January 1864. The Civil War has raged across the nation for years, touched everyone, and taken its bloody toll on the Union and Confederacy. The missing, wounded and killed number in the thousands and the count continues to rise. When John G. Slover enlisted as a Private in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, he never expected to find himself on the Kansas plains fighting Indians as well as Confederate guerilla units. Through his daily entries in a saddlebag diary we can read what he endured and from his view better understand the misery of the time.
The Alvin Museum Society received the John G. Slover diary in a weathered, ragged state and has spent years transcribing it to share with the public.Through the Storms: The John G. Slover Diaryprovides a unique opportunity to follow him from birth in New York, through the Civil War, and onto his death in Alvin, Texas where he was a pioneer member of the community.
The Alvin Museum Societyof Alvin, Texas is a non-profit organization and appreciates your support by purchasing this non-fiction book. All proceeds go to the Society. Researchers, Civil War era historians, and lovers of history will enjoy this work for the insight it provides.
Aside from battling the flu, allergies, and miserable weather like everyone else, I’ve maintained a busy schedule these past seven months. I completed the writing of my YA novel, Mr. Charon, edited the work until I grew cross-eyed, and then fought off anxiety attacks while beta readers reviewed it. Along with my volunteer activities to assist children with their reading skills at an elementary school in my community, I was asked to coach a Second Grade Creative Writing Team for their participation in UIL (University Interscholastic League) competition. And this was all followed with a fantastic literature project in which AP (Advanced Progress) high school seniors reviewed my novel, Mr. Charon, and provided their insights on the young adult book.
Looking back, I realize how valuable those experiences were to me (regardless of the long hours and anxieties.) Mr. Charon is now off to the editor and publisher for their reviews, the second graders bravely stepped forward and took part in the UIL competition, and the AP high school students renewed my faith in the existence of intelligence during the teen years. Their candid reviews were excellent feedback for an author.
While I cannot speak much about my YA novel, Mr. Charon, because it must undergo further trials and await an official public debut, I can say that the book was received exceptionally well by all ‘test’ audiences and I’m eager for its release.
With regard to my reading and mentoring volunteer work and Creative Writing coaching with elementary children, I reaped many rewards. The children’s smiles alone are worth their weight in gold. This is my fifth year of volunteering to work with elementary school children. It affords me the opportunity to be involved with our educational process (to a degree) both as an observer and participant. I’m able to interface with sincerely dedicated and wonderful teachers who struggle within the constraints of low pay, restricted resources, and increasing testing and educational demands on their time. But most of all, I’m hopefully touching at least one child in a way that will spur them on to be far more than they ever dreamed possible in their lives.
As for the AP high school students—well, I was truly impressed. They took the literature project seriously, wrote their reviews with thought, and expressed their opinions with maturity (often far more than I’ve seen in reviews of various authors’ works on social media outlets.) During my recent morning talk with the students and their teacher, I observed the positive connection and educated environment between them, and how such supported their individual growths. That was accomplished through love, dedication, and the professionalism of their teacher.
When I returned to being a novelist after a career in security management, I never realized how many personal rewards I would receive or the doors that would be opened to me because of it. And I purposely left teachers unnamed in this writing for fear of overlooking someone, but I’m confident they will know I’m speaking about them if they read this.
Pay it forward. I’m a strong proponent of volunteering in your community to help others. Everyone has a talent they can share. It’s simply a matter of finding a spot in the world where your skills and kindness can best be applied. At the elementary school where I volunteer, I’m only one of many.
In hindsight, I want to apologize to my own teachers of long ago for the misery I dealt them while a student. I’m sure I was responsible for many of them needing therapy, developing a drinking problem or drug dependence. But, to the one that said I would never accomplish anything in my life—I proved you wrong many times over….
When I asked “Ringo” DeLeon, President of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, why he worked in a gang unit, the 26 year veteran and Sergeant from Corpus Christi P.D. never hesitated with his reply: “I hate bullies.” Short, to the point, yet prolific when given thought.
