Gang Lite?

A new kind of gang in Texas and Houston promises protection but no lifelong commitment

Randy Moreno is staring into an open prison cell where two inmates are waiting to kick in his head. He had promised himself he would never join another gang, and certainly not a prison gang. But now is not the time for second-guessing. This is his initiation.

"Get your shine on!" barks a prisoner serving as the lookout.

Shirtless, wearing white prison pants and matching Chuck Taylor low-tops, Randy, who accurately calls himself "a big guy for a Mexican," steps into the cage. There's not much room to maneuver in the tiny cell, what with a metal toilet, table and bunk bed taking up most of the space. The walls are slowly turning peach-­colored, as over time inmates have chipped away at the top coat of white paint, putting the flakes over their water heaters to sniff and get high.

No longer active, Randy Moreno says Houstone recruits members promising brotherhood without lifelong commitment.
Daniel Kramer
No longer active, Randy Moreno says Houstone recruits members promising brotherhood without lifelong commitment.

Suddenly, the first guy lunges forward, but Randy shoves his shoulder, sending him into the metal table in the same instant that the second inmate swings a fist at Randy's head. Somehow, he misses, just as the first guy moves across the room and tackles Randy, hammering his head against the wall. Quickly, Randy bounces to his feet, and the three men continue to swing at each other, as many blows missing as landing.

In all, the "cora-check" lasts less than a minute. It's just a test, a "heart-check" to see if Randy will fight back, proof in gang-world that he'll stand strong and be there to back up his fellow "homitos." Randy passes. It's official. He's been "jumped-in," and now belongs to Tango Blast, the largest prison gang in Texas.

"When I was finished doing it," says Randy, "I barely had a mark or scratch on me."

This is not posturing on Randy's part. His initiation was relatively easy, just cheap, street-punk theatrics compared to the laborious crime-riddled rituals older, more established prison gangs require of their recruits. And that's the point.

Ostensibly, Tango Blast is not your grandfather's or even your father's prison gang of old, with familiar names like the Texas Syndicate and Mexican Mafia, established organizations based on commitment, structure and a rigid do-or-die set of rules. No, this is a new breed putting a fresh twist on an old idea.

It is permeating the social fabric like no such group ever has before. Members proudly advertise their affiliation all over MySpace and YouTube, and people who have never even been to prison wear the gang's tattoos and symbols.

It's disorganized, fast and loose, and with none of the lifelong "blood-in, blood-out" commitment demanded by other gangs. At least that's what members told Randy in the beginning.

"It's a headless organization" says Randy, "like an anthill that busted open but with no queen. Everyone is running around crazy doing their own thing and there's a freedom that none of the other gangs allow. And that's why people join. It's just homeboys looking after homeboys, protecting each other, and once you leave prison, it's not supposed to really exist, even though it does. In some ways, it's kind of like Gang-Lite."

In some ways, maybe, but in others, members are every bit living the gangster life.

Technically, Tango Blast is not a prison gang.

"The thing is," says Sigifredo Sanchez, head of the Security Threat Group Office that monitors prison gangs and cliques for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, "they don't fall under any of our criteria for a prison gang, so we can't establish them as that. A Security Threat Group, like the Texas Syndicate or Mexican Mafia, is far more organized and has laws and regulations, so they fall under the state's definition of a prison gang. But right now, the Tangos are just an up-and-coming group."

This technicality is allowing Tango Blast members to flourish. For security reasons, known members of other gangs are placed in segregation and kept separate from the general population. But because prison authorities cannot segregate members of Tango Blast simply for belonging, they live with everyone else and, according to members, have the run of things, extorting non-gang members for protection and taking control of the illegal drug and cigarette trade.

"When I was inside," says "Pete," a member of Tango Blast who now lives in Port Arthur and did not want his real name used, "I was selling stuff and getting things smuggled in, but this was all on my own accord and I kept whatever I earned. I didn't have to kick it back into the group. And that's why we're not really a gang. Nothing is organized. Each unit has its own set of rules and personality, but the thing that makes us closest to a gang is the fact we fight other gangs. But it doesn't matter which prison you go to, we outnumber everybody, and I think everyone is getting alarmed."

Houston police, however, do classify Tango Blast as a gang. For the past two years, officers have been using a computer program called GangTracker, into which they download information about gang members they encounter on the streets, such as the person's name, gang affiliation, nickname and tattoos. Pictures of the member and his tattoos are also entered — a valuable resource for police investigating crimes.

For decades, the Texas Syndicate and Mexican Mafia have been the two best-known Hispanic prison gangs in Texas. Hundreds of news stories have documented members' ruthless violence and military-style crime operations inside and outside of prison. On the street, gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have garnered lots of attention, most recently in Houston in the form of the ongoing Ashley Benton trial, in which the teen is accused of ­murdering a member of the notorious El Salvadoran gang. In contrast, only a handful of newspaper articles even mention Tango Blast.

