattoos. How do you feel walking down the street?
Just now, walking in the street, to tell you the truth I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel safe, because it is not my neighborhood. This is someone else’s neighborhood, other gangs.
So I feel like I have to keep my guard up because you never know what could happen. At any moment someone could come up and ask me where I am from. From there, I know what the results are going to be. It is the same thing if they are in my neighborhood if someone is not supposed to be there, you know? The same thing will happen to them as will happen to me in someone else’s neighborhood. It’s not that I am going out looking for trouble, and even if I was... Even if I told them I am trying to change my life, my body, my head, my face. You’re (tattoos are) telling them differently you know?
The only place that I feel comfortable is in my own neighborhood, and at that, I don’t because of the cops. So, it’s either someone’s going to bang on you or you are going to go to prison.
If I was this guy (looking at the photoshopped picture) I would be normal, like I don’t have to worry about nothing. Just normal, like I don’t have to worry about gang hitting me up or anything like that. Until I can get some taken off, that’s just the way it is right now. I’m working on it. I joined the gangs when I was a kid. I got in at 11 years old and then like two months later I got into my neighborhood (gang) I went to juvenile hall. I was only supposed to do six months, but the things that I did in there...pretty much, well, you can say I committed another crime in there. It made my stay go from six months to about seven years. They kept me there till I was 18 years old.
I did all those years straight, and then I got out at 18 and lasted out here for four years. I got busted and went back to prison for nine years and now I am out. I have been out for nine and a half months now. I pretty much did most of my me in there, more than I have spent out here. So I am used to being in there. I don’t want to be in there, but I know how it is. So it kind of comes naturally to me. As a kid, I looked up to my homeboys, my neighborhood, and my mom. Everyone is from my neighborhood (gang). My brother, god rest in peace. Pretty much everyone is from my neighborhood. The rest of the interview to be found in the book.