Barrio Sotel Gang, 1976.

Nearly defunct today, Sotel 13 is a West LA gang that dates back to the late 30’s. Starting out as La Garra, and then Thee Falcons car club, they eventually adopted the name “Sotel” based on Sawtelle blvd. Despite being smaller than the other established west side gangs like Venice and Culver City, Sotel had developed a fierce reputation over the years, but like the other west side gangs, their biggest enemy turned out to be gentrification. There are few active members left today.

Sotel 13 gang members stand in front of a mural they helped artist Judith Hernandez paint at Stoner Park in West LA in 1976. The mural was then painted to help unite a community that was once much more heavily plagued with gang violence. The area has since been gentrified, with small Spanish style homes being replaced by luxury apartments and condos. The mural was removed in 2002 when the park was being renovated, and never returned despite promises of city officials. Most of the new, predominantly white residents don’t know, or care much about the area’s Chicano history. Some long time residents who viewed Sotel as nothing but a menace to their community feel the same way. Sotel 13 is a shell of its former self today with very few active members, and though they still meet at the park daily, now amidst mostly yuppies, they are clearly the outsiders now.  I’m not here to sugar coat gang life, but I will say that at very least, this area once had some sort of identity, or character. It’s pretty much ghost world now.