Artist Catalog

The Ghetto Brothers

Formed: August 18 1969

The Ghetto Brothers

The Ghetto Brothers were a gang (or club) and music group founded in New York City's South Bronx in the late 1960s. The gang eventually spread to much of the Northeastern United States. Like the Young Lords, they were involved in Puerto Rican nationalism, including, in the case of the Ghetto Brothers, an association with the then-new Puerto Rican Socialist Party. This gang had political motivation to uplift young Spanish and Black men in the community.

The name Ghetto Brothers was chosen by Hui Cambrelen one of the original founders along with Ray delaVega and Benji Melendez. Benjamin Melendez, who left the organization in 1976, was also known as a guitarist. He led a band, also known as the Ghetto Brothers, which included his late brother Victor Melendez on bass. They released one album Ghetto Brothers - Power-Fuerza in 1971, which had only informal, local distribution. It has since been re-released on CD.

The Ghetto Brothers, especially in their early years, had a reputation as one of the more politically minded and less vengeful of New York-area gangs. After Cornell "Black Benjie" Benjamin was killed in 1971 trying to prevent a fight between two rival gangs, the Ghetto Brothers did not seek the expected revenge on those responsible for his death. Instead, under Melendez's leadership (and that of Carlos Antonio Suarez, also known as Carlos Melendez), they were instrumental in achieving a moderately successful truce among South Bronx and other New York-area gangs at the December 7, 1971, Hoe Avenue peace meeting.

Under Melendez's leadership, the Ghetto Brothers represented one end of the spectrum in terms of how they treated the women involved with the gang. Referred to as the Ghetto Sisters—the respectful term contrasted sharply with the names used for the women attached to other New York gangs of the period—the women were generally viewed as organization members and as girlfriends, whereas many other gangs treated women almost entirely as sexual property.

Former Hartford, Connecticut mayor Eddie Perez was a member of the Ghetto Brothers when young. New York Daily News columnist Robert Dominguez was the leader of a Ghetto Brothers division in the Bronx when he was a teen. In the Connecticut prison system, during the 1990s, the Ghetto Brothers and the Savage Nomads joined together to form Los Solidos (the Solid Ones), which is now one of the most powerful Puerto Rican gangs in the state.