Overwhelmingly Hispanic and all-male, Tango Blast formed inside Texas's state prisons during the early 1990s. Originally, say members, it was an offshoot or cousin of the Texas Syndicate, but the "homitos" soon grew tired of being taken advantage of by the established gang to do much of its dirty work. So, in the same way that MS-13 formed in Los Angeles to protect its people from other predatory groups, so Tango Blast was created to shield inmates from other prison gangs. In fact, many older members claim the word "Tango" is an acronym standing for "Together Against Negative Gang Organizations." However, the most common interpretation of Tango is "hometown clique."

This makes sense, because the group is divided up by cities, or hometowns. The four original chapters of Tango Blast are in Houston, called Houstone; Austin, called ATX or La Capricha; Dallas, known as D-Town; and Fort Worth, called Foros or Foritos. These independent groups unite to form the Four Horsemen, sometimes also called Puro Tango Blast. In and out of prison, they tend to stick together. Other cities and regions, including El Paso, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas, have Tango gangs but do not always get along with the original four. Houstone is by far the largest of them all. Exact numbers are hard to come by. While police, county jail and state prison authorities all say Tango Blast is the largest clique in Texas, they will not estimate how many men belong. Several members, including Randy, say Houstone members number in the thousands, and when you "put all the Four Horsemen together, you're in the five digits, easy."

"There's so little structure and so few requirements to get in," says Harris County Deputy Michael Squyres, who works with gang members in the county jail, "that they're drawing very large numbers of people."

The older prison gangs are far more selective about whom they let in, and initiations are more involved than a simple minute-long fistfight with a pair of members. Typically, recruits are forced to commit some violent or serious crime so that members can dangle it over the greenhorns like the sword of Damocles, and use it against them should they betray the gang.

Indeed, the Tango Blast gangs, Houstone in particular, are in a class all by themselves. They operate as both a street gang and a prison gang, and at the same time, in some ways, they are neither.

"We used to joke," says Squyres, "that when you went from a street gang to a prison gang, you'd gone from a farm club to the major league. But Houstone is kind of in-between. They're a weird concept, and it's something we're all having to deal with and adjust to."

Most street gangs are territorial and dominate certain blocks and neighborhoods. Not Houstone. The majority of members joined up while incarcerated and have returned home, be that in the Heights, Baytown, Pasadena or southwest Houston. They do not sport colors or bandannas like street gangs, but do have signifying tattoos, including the Astros logo, local area codes such as 713 and 281, and the Roman numerals XVI, XX and II, which correspond to the letters P, T and B and stand for Puro Tango Blast.

Unlike traditional prison gangs, Houstone is decentralized, with no written constitution or set rules. All members are supposedly equal; all you need to apply is to have spent time in a state prison — although even that is no longer an absolute. Whereas traditional prison gangs have clear-cut systems of seniority and rank, Tango Blast does not. Members elect speakers for each wing of every unit within the prison system. The speakers, called "sillas," Spanish for "chair," then meet with the leaders of other gangs when required and bring the group's consensus opinion to the table.

"It's like the only and purest form of democracy in there," says Pete.

When a man joins one of the established prison gangs, he must drop any and all prior gang affiliations. But not if he joins Houstone. Upon release from prison, members can choose to stay active in Houstone, or they may return to their street gang or just plain drop gang-­banging altogether. In traditional prison gangs, death is the only acceptable reason to quit.

"We get a lot of people who will take a minute-long ass beating just to join for the protection and to live a little better," says Pete.

If you listen to many of the guys who have been released from prison, you'd tend to think Houstone is far more like a college fraternity than a prison gang. They talk mostly about brotherhood and looking out for one another, watching football games together and hanging out with their women and kids. After all, unlike other prison gangs, many members of Tango Blast are not hardened criminals, and they simply joined for short-term protection while incarcerated, with the expectation they'd drop the gang once they got out.

"It's just a group of people in the same city or in the suburbs that get together and go to picnics and barbecues," says "Bill," who did not want his real name used and is currently on probation. He calls himself an "active" member. "Me and my homeboys, we try to help each other out and try to get jobs for one another. We act like a second family."

In some instances, says Bill, Houstone even creates peace between street gang members who were at war with each other before they united under Tango Blast.

"I know this dude who I shot at when we were on the streets in different gangs," says Bill, "but he joined Houstone and now we laugh about it. He tells all the homeboys, 'this crazy motherfucker shot at me, and now I have his bullet right now.' And we just laugh about it because it's just part of how we grew up."

But not all Houstone and Tango Blast members choose a crime-free life after getting out of prison. Over the past several years, Houston, Dallas and Austin police have arrested Tango Blast members for everything from drug dealing and kidnapping to sexual assault and murder. Members have been accused of threatening police officers and waging a bloody, all-out turf war with members of the Texas Syndicate over drugs and issues of respect that are spilling over from the prisons into the streets.

"Most of us are trying to straighten up," says Pete of Port Arthur, "but mind you, we're all criminals and it's hard to get rid of that criminal mind-set. So when you get a bunch of criminals together, criminal shit is going to happen."

