The Fast Life and Near Death of Nica

Revered by followers, feared by rivals, and targeted by police, the gang leader known as Nica is alive today because of a brush with death

He survives on $520 per month, his disability payment. But he's still hatching ambitious schemes. Now he dreams of starting a career working on auto electrical systems.

On a recent Friday night, he got cleaned up and went out in some bright red pants. His face still bears scars, but time has been kind to it. He's managed to retain a certain rugged charisma. "You know, I couldn't wear red before," he says, smiling at the color of his former enemies, La Familia and the IN/P. "It looks good, man. I like red."

In moments like these, Nica sounds unabashedly hopeful. He says he's proud of all he's survived: the Sandinistas, the Contras, the Midnight Crips, all the "ignorant motherfuckers" who haunt his past.

A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face  --  and a new life
Joshua Prezant
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face -- and a new life
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face  --  and a new life
Joshua Prezant
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face -- and a new life

"I'm still going up," he says, as if the possibilities of his new life were just occurring to him. "I've been through a lot, but I'm not stopping. I still plan to go high."

Contact Bob Norman at his e-mail address: bob.norman@newtimesbpb.com

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