March 14, 1987, under the constellation of Pisces, in a small town of Weslaco, Texas, a young woman by the name of San Juanita Lozano, also known as Janie, is sad and disappointed. She’s laying in a hospital bed with her 4th child and her baby’s daddy Juan Lerma aint around. Who knows where he was at. She aint seen him in weeks. He’s probably out selling drugs or with another woman. Either way she’s tired of it.
She names the baby José Manuel Lozano, José after her father. Manuel is her baby daddy’s middle name and she gives the baby her last name. She’s being looked after by sisters and her parents at the hospital. They tell her they got word about a state in the upper northwest, Washington. And they hear there was a lot of work up there, so they were gonna head that way on the 21st, so to get ready to leave Juan behind along with all his false hopes and promises.
She cried a lot over the week but decided it was best to leave and not upset her father and brothers. She had 4 brothers and 7 sisters- 12 of them altogether. As they arrived in Washington State they settled in a small town named Burlington. They found a migrant camp and everyone moved in to the camp and settled in just fine. A few years passed and lil José started going by Joey. Joey was always running around the migrant camp like he own the place.
I was about 4 then. I was looked after by my grandparents when my mom would go to work. It was cool: they spoiled me and showed me a lot of love. One day when I was out playing in the back I saw my older cousins going into a van so I followed. Then they told me they were big kids and said I couldn’t come. I told them I was big too so they let me in. They were all early teens at the time. Eli, Jessie, Leroy, Juan and Julian. They were smoking weed. I didn’t know what it was but they taught me how to inhale then got me high for the first time…after that it was a wrap. They got me high almost every day. They started taking me with them to do residential burglaries. They would break a small window, push me through and I would open the door and post up at the window to keep point. I thought my cousins were so cool and I wanted to be like them when I grew up. They were always fighting, boxing, saying bad words and hanging out with girls. They always had money and everyone knew them. Later on that year my grandpa passed away. My whole family traveled to Texas. I had a hard time because he was my best friend. He used to tease me every day because I had long hair down to my butt and I have web feet just like him. I remember going to his open casket then walking him all across Donna his home town. I remember burying him and crying like never before. I was hurting so bad. I knew I was never gonna see him again. I was in a little 3 piece suit with my hands in my pocket when my mom came up to me and told me to walk with her. So we went to the street and there was a guy I never met in a black car. He gave me a hug and said he was my dad. I was shocked but excited. He asked if I wanted to go with him. I nodded yes and we left my mom behind.
We were driving to meet my grandparents on my dad’s side when he looked over at me and asked me if I had been crying. I don’t know why but I wanted him to think that I was brave, so I said no. He put his arm around me and we got to his parents house, met everyone. Then we left to his friend’s house. When we got there he told me to go pray but I just followed him around. I watched him smoke weed and drink all night. I would go fetch his beer and he would introduce me to everyone. Later on that night, I watched my dad get in a fight. I don’t remember what it was about but I remember he beat that guy down. Then we got out of there. The next day he took me to an amusement park, then shopping. A few days later we went with some people to the zoo. I thought we were gonna be best friends but after that, I didn’t see him again until I was 16 (he ended up going to prison for 10 years).
When I started kindergarden I wasn’t getting high as much just like on holidays but I would always get hit by my mom a lot for everything. She was always getting beat too, by her boyfriend. I remember I told her a few times I peed in my sleep and she beat me before school so I stopped telling her I would wet my bed and I would go to school with the same underwear on. I remember kids making fun of me. I hated kindergarden… then 1st grade till I was in 6th grade summer, I would move to Sedro-Woolley with my cousin Alex. I would live with him from June to November while my mom worked. I would only see my mom like once or twice, sometimes not at all until I moved back. I remember once my cousins were over at Alex’s house getting tattooed by his older brother. I’m not sure how old I was maybe about 8 or 9. They were all in the backyard huffing spray paint. They let me try it and I got really light headed. After that I did it every day by myself. I would go steal spray paint from the store when I would be running low. I didn’t know what addiction was back then but I was addicted. I would huff so much I would pass out then wake up and do it again. I did that for I don’t know how long. I know when I moved back with my mom middle of 6th grade school, I wasn’t doing it no more. At that time when I started school I kept hearing about a boy who was also a 6th grader named Matthew Vasquez who was suspended for 2 months for smoking weed in school. I thought he was crazy and I couldn’t wait to meet him. When he finally did come back we hit it off right away. He used to give me weed and sometimes cocaine. I remember the 1st time I did it. He explained to me how to do it so I went home and sniffed it all. I was so high I didn’t sleep. I went to school the next day after being up all night and it made me feel above the law in a way superior to everyone else. I felt like I was a man.
I started fighting a lot and stealing from stores. Soda and candy at first, then CDs, movies, shoes, and cloths. About that time I used to vandalize a lot too, I don’t know why, but I did. That summer my mom said I could stay to attend La Venture Middle School all year without going back to live in Sedro-Woolley. Man, I must say though, that was probably the biggest mistake of her life. I let loose my inner demons and I became a gangster and for the first time in my life I belonged.