Placas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo
Written by Paul S. Flores / Developed with and Directed by Michael John Garcés
PLACAS (barrio slang for body tattoos) is a bilingual tale of fathers and sons, transformation and redemption that illuminates one man’s determination to reunite his family after surviving civil war in El Salvador, immigration, deportation, prison and street violence.
As part of the writing process, Flores interviewed over 100 gang members, parents and intervention workers in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and El Salvador. Ric Salinas, a founding member of the critically acclaimed performance group Culture Clash, was approached to play Fausto Carbajal, a role loosely based on the experiences of ex-gang member Alex Sanchez, founder of the Los Angeles non-profit Homies Unidos.
In street culture, placas signify an individual member’s unswerving loyalty to the gang and also serve as a mechanism to create a new identity. Using Fausto’s tattoos as a metaphor, PLACAS explores the process of tattoo removal as one possible path for former gang members to move forward. Laser tattoo removal is a complicated and painful procedure that can take years to conclude, and it is especially risky for ex-gang members because their former comrades see it as betrayal and may target those who seek treatment. Partly because of this risk, gang prevention workers, police, probation officers, judges and case workers see tattoo removal as a legitimate step gang members can take toward reintegrating into civil society.
Placas was recently on a national tour that includes performances in Washington DC; Oakland, CA; Salinas, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; New York City. Co-commissioned by four nationally respected Latino arts organizations (MACLA, Su Teatro, Pregones Theatre Company and GALA Theatre) through the National Performance Network, PLACAS was developed as a pro-active community response to the issue of transnational gang violence, presenting positive elements of Central American culture in the context of a hostile, anti-immigrant political environment. Sponsors include Central American Resource Center,Homies Unidos, Homeboy Industries, National Compadres Network, The Unity Council and The California Endowment.