Last October, for instance, 21-year-old William Linzer, a Houstone member, was accused of kidnapping and then, along with an accomplice, of raping a teenaged girl, says Harris County prosecutor Caroline Dozier. That incident allegedly occurred about a year and a half after Linzer and another man were accused of shooting Darrick Harris in the head with a 9-millimeter handgun outside a block party in southeast Houston. Prosecutors are scheduled to take Linzer to trial on all three offenses this month.

In Dallas, Tango Blast member Guadalupe Rodriguez pleaded guilty last November in federal court to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. During three separate traffic stops in 2005 and 2006, police found more than 660 grams of meth on Rodriguez, as well as loaded guns and thousands of dollars in cash. U.S. District Court Judge Jane J. Boyle sentenced him to more than 32 years in prison. In addition, police determined Rodriguez had lied to government agents about the role of his partners in the dope operation and had in fact contacted certain co-conspirators from prison to brag about cleaning up their responsibility in the venture and to warn them of ongoing police investigations.

"Some of our guys are still hardheaded criminals," says Bill. "You've got dudes out there with good connections that all their life they've been drug dealers, so you can't really get mad at them for doing their thing."

Tango Blast members have been on the receiving end of violence from rival gangs. According to a federal indictment filed earlier this year in Houston against 17 members of the Texas Syndicate, several men, including Francisco Nuncio, also known as Frank the Butcher, conspired to murder a Tango Blast member "for the purpose of gaining entrance to" and "increasing their position in the (Texas Syndicate) Enterprise."

"There's a lot of people from the Texas Syndicate who don't like Houstone," says Bill. They're mad at us, but for them, they're not just going to beat you on sight for the hell of it. They're going to check you out and see what you're about before they stab you or shoot you. It's just all about respect."

Sometimes, because Tango Blast is so disorganized and so large, members fight each other without even knowing it.

Take Jason Wooley, for example. Accord­ing to Harris County prosecutor Eileen Bogar, Wooley, a member of Houstone, was working as a bouncer at a pool hall called The Perfect Rack in northwest Houston in July 2004. Another Houstone member, Adrian Payan, and a non-gang member named Emerson Boroquez, says Bogar, showed up for a fistfight with Wooley, when Wooley suddenly drew a gun and fired into the ground. Immediately, a pair of men who were hiding opened fire, killing Boroquez and striking Payan in the back. Wooley was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

"They were all Houstone except for Boroquez," says Bogar, "and the jury determined that it was a planned deal, an ambush. The motive was unclear; it could have been a mistake. And it's highly possible they didn't know each other were Houstone."

For the moment, the gang's greatest failing is members' unwillingness and inability to organize. That shortcoming, in turn, is the greatest asset for police.

"What we're seeing," says FBI agent Brian Ritchie, "is that they're meeting each other in prison and then coming out, finding each other and then organizing on the street in what we'll call cells of various numbers. The violence and conflicts they have with other prison gangs is spilling over into the streets, and they are no different than any other gang in terms of the kinds of crimes they commit, except that they are not that organized. Yet. And that's what we're trying to prevent, because if they do organize, we're going to have a big problem."

But active members such as Bill say Houstone will never be as organized as the other prison gangs.

"Police and prison guards are trying to make us out to be like Texas Syndicate or some shit," says Bill, "but that's just because we're getting so big, and maybe too quickly. But they don't understand that a lot of guys who go Houstone are leaving Houstone because we don't operate like the other prison gangs, and when they try to organize us like the others, we don't play that. Sure, there are groups of dudes doing things, but it's not like they're doing it for Houstone or any greater good. Everyone is their own man, and if a group of guys make the choice to do whatever, that's got nothing to do with Houstone as a group."

When police first caught up with and arrested Randy Moreno in 1998 for threatening to shoot his girlfriend, he had only vaguely heard of Houstone and Tango Blast, and did not know any members or that it was even a prison gang.

Randy was 19 and had spent the last five years gang-banging with the Locos 13 in Alief, where he grew up.

"I was an enforcer," Randy says. "I knew how to intimidate."

Randy is about 5-foot-10 and weighs around 200 pounds. His bald head, thick neck and rounded shoulders give him the appearance of a boxer, though his eye-glasses, which rest on his squat nose, and his puffy, almost chipmunk-like cheeks soften his look. Like most gang members, tattoos are peppered all over his body, including his nickname, "Joker," which he says was given to him because "of my crazy smile when I was hitting a guy."

Randy can't recall how many fights he's been in — he estimates it at nearly 100 — but by the time the law came crashing down upon him, sending him to prison for four years for the episode with his girlfriend and a subsequent theft charge, Randy had already dodged a pair of murder attempts and was running a chop shop and several crews of car thieves, making enough money to prepay two years' worth of rent on five separate apartments scattered throughout the city.

"I guess I just thrived on the violent lifestyle and destruction," he says.

Before going to prison, Randy did know something about the hard-core prison gangs. Several months before he was arrested, Randy accompanied members of one of the Hispanic prison gangs — he won't say which one for fear of retaliation — as they went after a member they believed was a snitch.

