My Barrio

By: Gina Contreras∞

My Barrio

All my life I’ve lived in National City, California. The same street, same house I currently live in now.  The majority of the population in National City are primary Hispanic, Mexican, and Chicanos of low or median income.  Secondary are the Filipino communities. When I was a kid, all the kids would go out and play, we knew all the neighborhood kids, went to school together. This was in the 1980’s, when parents didn’t have to worry about their kids being outside by themselves, or didn’t have to worry about their kids being unsocial or inactive. A community where everyone knows everyone.

I have great memories of Christmas here at my house, which was then my grandmother’s house. All our families together under one roof, a Christmas tree 7 feet tall with gifts stacked up just as high. Eating buñuelos and drinking champurrado. Then the posadas starting from our house going from house to house and singing as people around the community joined us. The kids carrying baby Jesus. That is one of my favorite memories growing up in my barrio. The one, not so good thing I do remember quite a lot were gangs. Gangs in the late 80’s early 90’s were the thing to be in. Gang rivals were literally a block away, one street divided National City into San Diego, OTNC to Shell town, but you were cool if you were in a gang.

Although there was a lot of gang activity, there has always been a sense of community. With about 6 or 7 elementary schools, 2 junior highs and 1 high school we all ended up in one place. As time has passed, gang violence has diminished, but the sense of feeling safe in our streets has changed. Today I see a lot more drug dealers and homeless, prostitutes in my barrio.   With 3 girls of my own, I can’t leave them outside alone because I’m afraid of child molesters or kidnappers. With all this technology that we have nowadays, I made the mistake at looking up an app to show how many child molesters or sexual predators live around my area which showed that there were at least 5 people just around my block. That alone was enough for me to not feel comfortable by allowing my girls to play outside on their own. Not to mention that there are police cars roaming constantly around my streets looking for drug activity.

Although, I’ve made my barrio sound really ghetto and bad, I have to say that the sense of community and togetherness is still there. When the children from the high school run fundraisers you can count on the community to be there. When there has been a hideous crime, such as the one last year of my friend Josue Crook who was shot and killed in front of the Mariscos place for trying to stop a fight, the community again gathered to do car washes and fundraisers to help his family in need. Let’s not forget the times the Chargers and Padres win, we gather on Highland to celebrate, and our mayor Ron Morrison joins us with pride of my community.   My community as I see it now as an adult is based on family businesses, and runs in a full circle. My childhood friends are now the parents of my daughter’s friends and so on. Sure, time has changed, changes are inevitable, people change, people move out of the city, people moved in to the city, but I couldn’t be more proud to be part of my barrio.