Say the word “Bully” and generally the first image that comes to mind is of a punk kid at school harassing a quiet, mild mannered kid. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and sexes. They can be a boy or girl, young or old, man or woman, an individual or a group, from any race, and be rich or poor. Last year several incidents occurred with upper-middle-class high school girls bullying female classmates to the point that they committed suicide. They bullied because it made them feel good. Kids who enjoy bullying others are screwed up. Adults that enjoy bullying others are screwed up. That is the quick Psych 101 course synopsis.
Bullying ranges from schoolyard intimidation to spousal abuse to drug cartels’ murderous acts. Yes, drug cartels are bullies, dangerous bullies, but bullies nonetheless.
So, how does this relate to gangs? Simple. Gangs are just another level of bullies that get off on violence toward others in order to achieve their goals—and they feed off of the fears of everyone they come in contact with. Power and Control: the key essence of gangs.
Do you have gang problems in your neighborhood, community, or city? The answer is ‘yes’, only you may not be aware of the full extent of their presence. If you answered ‘no’ then you either live atop a mountain in a monastery or you keep your head buried in the sand to avoid accepting reality. Some towns and cities have gang presence more than other regions, but the problem is out there and it’s all too real.
There were 850 attendees at the Texas Gang Investigators Association (TGIA) conference held the week of June 23rd in San Antonio, Texas. The men and women came from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their ranks varied as much as the sizes of their departments. While some attendees were from formal, dedicated gang units, others were from patrol divisions whereby you have to be the “Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of None.”
TGIA provides them with 31 continuing education hours for their state license, up to date training, and the latest intel on the evolution of gangs and cartels. The criminal world of gangs is a constantly changing environment that requires continual modification of law enforcement tactics.
TGIA honored me for the third year in a row by inviting me back to sign and sell my books, and be with my former brotherhood. It was an honor I definitely do not take lightly.
Throughout my two days at the conference I met old friends, made new friends, and happily learned I had loyal readers of my novels anxiously awaiting more. Erik Larson, the author of Lone Star Daybreak and an attendee of the conference, was present and we had a great talk about the world in general. But with each conversation held, I casually asked a question to get a general consensus: “What do you think is the main problem coming from gangs?” The basis of every answer was always related to drugs—drug cartels, drug money, drug deals, drug transport, and drug violence.
Small gangs primarily finance their growth through drug sales and consolidating territorial controls through mutually benefitting agreements with other gangs. As they grow, their operations expand into human trafficking, prostitution, robberies, fraud, home invasions, burglary, auto theft, murder and assassination contracts, alien
smuggling, extortion, and more. They recruit teenage girls through the Internet then force them into prostitution, using them locally, or trading and selling them off to other gangs across the country. Runaways are excellent targets, grabbed off the streets of major cities and most are never seen again.
How can law enforcement compete against the high flow of drug money? Cocaine alone is a $30 billion a year business. Most agencies can barely fund their principal divisions of patrol and detectives, much less specialized units such as gangs. Citizens don’t realize that the majority of law enforcement agencies in America consist of 30-50 personnel at the most, if they are fortunate to have that many. And the temptation of making more money in a few hours than you will make in a year has been the downfall of many a man and woman.
Ever heard of “narcotecture?” Cartel drug kings have so much money that like the super rich oil Arabs who make everything from gold, including their commodes, the Cartel kings have special made mausoleums constructed with imported Italian Marble, gold fixtures, and air-conditioning. Air-conditioning! For a mausoleum! These incredibly ornate tombs started the term “narcotecture.”
America is the largest consumer of drugs. Coke (not to be mistaken with the drinking kind) is a social drug used at every level of our society – government officials, businessmen, the entertainment industry, clergy, and on down to street level punks. Gangs can easily make $30-40k per day selling coke. Profit is turned so fast that it’s ridiculous.
A kilo of coke in Columbia is $2,000. By the time it gets to users in the States, it’s been cut so many times that there is easily a $100,000 profit. Combine drug money with the cash flow from other gang operations (prostitution, fraud, drug transport, and so forth), and the average citizen cannot begin to comprehend the extent of money that gangs have at their disposal.
“Everyone has a price” is the belief of gangs and cartels. Judges have been bought. Lawyers are retained by gangs. Federal agents and law enforcement at state and local levels have been caught selling out to gangs. If people in these prominent positions can be bought, then how can we expect a jobless person with a family, struggling to support them, to turn away from a high dollar offer for only a few hours work?
