I first heard about the Hispanic prison gang Tango Blast Houstone from a social worker here in town who said he was alarmed at how many of the kids he was dealing with seemed to admire the gang’s members. He told me the group’s symbols, such as the Astros logo and area codes “713” and “281” are popping up in schools and on sites such as MySpace, and that even teens who have not been to prison and officially joined the gang are pretending to belong and are wearing its tattoos. He said he was worried because so many people view it as the cool, new, hip thing and are aligning themselves with the gang, equating it to city-pride, not realizing that members are as violent and dangerous as those in the established, more notorious gangs.
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To be sure, Tango Blast Houstone bills itself as a milder and kinder alternative to other prison gangs such as the Texas Syndicate and Mexican Mafia. Members follow a looser code and set of rules and are not nearly as organized. But don’t believe all their hype. As we detail in this week’s feature, Tango Blast Houstone members can be just as vicious, and while the gang and its seemingly relaxed approach may look fresh and unique, in many ways it’s just an act members are using to recruit unprecedented numbers of people into the largest and fastest growing gang in Texas. – Chris Vogel