Barrio Bushido: 10 Years of Street Honor, Ashes, and Dust

Ashes to Ashes

Dust to Dust

Barrio Bushido. Spanish-Japanese loosely translated as Street Honor. Sick-with-it Sav vida loca philosophy, tragedy, and victory.

Amor in its finest form.

Today, February 17, marks ten years, a full decade, since the rainy evening sold-out packed premiere of Barrio Bushido, my first novel, at San Fran’s Mission Cultural Center con danzantes, lowriders, y todo!

Oh, what a night 🙂

And I knew then, as I know now, that one thing simply leads to another.

From Barrio Bushido: “If we are sick,” Santo said, “we got a responsibility with that title. It means we live the life, and we die. That’s it. It means we don’t give a fuck. It means we know we don’t give a fuck.”

Everything that I have done and tried to do in the last ten years has been done in honor of that spirit that came before me, that is with me now, and that will continue long after I am gone.

Barrio Bushido is a book of war about Vatos Locos as Vatos Locos, not as gangsters or revolutionaries or cliché criminals. That book is about action and endurance and throwing yourself into every moment. In their craziness there is beauty, intelligence, and intense life. Once I began the “El Santo” chapter, I found myself giving homeboys an intellectual identity. I wanted the world to know that homeboy experiences do not necessarily lead to a stereotype stupidity; la vida loca can lead to depth, to a power that has value, both on a human level and at a literary level.

That book was dedicated to “My Soul Brother, Jeff.” He died for the Mission streets in 2008, inside of the varrio’s home headquarters, where anyone down-and-out or up-and-coming could and would stay and kick it on 21st and Folsom, a spot he had bought back in 93. He wanted something more and original from me. That publication opened up the world. By 2010 I had gained a following in the community even though I did not know exactly what I was doing. I was invited to speak at juvenile institutions, high schools, colleges and universities, and the community reached out to me, too. It was only then that I started blogging and writing poetry. Writing, all types of writing, had instilled in me organization and discipline, articulation and insight from many solitary hours. I spoke in favor of the Mexican Museum in SF. I spoke out against gentrification. I advocated for authentic education.

I am a vato loco, a writer, and an educator. I have always been public about my persona. Those who know me, know. When Barrio Bushido hit the streets and bookstores, Alex Nieto, who knew firsthand of my brother’s legend, fell in love with my writing and spirit and volunteered to help me with anything that I had to do to further education, literature, and amor. In 2010, Alex actually messaged me the following: “Ur story struck a deep core in my being. If you need any future work with any further books or publications, let me know.” On another occasion: “Your readings from your book have deeply touched my heart. I know your book will serve to awaken young homies in el barrio.” He would always rock the Barrio Bushido t-shirt and help me create on the street in order to build love in the community. We would greet each other, “What’s up with the Movement, Homes?!”

How could I possibly have known that he himself would become the Movement and the reason I had ever learned to read and write? Once he was killed, for Amor for Alex Nieto, for our gente and future generations, I wrote thousands of pages of arguments, poetry, e-mails, rebuttals, notes during the trial, proposals, etc. Over 167 Amor Actions:

I write what I live, and I live what I write.

Barrio Bushido is Pura Neta. I know where I am going:

From dust thou came

To dust shalt thou return

Con Safos,

Benjamin Bac Sierra

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