"They asked me if I wanted in the gang," says Randy, "but they said that before I answer, I need to think about if I'll still want to be doing it at age 55 and 60. I didn't say anything to them out loud, but I thought to myself, 'There's no way.'"

Randy remembers it was a Thursday, his second day at the Goodman unit in Jasper County, when a pair of inmates first approached him in the chapel about ­Houstone.

"I told them I didn't want to be in a gang," says Randy, "but they were like, 'Oh no, we're not a gang.' They said it was just homeboys looking out for homeboys and that 'We can hook you up with some food and stuff from the commissary.' They said they were not like the other gangs because there wasn't the same kind of ­commitment."

Randy told them he'd think about it, and then spent the next two weeks watching what members did and how they ­interacted.

"When I went to prison," says Randy, "I told myself, 'Okay, don't join a gang, behave, make parole and get out.' Well, that soon turned to shit."

He says that when he first entered the system, his mind was focused solely on using the time to straighten out his life. But after hearing Houstone guys pitch the gang and its lax attitudes toward commitment, and realizing he was stuck there for four years, he was sold.

"I told them they seemed pretty cool and didn't seem like the other gangs," he says. "So, I said, 'Fuck it,' and got down with them."

Randy was initiated into Houstone in 2000, back when you had to be in prison to join the gang. Today, the rules seem to be more relaxed, and more and more men and teenagers are claiming to belong who have never served time in a state ­penitentiary.

In Dallas County, for instance, gang prosecutor Heath Harris says he is handling a case in which a young man belonging to the local street gang Brown Pride is awaiting trial at the county jail for allegedly stabbing his girlfriend to death last August. Harris says that jail guards have intercepted the man's mail, which details how he now belongs to Tango Blast and is fighting it out with Texas Syndicate members. The defendant also is covered in Tango Blast tattoos, all of which were applied in jail, Harris says.

"He hasn't gone to prison yet," says Harris, "and he's already been recruited and is aligning himself with that particular group. I'm definitely going to look into having the jail personnel really monitor the situation, because obviously he joined while incarcerated at the county jail. I'm going to talk to the sheriff and see what we can do to gauge what type of recruitment is really going on there."

Deputy Squyres says the same thing is happening in Harris County's jail.

"They're here," he says. "We know they're here and we see them here. People are definitely coming in who have never been in the criminal justice system before who are sporting all the tattoos and claiming to be Houstone."

Members such as Randy and Bill say you cannot join unless you go to state prison. However, they say county jail can serve as an educational seminar, but that's where it ends.

"It's really just the youngsters acting this way," says Randy. "I mean, you don't get initiated in county. But what you do is, you educate them on hand signs, the lingo, and what to do and what to expect."

The problem, he says, is that Houstone has gotten so large, and because it's unorganized, anyone can claim to be a member and it's nearly impossible to prove them right or wrong.

"When I was in county two years ago," says Randy, "this one guy was saying, 'Hey, that dude over there says he's Houstone, but he ain't in Houstone.' 'Well,' I said, 'Who the fuck let you in?' I mean, anybody can just walk on in because it's so easy to join, so you can't really question anybody."

Two years ago, Deputy Squyres was sitting at home on his couch sipping on a soda and watching the Astros play the Chicago White Sox in the World Series when suddenly, out of nowhere, he burst out ­laughing.

"They were showing some guy with an Astros star tattooed on the side of his head," he says, "and the announcer was saying something about what great fans we have here. I turned and said to my wife, 'That's not an Astros fan, he's Houstone.' And then the next day at work, some of the guys started joking about it, saying, 'I bet you that fool couldn't even tell you who's playing first base.'"

Houstone gang signs, symbols and tattoos are beginning to pop up all over town — on the street, at ballgames, at neighborhood parks. And many times, the ones sporting them are nothing but posers.

Several Sundays ago at the Lowrider Magazine Tour Show at Reliant Arena, a Hispanic teenaged boy was walking around with the word "Houston" tattooed across his back and one of the gang's symbols, "713," inked on his arm. When asked if he belonged to Houstone, he said, "Nah, I don't go with them," and then trotted off to catch up with his parents.

A few feet away, a man named Rudy was at a vending booth selling T-shirts with "Houston" artistically printed on the front. However, he says he often honors requests to print them up saying "­Houstone."

"Sometimes," he says, "I put on the extra 'e' because Houstone dudes are a lot of my customers and they ask for it. My uncle was real big into that group, but a lot of the time, the guys who ask for the 'Houstone' shirts aren't even real and have never been to prison."

A quick search for "Houstone" on MySpace reveals hundreds of pages with young men claiming to belong. The elaborately designed Web pages show pictures of the Astros star, $100 bills and Budweiser beer labels, but with the company's name replaced with "Houstone, the King of Cities." And they're riddled with catchy phrases like, "If you ain't blastin, you ain't lastin" and "I live the life of a 'G' until the grave or T.D.C. When you fuckin with Texas you fuckin with the best...Houstone Tango Blast."

YouTube also has several videos showing kids driving in cars saying, "H-Town for life," "Houstone to the bone" and other indecipherable rhymes.

