East L.A. Instagram Account Looks Beyond Gangbanger Stereotype

One of the many personal photos uploaded by followers of the Veteranas & Rucas Instagram feed.  (Courtesy of Guadalupe Rosales)

Guadalupe Rosales says some of the best times of her life were in the early '90s, when she was a teenager growing up in East L.A. “Spending time with party crews and also relatives who were in gangs,” she says.

Ballpoint pen art uploaded by a follower of the Veteranas & Rucas Instagram feed.
Ballpoint pen art uploaded by a follower of the Veteranas & Rucas Instagram feed. (Courtesy of Guadalupe Rosales)

But the 35-year-old Rosales is no gangbanger herself, and she says times like that are often underrepresented in pop culture depictions of urban Latino culture. So she's taken to Instagram to correct that, inviting people to upload day-to-day images, video and other ephemera from the 1980s and '90s, the era she came of age.

“It’s not what people think it is,” says Rosales. “It’s not just people kill and people get pregnant at age 12."

Rosales says she wants to reframe Latino and Chicano heritage and history.

“I haven’t seen that out in social media, and I wanted acknowledgement that this is part of history,” she says.

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Her Instagram feed is called Veteranas & Rucas.

“Veteranas for me, it's someone who has put in time or work in the gang culture,” Rosales says. “And ‘rucas’ is like more of slang term that especially males used to call their girlfriends.”

The visual artist is based in Brooklyn yet is still connected to East L.A., She views her Instagram account as part contemporary history archive and part pop art exhibit. The account has also become a way for lost friends and acquaintances to reconnect.

“I put up the images and let people have a dialogue with each other, whether they know each other or they are strangers,” says Rosales.

Rosales curates the content with an emphasis on the young Latino women who powered a subculture that blended Chicano pride, gangbanger swagger and the imagery and fashion culled from the glossy pages of Low Rider and Street Beat magazines.

“The emphasis on my Instagram should be on women,” says Rosales. “Women who share similar experiences and histories as men but get erased or unacknowledged.”

On Veteranas and Rucas, the men recede into the background. The young girls in loose-fitting Ben Davis jeans or khakis, starched white T-shirts, Pendletons and black Mary Jane slip-ons come to the fore.

Rosales acknowledges that Veteranas & Rucas may give the impression that she’s trying to sugarcoat or over-romanticize an era that did indeed experience its share of gang violence, broken families and other social ills.

“I want to talk about everything you know, the good, the bad and the ugly,” says Rosales. “It does open up old wounds, it does bring nostalgia. It’s everything, and that is what I’m interested in putting out.”

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