Unfortunately, there are still people in denial about how serious the gang problem across America is and how relationships between gangs and cartels are so heavily intertwined. America’s war on drugs is only viewed as successful by government officials with little grasps on reality or are trying to keep their jobs. The Secretary of Homeland Security testified before Congress that our borders were completely safe. Talk to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who daily risk their lives and you’ll learn that fighting the drug war, stemming the flow of drugs, is similar to going to the beach and trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. You hold back part of one wave while the remainder simply flows around you.
All along the US border, ranchers live in daily fear of gang organized drug caravans coming across their land. South Texas Sheriffs have testified to the overwhelming problems their departments face with the increasing violence against families living along the border.
The gang problem only continues to grow. A majority of gangs outside of prison are controlled by gangs within our prisons. Gangs such as MS-13, who pride themselves on merciless revenge and cruel retributions, send enforcers to their upstart gangs throughout the states to teach them how to properly be members. Other words, how to be more vicious.
The times have definitely changed. The codes that criminals such as the old Mafia families lived by are long gone. Now gangs are comprised of younger, more restless thugs who view violence as the ultimate action. The drug cartels murdered 35,000 people in Juarez, Mexico in the last four years. Innocent people were killed and have disappeared. Decapitation became a cartel gang trademark. Stateside gangs wanting to be like the “big-boys,” have followed suit even to the point of making ‘snuff videos’ of their murders.
Do the research yourself if you still believe there isn’t a problem. In Houston, you can go to Stop Houston Gangs.org and view some of the gangs we have. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s reality.
Gangs are bullies. They serve no purpose in life except to further destroy our society like a cancer spreading through one’s body. They make whole communities live in fear. They steal, rob, and murder innocent people. They cost taxpayers billions of dollars yearly. And they respect nothing but further violence.
What can be done about gangs? First, understand there is a problem. Support your local law enforcement by reporting suspicious activities in your neighborhoods. Talk to your neighbors and watch out for each other.
Keep your children away from gangs as best possible by talking to your kids, letting them know they are loved and encourage their education in schools. Go to
their schools and talk to administrators about school bullies. The school boards generally flat deny that any problem exists, but when you are persistent, they will act—even if it means you must go to the media about the school board. When your kids think being “gangsta” is cool, let them know what losers “gangstas” really are. And most of all, pay attention to what your kids do on the Internet. Be a parent before being their ‘buddy.’ Don’t let your child commit suicide before you learn a problem existed.
Like “Ringo” DeLeon, I hate bullies too.
* * * *
Before I close, I wish to express my gratitude to the men and women of the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the dangerous work they daily perform on behalf of the citizens of our great state, as well as for our magnificent country. Teachers and law enforcement related personnel do not receive adequate payment for the critically important work they do, especially when compared to the frivolous mega-salaries of sports figures today.
Organizing an educational, informative conference such as the Board of T.G.I.A. does each year, is to be commended. The overall planning involved is astounding and the Board’s efforts are displayed in the quality of their conference.
Thank you, Mr. Ringo DeLeon, President of T.G.I.A., Mr. Patrick Natividad, 2nd Vice President of T.G.I.A., and Mr. Paul Zamarripa, Director, Pos.1, South Region, of T.G.I.A., for your friendship, hospitality, and my further education into the world of gangs.
And special thanks go to Mrs. Janelle Zamarippa and Mrs. Natividad for our discussions and the work I observed you tirelessly perform each day for the benefit of T.G.I.A.
There’s no greater surprise than checking bookseller websites and seeing that your latest novel has been released two weeks ahead of schedule without your knowledge!
Amazon Moonis my fourth published work and my first journey into a bit of sci-fi. Each of my novels is different in setting and characterizations. I haven’t yet settled upon the making of a series. First, I want to get all of the stories out of my head I’ve wanted to write for years—then I’ll decide which characters are calling me to return to them. At the moment, John Alvarez from Amazon Moon is summoning the loudest…
John Alvarez was a bad boy—so bad that a judge finally gave him a choice between prison and the Marines, yet in the Corps he discovered a home. Shipped off to Vietnam, he leads his own band of bad boys—Iron Raven, the terror of their enemies and always the first choice for a dangerous mission. On one such mission, the brain child of a couple of CIA ops, Alvarez and his squad are cut off from escape by their CIA handlers and are left to fight their own way out or die. Only Alvarez survives, and his revenge on the men who abandoned him and his friends, lands him in prison for life.