"Most of these are people who have never been to prison, and they want to belong and be viewed as part of something," says Squyres. "And most of them are not idiots running around in the streets. These are kids who are sitting in their room who know how to use a computer and are playing all this gangster stuff out in their heads and on their computer because they think it's cool."

Squyres says he's even received reports from junior high and elementary school principals who have students writing Houstone graffiti on school property.

"Houstone has been around for a few years," says Victor Gonzalez of the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office, "but now for some reason the symbols and the name, it's getting all hyped up and people are taking them more seriously. I've got kids out there who can't wait to be Houstone. It's ridiculous."

An 18-year-old member of the Southwest Cholos hanging outside a convenience store in southwest Houston smiles when he hears the word "Houstone." He says he's never been locked up in the penitentiary, but would definitely join up if he is.

"I'd get down with them because I grew up here," he says, "You know, you gotta be proud of where you come from."

Randy has little patience for all the hype and so-called city pride.

"I think all those dudes are fucking retarded," he says. "I mean, Texas Syndicate and Mexican Mafia, they can't jump out there on MySpace or YouTube and say, 'Hey, we're Mexican Mafia, get down with us.' They'd be arrested or put down by their gang for publicizing their affairs. But Houstone does it, and people are like, 'Oh yeah, they're representing their city.' But it's one thing to represent your city; it's another when you do it with Houstone."

Bill and a pack of fellow Houstone members are getting ready to leave a club in downtown Houston late at night when they see a young man near the door with an Astros star tattooed on the back of his head flashing the gang's sign — an "H" — with his hand.

"What the hell you got there on your head?" asks Bill.

"Yeah, I know it's Houstone," replies the guy, "but if I ever get locked up, I'll be down."

An instant later, Bill and his "homeboys" escort the guy outside onto the street.

"Yeah, we beat the shit out of him," says Bill. "The rule is, if you've got our sign or whatever on there, you came from prison. If not, you'll get beat up, stabbed, shot or raped, it all depends upon the kind of guy you meet."

There is an internal feud going on right now in Tango Blast between purists — those who want to keep it a helter-skelter fraternity for ex-cons only — and those who want it to evolve into more of an organized crime family and let in guys who have never been to a state prison.

"Right now, these youngsters are getting out of control," says Bill, "and now they're all over Houston and none of 'em have been locked up and don't know the meaning of it. We're not trying to get locked back up or nothing, but at certain times, if they overdo it or disrespect right in front of us, we'll give them an ass-­kicking and they'll think about it next time when they go home with broken arms or ribs or toes."

Brian Ritchie of the FBI says he is seeing a shift happen on the streets. Older members, who have been to prison and paid their dues, are slowly emerging as leaders and younger guys are acting as the soldiers, selling drugs, jacking cars and robbing homes. They then cut the veterans in on the profits, he says.

Reluctantly, Bill admits some of the older members are indeed to blame.

"Yes, this newer generation has changed a lot, but don't get me wrong, some of the old-schools are with them," he says. "Some of the old Houstone who know that everyone is supposed to be equal sometimes mislead the youngsters and have them do their dirty work so they won't go back to prison. It's complicated, because these dudes are trying to use people, and it's not right, but if no one is going to teach these youngsters any better, fuck 'em, they deserve to get used. These youngsters just need the knowledge that Houstone is really all about just being there for each other."

That same Southwest Cholo member who says he can't wait to join Houstone if he ever gets sent to prison also says he sees a lot of "fakers" on the streets.

"If they're young dudes, they're fake," he says. "They have like a brother or cousin in it, but they're not in it but they claim it anyways. I mean, you'll see groups of them, the fakers, run around in packs trying to punk you. They think it's cool and that they'll get respect, but they don't."

About a year ago, says Bill, a group of the younger, more ambitious guys called a meeting in Pasadena to discuss their future and decide if they wanted to impose more of a blood-in, blood-out crime-­family ­culture.

"We heard about the meeting," Bill says, "so about 16 of us went to a park to discuss it. We could've gone out there and found them, but we decided to let them learn the hard way out in the streets. We said, why jeopardize our freedom over some punks who are trying to be something they're not and who are just trying to make a name for themselves? But, you know, they just want to be part of something."

That seems to be the difference between the older Tango Blast members and the younger kids. On the one hand, you have men who either want to stay out of trouble or, if they want to continue a life of crime, don't want publicity which makes being a criminal that much more difficult. On the other hand, you have a group of guys, many of whom have not been to prison, that have a street-gang mentality and don't grasp the necessary nuance of keeping things quiet.

"It's a schizophrenic group," says Squyres, "because of the different kinds of people involved. Street gangs by their very nature tend to be flamboyant and in-your-face, because what's the use in being in a gang if no one knows you're a gangster? But people in a real prison gang who are interested in being in a for-profit criminal enterprise definitely don't want these knucklehead youngsters drawing attention to them."

This split is as representative of what Tango Blast is all about as anything else. They're all over the map, with no direction — one small group doing one thing while another does something utterly ­different.

Randy has already seen the beginning of a metamorphosis firsthand.

