Twenty-one years ago, Denise Viera buried her husband after he was gunned down in front of her, a victim of gang warfare on the streets of an Anaheim barrio. She was eight months' pregnant with their son.
On Friday, she will bury that son, who was slain last week with gang bullets, a few blocks from where his father fell.
Viera can't help but believe that the first murder brought about the second--that the violent loss of a father left her son craving the attention and guidance that he could find only in gang life.
"Everyone I loved died," she said this week, preparing for the funeral. "He craved the love . . . and that was part of the reason he turned to the streets."
Guido Nicholas Viera Jr. carried his father's name but as a child came to resent the fact that the father had "left" the family. As he grew older, this resentment turned to curiosity, as he wanted to learn all he could about his namesake, the mother said.
This eventually brought him to the Anaheim street gang that his father belonged to. By his mid-teens, he was a member of the gang and, like his father, voiced a fatalistic outlook to his mother.
"He used to always say, 'Mum, I'm going to die before you.' I didn't want to hear it," she said. "His father told me the same, that he wasn't going to be around when Nicholas was born. That he would die young."
Detectives say that the Viera family tragically shows the intergenerational pull of gangs, some of which have existed for decades.
"For gangs like this, it's a lifestyle choice," said Police Lt. Joe Vargas, who has worked in the west Anaheim neighborhood for several years. "You do see cases where a family has become involved in generational gang behavior. . . . It's passed on to the children."
Guido Nicholas Viera Jr. was wounded near Locust and Walnut avenues in a drive-by shooting last Tuesday about 1:30 p.m. No one has been arrested, but the Anaheim Police Department is investigating. He died at the hospital two days later.
Eight blocks away, on July 13, 1979, his father was killed and three others were wounded in a scuffle outside a party.
Police believe both shootings were related to the West Side Anaheim street gang. Viera Sr. was 22; Viera Jr. was 21.
Denise Viera met her husband in the late 1970s. Family members said the father-to-be talked of changing his life in expectation of his son's birth. But he could never quite break his ties with the West Anaheim gang, they said.
Witnessing her husband being gunned down sent Viera into an emotional tailspin, she said. She gave birth to Nicholas a month later but said she felt incapable of caring for her son on her own, so they moved in with her mother.
Raised by three women--his mother, his aunt and his grandmother--Guido Nicholas Viera Jr. always longed for his father, his family said.
"He said he was getting into gangs because he didn't have [the] love" of a father, said his aunt, Gina Williams. "In a gang, there's a lot of respect and love between the brothers. . . . He just wanted a father figure."
During his teenage years, Nicholas had frequent encounters with the law, relatives said. At 19, he pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded weapon.
A couple of years ago, his search for a father brought him in touch with Seferino Garcia, a 57-year-old community activist.
Nicholas had become involved in neighborhood activities to stop gang violence. He attended council meetings, lobbying for a park that would keep youths off the streets, Garcia said.
The two often walked to a dirt field at Santa Ana Street and Manchester Avenue. They would talk about problems in the neighborhood, and Nicholas would suggest building basketball courts and handball courts. The city's Park and Recreational Commission decided in August to build a five-acre park there.
"Nick will never be able to enjoy his day at the park--the park he fought for," Garcia said. "He wanted to find himself; he wanted a pathway to the future."
For Garcia, the killing of his close friend has also become a symbol of a neighborhood's thwarted hopes. Since 1992, he and other community activists have struggled to maintain a gang truce--the "Barrio Peace Initiative."
The last time Nicholas visited Garcia, he talked about the Cesar Chavez exhibit at the Anaheim Museum.
"He wanted all his homeboys and girls to see the exhibit," Garcia said. "He wanted to stop the culture of death; the gang violence." His mother wanted the end of violence for her family as well.
Moving to Arizona three months ago, she begged her son to join her in her new home on the Colorado River.
But Nicholas couldn't imagine living in the desert, and found it hard to leave his friends and his neighborhood, his family said.
The family will bury the younger Nicholas next to his father.
"He was always searching for his father," Denise Viera said. "I want him to be with his father now."