After twenty years he’s offered freedom, but only if he agrees to undertake another suicide mission: to act as bodyguard for a Mr. Standish on a journey into a mysterious Amazon kingdom ruled by the devil himself. It is only in the heart of the jungle that Alvarez discovers he is on a mission that can only have two endings—redemption or death.
As I previously wrote in my blog My Journey with Amazon Moon, this novel led me down many paths and I encourage you to read the blog before reading the novel.
“Amazon Moon is the sort of novel that grabs you by the throat on the first page and doesn’t let go until the last. It is an exciting story and, at the same time, something more. It is a fable about one man’s redemption, his rediscovery of innocence.”
Nicholas Guild – New York Times Best Selling Author – The Assyrian, Blood Star, The Berlin Warning, The President’s Man …
“With Amazon Moon, Starkey has done it again– lured me in, set me up and wrung me out! Splendid.”
I am proud to have the endorsements of Amazon Moon by two fine authors: Nicholas Guild and Jeff Mudgett. Guildhas a long list of literary accomplishments and equally long list of prominent literary reviews and is what I consider to be, my mentor. To have the honor of him reading my work is quite a feat, but for him to write an endorsement and give approval of my novel is beyond words to me. Mudgett is a fine author whose novel Bloodstains (about his serial-killer relative H. H. Holmes aka Jack-the-Ripper) is in the works to become a movie. I consider myself quite fortunate to have their endorsements.
In the next few days I will place samples of Amazon Moon on my website for all to read. I hope you will enjoy the novel, provide a review on it if you like it – and feel free to write me with any discussions you may have about the work.
Narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, weapons smuggling, home invasions, contract hits, prostitution, assault, theft, murder and prison are only part of the curriculum you undergo from the University of the Streets. In this school, passing grades on tests means you survived to live one more day. As for graduation, when you have to constantly watch your back because of the work you’re involved with, and you trust very few people (especially whatever they say), then you’ve earned an education few others will have.
Who are these graduates? They are the men and women of law enforcement and the criminal justice system who daily work in the world of violent gangs, organized crime, and prison systems. They are members of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, as well as hundreds of others across America in this field. They have my respect—and if you knew them as I do and knew what they daily endure, then they would earn yours too.
I was recently invited to the TGIA Conference in Houston to sign my books. It was my second year to be honored with an invitation by Paul Zamarripa, TGIA Director, Pos.1, South Region, and I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. Although I never worked gangs while in law enforcement as they now do, we at least spoke a common language about the streets and life that most citizens will never comprehend, if they are fortunate. Old friends such as Patrick Natividad, TGIA 2nd Vice President, and others from last year stopped by to say hello and talk about my books they had bought. New friends were made too such as conference attendee Erik L. Larson, who I learned is also the author of “Lone Star Daybreak.”
The week-long conference always has a prestigious list of national speakers representing all levels from federal agencies to state and county offices. And the agenda covers—well, sorry, but that’s not open for public distribution. But, I am at liberty to discuss some of the gang related problems confronting law enforcement and our society today.
When I speak of ‘gangs’ I’m not simply talking about a group on motorcycles wearing their ‘colors,” or a group of ‘wannabe gangstas’ standing around with their baseball caps sideways, talking street trash, bobbing as they walk, and flashing gang hand-signs they made up. No, I’m discussing the organized, violent groups from Mexican drug cartels to every prison we have. They are located in rural areas, small towns, as well as major cities. These are the people psychologists would have a field day with trying to understand what makes them tick, all while our tax money and court systems must deal with their bloody crimes.
Where does the organization and leadership of these gangs stem from? Primarily, within our prisons. The prison gangs direct outside operations from the comfort of their cells. If and when released from prison, gang members connect with outside members, all while maintaining their inside connections. The majority of gangs have legitimate businesses for their money to flow through, and the spider-web of their organized crimes steadily expands right under everyone’s noses—often next door without your realization.
