Barrio rules take care of you, when for whatever reason, you not able to care for yourself. Perhaps you caught up in a heated relationship, partying too hard and cannot think clearly, gambling too much and out of control or just not taking good care of yourself. Your being. These type of passionate ways that set you off the rails. Off the rails in a good way and sometimes bad. It foolish to not listen to the barrio rules. There is gratitude for the existence of such rules because ultimately they give comfort, when comfort cannot be found, and set you right when you run aground.
I was raised in one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, where Spanish was the first language. A huge white Catholic church was at the end of the street. I use to walk to church every Sunday with my Tia Ramona and cousins. The corner bodega had a mural of Guadalupe with flowers laid at her feet. The statues were omnipresent in front of houses, inside the homes, and in the stores. I was raised in a neighborhood where generational gangs like Los Fatherless dominated the night. It was a poor area with multiple generations of families inhabiting the homes. The people came from humble beginnings. Most were immigrants and still had family members working in the fields. My father was not a US citizen. You do not have to be a particular race. Just live in the barrio; a place where barrio rules reigned supreme. This was my world. I no longer live in the barrio…I have come a long way.
Barrio rule #1 is that I have your back. It means through all the grit of existence I will not do anything that will make you feel uncomfortable. I will be there for you. That whatever agreement we are in is safe with me. It not an agreement of homage. I can still disagree with you, but in the end, I will not burn you for those who have done something personally and intentionally negative against you. Each person had stricter forms of rule #1 and this was known up front. You could bow out of the agreement and still stay friends, but do not be surprised when rule #1 does not apply. Everyone had a different degree that worked for them. The tougher agreements meant if your friend got jumped and you had nothing to do with it, you still had to jump in. I have upheld barrio rule #1 to this degree a few times. It realist politics played out in the street.
Barrio rule #2 is that you have my back. It the same like #1 but the other way. In the reverse it was the agreement of what made me comfortable or the things I did not want you to do or expected you to do. Again, I expect you to not burn me for someone who did something intentionally bad against me. In the extreme agreement, it came in handy when I got jumped for being too pretty or unintentionally taking the affections of another guy. I have seen barrio rule #2 in the extreme applied a few times. I have been jumped twice, and one of these times was by three cholas at once. I held my own until barrio rule #2 kicked in. Literally. Barrio rules can save your life.
There were no surprises. That what made the barrio rules so comforting. Expectation management is what we call it in non barrio world. Depending on the relationship, more barrio rules applied. Expectations always vocalized in the beginnings of a relationship. An understanding and agreement between two humans. They were intimate. I apply barrio rules with my lovers. They still form the basis of my oldest friendships from El Paso. We even discuss the difficulties in life with, “what about barrio rule # whatever it was?” When in need and discussing life with my old friends, and they know I cannot think straight their words of the barrio rules will permeate the air. As if to say, we understand life’s constant changes, and we understand but remember the few constants. A reminder of the simpler times in life. The strength in simple is that it can forge a constant in chaos. It gives you a grip.
We rarely change from our base no matter what life hands us. The barrio rules know this.