Braulio Castellanos, a notorious Mexican mafia boss, spent 35 years in prison for two murders. He was one of eight inmates granted compassionate release last month. Castellanos controlled one of Los Angeles’ largest street gangs, Florencia-13. He left a note with instructions for younger members to ensure his gang didn’t die with him.
Castellanos was born in Mexicali, Mexico, and brought to Los Angeles by his parents when he was six months old. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School in 1977. At 21 years old, he was convicted of robbery and sentenced to six years in prison. He later told a probation officer that those years behind bars ‘programmed me for violence’.
When he was 27, Castellanos was involved in a fight with a 22-year-old man called Mark Vasquez at the Lettuce Patch Lounge bar. He claimed during a parole hearing that Vasquez and his friends ‘yelled stuff at me’ when he passed them at the bar. When the bar owner, Tito Lechuga, 65, tried to break up the fight, Castellanos slashed his throat. He had also stabbed Vasquez 12 times, who died later that night. Castellanos was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 21 years to life.
Castellanos lived under the most restrictive conditions in Pelican Bay State Prison for 25 years. His younger brother, Arturo, was also incarcerated at Pelican Bay for murder in 1979. It is unclear when he joined the Mexican Mafia, but at a parole hearing in 2000, Castellanos acknowledged that he had been classified as a member of the gang by authorities.
The Castellanos brothers managed to run their old gang, Florencia, while incarcerated, law enforcement officials testified during trials in Los Angeles. However, Braulio was considered the main figure behind the gang. (latimes.com) He was released on 12 May and his wife, along with his two children and six grandchildren, were there waiting for him.
Castellanos left a chilling note with instructions for his gang, which were obtained by the Los Angeles Times. He instructed the gang to choose four representatives, two youngsters and two older, who are respected by their homies. “This way you cover all age groups and they know what the homeboys of that age are going,” the note continues. (ladbible.com) “I know when I was a youngster I knew… those that were active and those that were content just belonging.”
He also commented on the supposed current state of the Mexican Mafia. “As it stands, a handful of brothers have the larger percentage of the funds being generated throughout Southern Calif. We, as the majority, shouldn’t allow this to continue,” he wrote.
Castellanos died aged 64 last week due to stomach cancer. His life and death are a reminder of the dangers of gang violence and the importance of rehabilitation and reform.