Where do they set up shop? Quick answer: everywhere. Operations are controlled from within our prisons, but a large segment of the gangs on the outside have left the big cities to set up shop in rural areas. Think about it a moment. Why stay in the big city where law enforcement has a multitude of resources to hound you, when you can move to smaller communities throughout the state that don’t have the budget or manpower to hamper your operations? If you stay under the radar by not drawing attention to yourself, you can do whatever you want, especially when you have the money to finance your operations. Most rural law enforcement agencies don’t have the budget to devote to a gang unit, nor are they really inclined to do so until forced into it. There is another unfortunate aspect to this too; dirty cops, those who work both sides of the street per say. I’m sorry, but it happens. Whether they were a federal agent on the border or a deputy riding desolate county roads, the intoxication of big bucks has been many a downfall.
So, who are these gangs? They are Tango Blasters, the Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca, the Texas Mexican Mafia, and more. The Tango Blasters were born in the 1990’s in Texas prisons and have rose to the largest gang membership. Some say 11,000 while other data places them at 14,000, even up to 100,000. To be a member, you have to have done prison time—but, there are the younger ‘Blasters’ that formed and haven’t done time yet. They want to be recognized, believe they can bypass the prison time rule for true membership, and do everything they can, drawing attention to themselves which is not the actual Tango Blaster modus operandi. Therefore, the ‘true’ Blasters have to come in, straighten them out by force, and teach them gang respect.
The Tango Blasters are organized, yet unorganized. They don’t have a formal structure, don’t believe in having rules, no one tells anyone what to do, yet they receive directions from their leaders in prison and remain an entity. Odd, isn’t it? They don’t have a specific leader in each affiliated gang outside of prison yet they are divided into ‘Blaster’ gangs in every major Texas City: Houstone (it’s spelled this way for a reason) or “H,” Dallas or “D,” San Antonio or ‘SA,” etc.
How do you recognize a Tango Blaster? This is another problem. You can’t unless you really know what you’re looking for. Their gang markings, or ‘tatts,’ are area code numbers or sports team logos of the major cities. For example, Houstone Blasters (the “e” is added on by the gang) use the Houston Astros star. They wear all the shirts and caps with the open sided star of the Astros baseball team for identification. That means they blend in with thousands of other Houstonians wearing the same regalia and tattoos! But look for the word “Houstone” and you are probably looking at a ‘Blaster.’
Rather than solely write about Tango Blasters, I want to mention another group I was surprised to learn of: Juggalos. Yes, you read correctly—and no, it doesn’t refer to a gang of big-breasted women.
Folks, you’re going to have to look this one up on the Internet. There are different levels of Juggalos which range from people that simply enjoy acting crazy while dressed as a clown, to the more radical ones who cause harm and commit crimes. Yes, again you read correctly. They paint their faces in the manner of a circus clown like the Joker in a Batman movie. Their logo or image is a clown running around carrying a meat clever. Women in the group are referred to as ‘Jugga-hos’… I thought I was being kidded when a man from the State Attorney General’s office began talking about Juggalos, but the group is real. Honest. Search “Juggalos” and see what I mean. They have ‘gatherings’ which have vague resemblances to the old days of Woodstock. (Warning: If you decide to perform an online search, don’t be surprised at the photos you will see. Due to some nudity, you may not want children around your computer when you get to the ‘gathering’ photos.)
So, what is the answer to gang violence other than obtaining your Concealed Handgun License?
There are multiple answers to this. Assist and support your local law enforcement agency by reporting crimes. Educate yourself on problems in your area. Talk to your neighbors. Watch out for each other. The Houston Police Department has a gang taskforce website where information can be submitted and you can learn more about the problems: www.StopHoustonGangs.org. Start becoming aware of the crime in your community. Don’t let the sides of your building be covered in gang graffiti. Report them to the police then paint over them. It may take several coasts of paint, but eventually the gangs will stop using the sides of your building or fence as a canvas. Whether you realize it or not, the majority of the crimes you hear about on your local news broadcast are related to gangs.
