Homies Figures – The Original Homies
By Alex Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
May 12, 2000
Homies Figures Los Angeles — In 1998 artist David Gonzales had released the first set of his popular miniature Chicano figures, the Homies, but by May 1999 his first set of 6 figures was receiving strong negative backlash about the Chicano representations in his art. On the one hand there where those that thought his depictions of Chicanos where emphasizing negative stereotypes of Mexican youths in California, but then there were those that appreciated the art and the cultural representations of real people from the barrio.
Gonzales stated that the figures are real people from his experiences, people from the community and people he grew up with. Other criticism suggested that the original 6 Homies figures were gang-related and promoted a violent lifestyle. For example, Detective Morris from the Devonshire division of the Los Angeles Police Department told the Los Angeles Times that “the Homies where negative images that perpetuated negative stereotypes and glorify the gang life style (Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1999)”.
There was also a deputy district attorney that stated that, “we’re thinking of putting them [Homies] in court to show people that if you are dressed like these guys, you’ re violating probation (www.lapdonline story entitled Homies Disappearing From a Store Near You).” The negative publicity from law enforcement pressured some retailers such as Jim Plescia of Vallarta Supermarkets to pull the Homies from the market, but was all the negative publicity towards Gonzales’ figures correctly warranted?
The original set includes, 8-Ball, La Raza, Mr. Loco, Sapo, Smiley and Droopy. They were available individually in gum ball machines, on a blister card and as key chains. These are the characters that where being associated as criminals, thugs and gangsters. The LAPD in May of 1999 stated that the 6 figures perpetuated negative stereotypes that glorified the gang life style without even examining the six figures individually.
Each Homie has a biography that Gonzales wrote as part of the artwork and if the critics of the Homies had some knowledge of the Homies they would know that Mr. Raza’s bio, for example stated that he is very passionate about his cultural heritage and has degrees in Chicano Studies and Latin American and Pre Columbian History. Mr. Raza also tries to educate the other Homies and encourages them to go to school and become educated and to work to change the system. Sapo (Frog) is just an ordinary homey from the neighborhood that eats a lot of Mexican food and is not popular with the ladies. Even the most “hard-core” of the original 6 Homies, Mr. Loco, works as a youth gang counselor and settles disputes between rival gangs in the barrio.
Gonzales has stated in numerous interviews that he “did not create the Homies to glamorize gang life” but many people will make false assumptions that Hispanic caricatures that are wearing baggy cloths, t-shirts, and hats must be gang-related, when in fact they are not.
The connections to gangs was absurd and highlighted an ignorance about racial minorities residing in inner-city communities that led to a prejudicial view of Hispanic youth.
Many of the stores that initially removed the popular figures slowly began to restock their shelves. Currently, Gonzalez has released four series that have become increasingly popular and they are considered legitimate collector’s items.
Interest in these figures initially came from the Hispanic community but now people from all over the world want to own their own Homies. Recent orders have come from The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Food Network and a costume company. Also there have been several requests from many countries in Europe, Africa, South America and people in all 50 states have requested their own Homies.
It turns out that the early perceptions of the Homies were greatly exaggerated, and police officers and prosecutors where off the target when they associated these figures as gang-related. The release of Homies 2, 3, and 4 in addition to Mijos 1, Mijos II, Mijos III have reinforced the original sentiments of Gonzales when he stated he was creating art based on Chicano culture, not gang culture. The most recent releases include the Hoodrats, Psycho Clowns and the Mini Bobble Heads. Some of these figures have also been made into dolls and are now among the most popular Homies products now. Six popular homies have been made into larger bendable homies figures.