The Block Party

Illustrated by Joseph Antoine

Los Malos hill was hot. In the unforgiving assault of the August sun, it rose, high and brown, like a thumb pointing accusingly at the God who had scorched it. Its vegetation was all but gone, decimated by the constant bushfires that rampaged their way up and down the hill, a Holocaust against all things green. No crops grew on Los Malos, its baked and crumbling soil supporting only razor grass and barren trees.

It is said that people come to resemble the environments they inhabit, and this adage was certainly true of the inhabitants of Los Malos.

Brown, hard, frowning people whose fists seemed to work faster than their brains, they seemed to revel in the litany of violence that seemed to characterize the hill. Their youth generally did not work, seeing their unemployment as a badge of honour, forcing them to eke a living from asking or confiscating the possessions of others. They viewed those who did not live as they did as weak, and considered them to be their natural prey, fearing nothing but the prospect of “Getting a day wuk.”

When the drug trade hit Trinidad, the higher ups in society turned to the youth of Los Malos, seeing in them the peddlers and enforcers that would see them rise to the level of legends like Escobar and Capone. They made their way up the hill, perhaps the first of their kin to do so, wooing the youth with the prospects of powerful weapons, easy cash and respect.

The work suited the talents and inclinations of the Los Malos Youth and they picked up the trade with gusto. They had been troublesome enough with just fists and big stone, now they had guns.

The late 80’s and early 90’s saw an unprecedented spike in the Island’s crime level. Guns, drugs, prostitution, kidnappings. Drug addicts and vagrants slept side by side, crowding park benches, sidewalks and public fountains, becoming gradually indistinguishable from each other, forming a seething, homeless, addicted, indigent mass.

In the midst of this hell the young men of Los Malos became the stuff of legend, their diehard and fearless nature making them well equipped for a world that most people did not realize was changing.

However, it was not long before the Los Malos youth began to turn their guns from the competitors of their employers towards each other as a means to resolve their myriad disputes.
Now, every argument was certain to end in gunfire, and almost invariably, a death or two. Yet, in spite of the scores of young men that would perish each month, their numbers never seemed to diminish. It seemed that Los Malos, so scant in other resources, had a limitless supply of young men to sacrifice to it’s nameless cause.

“We kill one, we make back two.” They would say. And indeed it was so, the young women of the hill displaying a level of fecundity that replenished their numbers in an almost exponential manner. Not just that, but throngs of young men seeking to further their education in ‘badness’ and gangsterism flocked to the hill, to learn at the feet of those who had mastered such disciplines.

On this hill’s endless August, temperatures and tempers were soaring high.

“For now, these hot days in the mad blood stirring…” Shakespeare is made to say, but he didn’t know the half of it.

Every week saw the death of at least five of Los Malos’ youth, though no one could have told you what it was that they were fighting over. The residents by and large said nothing. It was the way of the hill. People had to fight, people had to dead. They only called the police when it was time to collect the bodies. There were never any arrests, let alone talk of convictions. In the August sun, the hill baked and baked.

One day there was a wild fracas and several persons, including many bystanders were wounded by stray bullets. One of them was the old shopkeeper, Miss Patsy who was hit in the foot.

As she fell to the ground, rolling and writhing in pain, she erupted with a string of enraged curses and imprecations.

“Ah tired of this shit!!! Ah tired! Every damn day is a pow pow pow! Like is because allyuh doh have to see the consequences of what allyuh doing that allyuh wouldn’t stop!”

She was ignored and taken to the hospital with the other casualties.

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