Gangs are violent. They infect our society and destroy our children. Anyone can be a victim. I read a news article about a 14 year-old boy walking by a house, pulled a pistol out and shot at the man sitting on a porch, rocking an infant. The bullet struck the baby, killed him, and passed through to the father’s shoulder. The boy wanted recognition in order to join a gang.
Gangs easily reach across borders and state lines. They smuggle humans, drugs and weapons. They promote forced prostitution, make contract hits, perform violent home invasions…the list goes on.
And don’t judge a book by its cover. Simply because someone has tattoos all over their body doesn’t make them a gang member or a member of the ‘Yakuza.’ I say this because one of the conference attendees was covered with ‘tatts’ except for a small portion of his face. My friend, Rhonda Chevalier, TGIA Director, Pos.1 of the Central Region said he was one of the politest men she had ever met.
One of the best ways to keep your children out of gangs is to love them, talk to them, educate them, let them know they are important, and let them know gangs are a dead-end street. According to an old LAPD statement, 60% of gang members will be dead or in prison by age 20.
Thank you, TGIA, for sponsoring such educational law enforcement conferences. I wish every department in Texas could send at least one representative. The knowledge is valuable.
“Burning the candle at both ends—and running out of candle!”
Well, that’s how I have felt these past five months. I finished my latest novel AMAZON MOON in December and a good friend, international best-selling author Nicholas Guild read the work and provided excellent recommendations. All I have to do is find enough hours in the day to make the modifications he suggested then the novel will be ready to move into publication.
The problem is that as Nick was receiving AMAZON MOON, I was asked to be the Security Director for a major industrial port. The previous Security Director had left for another job and they needed someone to handle operations and their large number of federal grant projects. Having retired as a Security Manager of a global oil corporation, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I refused the position full-time and said I would work for six months until they found a replacement. I also continue (it’s in my contract to allow me so) to volunteer working with school children each Tuesday to assist them with their reading skills. And (of course there’s more), along with my writings, I am the Secretary of my Masonic Lodge (a full-time position which I do in my “spare” time.)
I had a perfect storm of events collide. Suddenly, my book was ready to finalize, and I was up to my ears in a super tight schedule. Working with federal grant projects is about as enjoyable as performing a “Do-It-Yourself Root Canal,” plus the remainder of the security operations cannot be ignored. I have two Monday’s every week because I work Monday, am off Tuesday to work with the school kids, then return to work Wednesday (which feels like my second Monday because I’m trying to catch up from what I missed Tuesday.) I’m not totally off work on Tuesdays either because I still receive cellphone calls and have to jump on my laptop throughout the day to keep my workload flowing. And somewhere between all of that, my lodge duties come into play, plus I must write a monthly newsletter…more paperwork headaches.
As every author knows, maintaining a social media presence demands allotting time per day to various sites (particularly your own website.) If you don’t keep your published works out before the public, you are quickly forgotten. Fortunately, my author friends help keep me alive in those arenas by giving me an occasional plug. The indie community is truly wonderful! People on the opposite side of the world that you’ve never met become great friends.
But as all storms do, this one in my life shall pass too. At the end of May, my contract as Security Director will be complete. The school year will come to a close as well. And the lodge work, well, that will remain. Most importantly, I will return full force to my writings, finalize AMAZON MOON then begin the novels still patiently waiting within me to be written.
Now, if I can just find enough candle to burn until the storm passes…
After a long year I recently completed the first draft of Amazon Moon. The first full edit went fairly smooth, or at least as painless as I could make it. Now I’m patiently awaiting replies from a few beta readers and then will go through the novel once more to finalize it.
The writing of Amazon Moon has truly been an interesting, personal journey for me as an author. I set out upon the path of wanting to write a good, action-adventure story with a bit of sci-fi set in the deep, mysterious Amazonia region—and ended with a discovery of evils that I did not know so fully existed.
The goal of every author is to be a good storyteller, yet as writers, we hold a responsibility to educate our readers as well about certain facts as we move them through chapters until the end. Such responsibility was better understood by me once my protagonist, John Alvarez, entered the rain forest.