In 2001, Randy got into it with his fellow Tango Blast inmates over whether or not to go to war against rival members of the African-American gang, the Crips, who were gaining strength in his unit. The gang took a loose vote; the consensus was no. But Randy didn't care, and publicly chastised his fellow members for being "pussies." The next day, Randy was standing in the gym during recreation time when members of his gang piled on and began beating him. The day after that, they paid a member of a rival gang to kill him, says Randy.

When he looks back over his life as a member of Houstone, Randy sees a touch of irony. Back when he joined, it was "jump" guys in and, if necessary, "jump" them out. But years later, they tried to snuff him out.

"I'm glad I never joined one of the 'families,'" says Randy, "because I would still have to be in it, and it would have really fucked up my life. On the other hand, joining Houstone or Tango Blast is like running head-on into total chaos. Yeah, they say it's something new, and it kinda is, but really, they're just doing the same thing as the others, just without the ­commitment."

chris.vogel@houstonpress.com

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36 comments
Mrpecas713
Mrpecas713

ITS ALL GOOD IF DIS CHAFA ASS PUTOS WANNA DISRESPECT N TALK DOWN ON DA BLAST CUZ WE KNOW DAT IN REALITY IT WONT EVER HAPPEN BUT YEAH DIS MR.PECAS S.W.C FROM BELLAIRE ST. EN LA LIBRE N TANGO BLASTIN IN DA PEN SO IF U DONT KNOW WHAT DA BLAST IS A BOUT DAN KEEP IT OUR UR MOUTH. REAL HOMEBOYS KNOW WHAT WE ABOUT N DA CHAFAS ARE DA ONES TO GIVE UP DA GAME. MUCH LOVE N RESPECT.

Sanctify
Sanctify

Unbelievable all the stupid "homies" on here posting about there stupid gangs. If you ARE "BLASTIN" you are a PUNK! Wake up regular people! These Animals need to be stopped at all costs, before they end up tearing our country apart,--which is their mission!

They want anarchy so they can rule with intimidation, fear and exploit everything around them! They are eating our communities from the inside. If you don't believe it, just see how many of these posts are from gang members! ANd they are in their own language of abbreviations and slang and Spanglish and made up terms that only they understand. I live in a gang dominated part of the city and it SUCKS big time! I feel unsafe all the time and have to see and hear violent outbursts and crime and prostitutes and beatings all the time and I am sick of 'em.

And for you liberals out there who feel sorry for them because of their upbringing... Well, I was brought up here too and I am nothing like that--they are just selfish lazy greedy members of the new "Bling" generation who want an easy buck and have no values, just like our CEO's, I know... But these guys will take your life! GANGS are TERRORISTS and should be rounded up and jailed and all their guns and property gained from crimes and their drugs should be seized and their Ho's (slaves) should be freed and rehabilitated.!!!

MarineFromWaller
MarineFromWaller

So WHERE's my comment you liberal bastards?

FUCK YOU Houston Press!

OldMarineCorpsVet
OldMarineCorpsVet

To any gang bangers out there, Blast or not. You are all losers. You should all align with each other and call yourselves - The Biggest Losers. You are all basically cowards. You have to depend on others all the time. You don't know how to really live life and how to reap the many rewards of it. You don't really have any concept of a normal life. You are all throwing away your miserable lives and for what? Cuz somebody messed with your homie? Cuz somebody dissed you? Cuz you can't find in your pathetic selves to use your God-given intelligence and gifts to HONESTLY work for a living - so you turn to stealing, dealing drugs and other criminal enterprises? You all are so sad. You mutilate your bodies with those ugly tattoos. They are Pagan by the way and Scriptures (The Bible) tells us that this displeases God. Most of you are Catholic are you not? Did you ever really pic up a Bible and actually read it? You are not really Catholics. You are not really humans either. You are are pathetic jokes. Sad men living a sad life and all too often a very short one. It doesn't have to be that way. The choices that you make in this world are yours. Why choose a dead-end path? Why throw everything that you have and any potential to have - away? What's up with that? WHY? Tattoos don't make you better looking and more manly. They make you into carnival sideshow freaks. Get a life before you lose yours!

juan
juan

yo soy de san anto tejas puro orejon chingon, no disrespect, orejons DON;T blast. puro san anto tango no fama,no ramfla.puro homeboys, por vida it's a diffrent way of doing time. so it's up to you????

