'Fighting for nothing': Former gang members now family men in club striving to do good

Published on Wednesday, 3 September 2014 23:48 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

In 1997, Roy Barboza was trying to establish his new gang’s authority by spray painting his Southside 13 markings over the more-established signs of the East Side Locos on the back of Jacksonville’s Walmart.

The Locos caught him in the act, and ranked-member Marty Lara shot at the ground in the direction of the opposing gang, striking Barboza in the shin with a ricochet bullet.

“All I know is I seen some lights, I seen some guys throwing up rival gang signs,” Barboza said. “The guys I was with took off running, but since I was the biggest one out of all of them, I threw my hands up, wanting to fight. I hear a loud bang, and I fall down. I’ve got a little gunshot to my shin. After that I don’t remember what happened. I think (my friends) saw me go down and got scared.”

Barboza hobbled to his car and drove himself home to a very upset mother.

“My mom beat me after,” the 32-year-old Jacksonville resident joked, adding his mother said, “‘What are you doing out with those so-called friends?’”

Eight years later, the two former gang members struck up a friendship – unaware of their linked past. They even founded a car club, Tiempos Viejos — meaning “old times” in Spanish.

At one point, Lara, 35, of Henderson, and Barboza were the only members, but the club currently has about 15 active members. The majority of them are former gang members, and many of them were from rival gangs.

The only requirement for joining the club is staying away from gang-related activities, and a majority of its activities focus on family.

Barbosa and Lara said there is no turning back to their former lifestyles. They are both proud family men, and the club strives to do good in the community.

Tiempos Viejos members have organized benefit car washes and car shows for others in the community and work to help children make their bikes as colorful and cool as the cars members drive.

Tiempos Viejos recently celebrated its third-year anniversary with a cookout complete with hamburgers and laughing children playing in the water at Fair Park in Henderson.

Barboza said the pair recently figured out their shared history.

“If I had been in my younger years I would have done something about it,” he said. “The day (my wife) told me she was pregnant, I stopped everything (and) I didn’t care so much about my so-called ‘friends.’”

Barboza said the final realization for him was when he was about to help a friend in a physical fight and only realized afterward that his wife and children, who were nearby, could have been harmed.

Lara said he was looking for friendship and respect when he joined the East Side Locos.

“(We) are looking for that love,” Lara said. “We are looking for that love, but we couldn’t find it so you get a group of people and that is what it is.”

Lara’s search for respect turned into a need to be feared.

“I’ve had people ask do you want people to fear you or respect you, and I wanted people to fear me,” he said. “You get that urge, you get power hungry you want more and more. It wasn’t even about drugs. It was about (ego).”

Lara said the friendships he made in the gang weren’t real. They left him near-death following a fight and did not visit him after he was locked up for aggravated assault.

“Our moms and dads always tell us, ‘they are not your friends — they aren’t your friends — when you need them they are never there …’” Lara said. “I got locked up and my true friend was my mom. She was there the whole time.”

Lara found religion in prison, and never looked back to his former lifestyle.

He said he didn’t listen to God’s call at first, but once “God gets ahold of you, he doesn’t let go.”

Lara and Barboza still carry the tattoos of their former lives, but are never going back.

“What are we fighting for?” Lara said. “You get older and you ask, ‘what are  you fighting for?’ We were fighting for nothing.”