A psychologist might have a field day analyzing John; the boy who longed for love, became lost within himself when his family was lost to him, yet as a man, eventually found a home within the Marine Corps to anchor his soul to. He learned warfare well, possibly too well. That could be debated, and then came the insanity thrust upon him by having to doubt the truths of all he has learned to date once in the rain forest. But as I wrote this novel, John Alvarez took a slightly different path in his life than I originally intended. The variation began when he met the indigenous people of the Amazon and discovered their plights.
Simply saying, “the Amazon,” invokes images of thick jungle, wild animals, hidden tribes, and the immediate setting of danger at every turn. It’s one of the last bastions of immense territory in the world yet to be fully explored. Yet, with all its hazards and menace, we owe so much to this region.
The bio-diversity of the Amazonia rain forest is vital to our eco-system and pharmaceuticals. Climate change is heavily dependent upon it and we need the forest to keep it in balance. Over two-thirds of all mass produced drugs are derived from medicinal plants. In the Amazon, 650 species of plants with pharmaceutical value have been discovered. Gold, oil, and other resources are within this region as well. The value of the rain forest is immense, and it is home to many indigenous Indian tribes.
The history overall of the Amazon is fascinating and truly worthy of reading. But it is saddening as well, often to the point of being comparable to what our Native American Indians endured as the government and gold seekers chose to steal their rich lands.
There may be predatory creatures in the Amazon—black caiman, jaguar, cougar, piranha, viperous bushmaster snakes and monstrous anacondas—but none so vile and vicious as the “civilized” men and governments who decided they wanted to drive the tribes out in order to fill their pockets from the sale of the region’s rich resources.
Every country the Amazonia region touches is guilty in one form or another of injustices against the indigenous tribes. That in itself should be an embarrassment to mankind, yet little has been done by governments to protect these native people or the Amazon. What has been done is nothing more than creating a façade to display to the world.
Imagine if your family lived in a rain forest village under primitive conditions. In addition to the daily struggles to provide food for your family, you must be concerned with brutal Maoist guerilla factions such as the Shining Path traveling through your land; drug cartels and trafficking, their soldiers killing anyone they find in order to protect their drugs; land grabbers and ‘loggers’ raping and savagely killing your loved ones then burning your village to the ground because they want the trees for lumber—or the gold seekers who murder villagers in order to stake a claim and destroy the land as they mine for gold. But worse, is when governments such as the Peruvian government use their military to bomb your village and then send in militia to drive you out.
The indigenous tribes of Amazonia once numbered in the thousands, now due to civilized society’s gifts of rape, torture, murder, infectious diseases, venereal diseases, and violent land grabbing, some tribes are near extinction and fragmented while others only number in the hundreds.
Does this all sound painfully similar to our own embarrassing United States history in the dealings with Native American Indians? Unfortunately, it is almost verbatim.
In one disgusting account, I read that loggers used a different approach to rid themselves of a tribe. They donated clothes to the tribe. It sounds quite peaceful and generous until it was discovered that the clothes had all been worn by people sick with small pox and other infectious diseases—then was intentionally given to the Indians. The outcome was as expected by the loggers. The majority of the tribe died.
I read one news report of loggers burning an eight years old village child to death. They caught the girl, tied her to a tree then set fire to her while she was alive. It was part of their tactic to force the tribe off their land so the timber could be taken. The government was still investigating and said they believed it never happened although they did not discuss the tribes that have been almost massacred by loggers.
It would take a novel to fully tell of the injustices alone performed and being performed today on the Amazonia tribes. My hope with this article is to inform readers there are far more stories to be known than what I have now written.
I encourage you to seek out the information and read it for yourself. Use the Internet and search for “indigenous tribes of the Amazon” then begin reading about the atrocities committed against them. Perform a search on “rainforest loggers” and “Amazon gold miners” and see for yourself the volumes of real-life horror stories that will appear.
When Amazon Moon is published in the future, I hope you will enjoy its action filled, adventurous story,as well as my other presently published novels. But I hope most of all you will continue reading about the Amazon itself.
One day mankind may learn to not repeat the mistakes we have made throughout history. For now, I doubt so.