SENDOG
SENDOG

YO SOY DE SAN ANTO TEJAS IWAS LOCKED UP WHEN THERE WASN'T NO TANGO IN THE JAILS YOU EITHER BACK THE RAZA UP OR JOIN THE MM. I NEVER DID JUST BACK UP THE RAZA. LATER ON I DECIDED TO TATTOO OREJON ON MY NECK AND RAN AND BACK UP MY HOMETOWN BOYS SAN ANTO 210.BUT IT'S NOT A GANG.BUT IT IS GETTIN BIG. THERES MORE OF US IN THE JAILS NOW.AND IN THE FREEWORLD.

joey robles
joey robles

adding to my last comment,this is jojo,i finished my time out on rockin roberson unit in abilene,i was on luther, we smashed them fools out of el paso. keep ur fukkin head up homiez,the real tango blast knows the game, fuck all the haters,fakes and punks.16-20-02. if you aint blastin, you aint lastin.if ur free homie,stay out and rep this city from out here,ive been out since 2005.do yall thang but stay out homie.

joey robles
joey robles

i did ten years in the texas prison system,houstone tango blast had rules to go by,people say we was a"headless gang" is a bunch of talk,the younger guys getting into the blast that didnt have a "real convict" to hold the chair above them is the ones who think that the answer to every problem was to swing fists.my only friends that i have now out here in the free is a few guys that i know will have my back because they was in there standing next to me in riots.just because we went to prison and we are in the houstone tango blast doesnt make us bad people.my friends that i blasted with in there ..we all have jobs out here in the free, we have kids and wives.and another thing, for those youngsters that get the tattoo of the astros star and "houstone" and "713" "281" and anything dealing with the blast,if you aint never been to prison,you aint got no reason to be even thinking bout putting that stuff on ur body,the county jail aint prison,get put down in the county and the real houstone homiez are laughing at yall!!! you will get checked if a homie sees you blastin that star and never been to prison.you cant blast from the county jail.whenever yall get cora checked yall gonna get double the beating for having the star on yall.lol,what if yall dont make it in the blast? then yall gonna get a hook tattoo and look like a fool too.lol much love to the real blast,the homiez that are staying out here in the free supporting the family.

Amanda
Amanda

To all those haters who are commenting on this page I have known Randy aka Joker for a long ass time. He is not one to lie or make up any type of bullshit. To this day he has been a true loco who has never backed down from anything that wasn't worth backing down from. He's the type of vato that you don't fuck with . I just as O.G. Puppet come from that S.W. side Alief S.W.C. X3. Back in those days the gang meant familia. Now at days the gangs are not the same. They lost there pride in themselves and have turned into groups of rabid dogs. So for all your bullshit comments yall can just go fuck yalls selves!!! >La Guera

BIG HAPPY
BIG HAPPY

WHAT IT WUZZ HOMITOS THIS BIG HAPPY BLASTIN THAT BETO 1 HOUSTONE IT MAKES ME MAD WHEN SOME HOMITOS GET OUT AND THEY SAY I AINT BLASTIN ANYMORE, BITCH YOU AINT ACT LIKE THE BLAST WASNT ANYTHING WHEN YOU WERE LOCCED UP ALL BITCH HOMITOS WHO SAY I AINT BLASTIN ANYMORE SHOULD HAVE THE GREEN LIGHT GET AT ME HOMITO PURO TANGO BLAST

nana
nana

i am a pround houstone members girlfriend he loves me and tells me nothing about it cuz i guess he cant or sum i dont kno.... anyways wtf wit all these people clamin they kno so much bout houstone. to those who are actually banin got much love for ya stay tru to those who helped you thu

nana
nana

my boyfriend is a member of houstone gang he jux got out of prision and it is not unorginized. basically if you bangin houstone and a houstone member finds out you dead. plain and simple. its like that with mostly all gangs. it dont take a genius or a whole bunch of detectives to figure out.

casper
casper

This fool is a hoe, sounds like to me he was crossed out, in prison and came out here to lay it all out for the popo's. Real homitos dont say shit we know who we are, and dont have to prove a damm thang .... when u disrespect houstone, you'll know who the real ones are.... and this year is the year we get those fake ass fools that are faking it to make it.... this is casper, off of telford... STR-8 BLASTIN CITY ALLIANCE PUTO'S

chief
chief

I was in TDC at Pack II in '87 when this got started. All of us from Houston got tired of all the BS from the organized gangs and decided to stick together. There was more of us even then than any other group. The Astros came into it because we took over the TV to watch the Astro games. Used to be about 1/3 white and 2/3 hispanic. No extorting shit from weaklings, no blood in blood out, or any other gang bullshit. Nothing wrong with this group, just a bunch of guys from Houston doing thier time in TDC.

julio
julio

the article has alot of fluff. same thing over and over again. for seven pages. very poorly written. or lack of info. maybe the topic itself has no meat. either way. should be shorter and more concentrated.

serdna
serdna

Tango Blast is made up of a bunch of pussies who ain't about shit. You all ain't got the balls to join a REAL gang.

pepe
pepe

say homito ure news letra was de a queyas i just got out a week ago i'm an atx tango blaster shit changing homito the blast is changing seems like they forgot were about staying out we got these young vatos wanting to blast and they only 15 yungstas claiming this and they dont know what its about mucho respeto form the ATX 16 20 2 capirucha's finest