There are times when reality hits home, gives you a wake-up call, and leaves you with the realization the dirty side of life still exists even though you may have forgotten or chose to ignore it. Some people don’t have the luxury to forget. They work it every day, seemingly living it because they must. It’s their job. Such are the men and women of the T.G.I.A., Texas Gang Investigators Association.
After reading my novels, Mr. Paul Zamarripa, T.G.I.A. South Region Director, Position 1, contacted and invited me to attend their conference in San Antonio, Texas. That was quite an honor for me. Considering my former experience as a law enforcement officer, he believed it would be a good opportunity to present something different to the attendees; have me sign my books, talk with everyone, and allow them to see there can be life outside of their daily jobs which are mentally grueling.
Of course I accepted! What author wouldn’t? So for two full days I signed books, met old friends, people engaged in gang investigations and enforcement, and made new friends – one of which was Mr. Zamarripa.
Were the 750 conference attendees all cops? No. They ranged from federal agencies of all levels, constables, state, county and municipal law enforcement, and parole/probation officers to school counselors and court administration. Yes, I probably missed someone in that list of attendees. But as you can see, it takes such a spectrum of people, working hand in hand, to address today’s growing problems with gangs.
There was a time long, long ago when you said the word “gangs” and only images of leather-vested motorcycle riders and teenagers in neighborhoods with aerosol paint cans came to mind. The majority of the public never came in contact with them. Fast forward ahead and now everyone across our nation and in foreign countries is infected with a mounting crime rate rising from street thug gangs to violent drug cartel involvement. Big cities to small country towns, the types of crimes related to them seems endless: theft, burglary, drugs, rape, prostitution, kidnapping, assault, murder, and so on. And there are no barriers when it comes to age and social economic status as well. Children to adults are recruited, and the poor from slums and barrios to the college educated crowd living in well-to-do neighborhoods are brought into the fold.
What lies at the base of the gang problem? Money, economics; the list of reasons continues but those two are the meat and potatoes of the issue. And solving gang problems that have such far reaching tentacles into the criminal underworld often feels as if you are at the beach trying to hold back the waves of the ocean.
When drug cartels have enough money to recruit whole units of deserters from Mexican Army special forces units to do their violent bidding, they certainly have no qualms in hiring stateside ‘wannabe-gangstas’ or organized gangs to run dope and make hits on selected targets. Doing so keeps the cartel’s hands clean.
This is where the men and women of the T.G.I.A. come into play. They don’t just work ‘9 to 5’ and walk away at the end of the day. They live it ‘24-7’ and shift between the cruelties of the gang world and their home life, constantly struggling to maintain their sanity and a positive outlook on society. Their phones ring day and night and they are often called away for investigations while enjoying a little time with family. That’s one reason divorce rates are high in police work. While I was at the conference I listened to probation officers getting calls about parole violators, and investigators talking to patrol officers about certain ‘tats’ on a suspect.
Conferences are important for several reasons – networking, sharing intel, learning from one another – earning educational hours required by the State of Texas as part of their continuing education to retain their licenses – but to me, most of all, it gives them some down time to clear their heads, especially when you are not working undercover and feel you need to always dress the part of being a gang member. Like patrol officers and detectives working the streets, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the ‘us versus them’ syndrome whereby it’s the police against everyone outside of law enforcement because all you see is the crap side of life and wonder if anyone good is left other than another cop.
The stories these people can tell you about gang violence and activities and working the streets would make most authors’ crime novels look like kindergarten books.
Take the time to browse various websites of your local law enforcement such as Stop Houston Gangs and related associations such as the T.G.I.A. Read about the crimes gangs commit and how they operate. See for yourself how big the problems truly are. After all, the end product of their criminal acts affects your tax dollars!
What can you do to help? First, start by telling your children they are loved – and talk to them. Have conversations with them about problems they see and may be confronted with in school or in the neighborhood. Don’t wait until your children are teenagers. Start talking to them when they are much younger.
Gangs are a subject which could be studied for semesters in a classroom setting and you still wouldn’t learn all there is to know. So my hat’s off to the members of the TGIA, as well as all law enforcement related personnel, for their commitment to keeping our streets clean.
And my thanks to Mr. Paul Zamarippa for the invitation which allowed me to learn about this association.