FILO
FILO

Hey Homito soy de D*TOWN checking out the article it's got crazy same shit up here middle school kids hit up and shit For all the tru homitos stay real don't forget the hoe squad and stay out remember our true FAMILIES our out here! Our homitos are inside waiting to come home much respect to all the HOMITOS that are in the cages and also to those at home

louisito medina jr
louisito medina jr

d info on houstone is tru.just these new generations of homitos fuk up d meaning of houstone. i am a proud HOUSTONE that came 4rm barrio de alief a tru SWC 13 an proud to b a houstone. been through alot in d pinta an learn from it.yes most of d gangs we used 2 b just got smart an in d pinta we all r one an equal an c y r we killin ourselves out in d world. when we should b helpin eachother.an not goin back to prison.well 2 all d haterz an wanna b's - f-yall cause houstone is a good thing an yea @ times it get rough but nothing is handle down 4 free or peacefully.lots of homitos fought an died to get where we r @ now. T.B always! know d meanin an live by it.much luv an respect to all an to all d HOMITOS that r doin well an remember where we was @ an not go back! It feels good to b out ! determine 2 succeed ! By- O.G Puppet

HTB 281
HTB 281

HOUSTONE TO THA BONE.......IF YOU AINT BLASTIN YOU AINT LASTIN

no
no

this mf i s aliar who doesnt know any thing about houstone

Kingchedr1
Kingchedr1

Your fucking stupid All that shit your saying about ruling with intimidation the goverment is doing. Your a paranoid schizo and you should seek help:)

Sanctify
Sanctify

scary, I hope you all decide to stop this selfishness and destruction, and try to actually do something meaningful with your life instead. Gangs are terrorists and should be stopped at all costs.

Sanctify
Sanctify

Gangs never meant anything! Give me a break! I hope America gets a clue and permanently and violently gets rid of every last one of you I cannot stand living around your filthy crime and violence anymore! You are not heroes in any way shape of form. you are all cowards and not real men, 'cause real men take responsibility for making the world safe for women and children--not make it a terrifying place for everyone. You are just rabid defective animals that are destroying everything you touch.

Sanctify
Sanctify

Only cowards join gangs. I have NO respect for you or your "Homies". You are a joke. Police protect this city from your chaos and I support them. If I see your "Activities" I will take your picture and call the police. You are not Welcome here in Houston. There is NO "E" on the end of Houston. We don't want you here--go back to whatever run-down place you ruined on your way to try to ruin our fair city, 'cause you warren't gonna get away with it here, "Homie".

Sanctify
Sanctify

You have no love for anyone because you are in a Gang. Gangs by Nature are about hate and selfishness and greed and exploitation and tearing down communities and violence and child abuse, and demeaning women and terrorizing good people. You are not a good person and don't deserve to live in Houston and there is not such thing as "Houstone" it an ignorant and useless word that is a desperate to give meaning to your life that could have been better spent had you been real man and taken care of the people around you instead of being a selfish boy forever and making excuses and not manning up and instead being a coward who hides behind violence and lies and abuse and terror. You sir, are a wimp.

Sanctify
Sanctify

Only wimps turn to a life of crime and only wimps join gangs. "Blastin", "Houstone", "Real Homies"... ? WTF?!?! Don't you mean ignorant lazy fools who don't want to work and instead want to take without giving and use and abuse everything around them until life is a living hell? You mean stupid dumb boys who never grow up and run on drugs and testosterone and kill/rape/beat/steal all day? Go to Hell. Houston doesn't want you anymore!

Sanctify
Sanctify

"Houstone" is NOT a good thing and should be tracked and dealt with by the domestic terrorism agencies in our country. these fools are ruining our democracy and the safety of our streets. They are responsible for the majority of crime in our cities and are not contributing anything to our world! They need to GO!

"Houstone" What a joke! Gangsters thinking they are somehow "Good" somehow justifying all this degradation and loss, all this violence and fear, all the filth and porn and prostitution and drugs and poison and beatings and mamings and robberies and crime as something noble and something valiant... you are seriously deluded and need to wake up. YOU are the problem and if you REALLY WANT TO BE A MAN,.. get rid of GANGS and really protect your communities and help educate your children and keep the streets clean and fix stuff for old ladies and helpless people and do some good with your worthless self instead of complaining and whining that life isn't fair... and your such a victim.

Sanctify
Sanctify

Wow, brilliant, what if I say,... If you Blast, you are in the past! If you are in a Gang you don't mean a thang! If you are a thug you deserve a slug! If you are a pimp you're a wimp... get my drift? God, it takes more to be a man than stupid saying! It's like you're all stuck in elementary school and no one want to be a REAL MAN and make a difference in a good way, just in a selfish and destructive way that makes everyone around them miserable. What small minds you have and you lack real COURAGE!

Gangs get out of Houston! We are waking up and you are gonna all end up in jail , or worse, if you stay here--This is NOT your city! IT is the city of GOOD people not WEAK people who can't control themselves and use violence to settle their problems and kill/rape/steal/destroy for a living.

Sanctify
Sanctify

If you are in a gang you don't mean a thang! Gangs get out of Houston, we hate you and your kind and don't want you here ruining our town. You are the lowest of the low and you will never be any better as long as you think that this ridiculousness makes you someone or something. It is pathetic!

Ruby Herrera
Ruby Herrera

Maynee hop off you on some bullshit, the world aint bout rainbows and flowers its a bitch out there you dont know nun bout that life

 
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