"I'll always remember the summer of '81," said Dean Sanchez, 17. "This was the summer I got my first car."
Sanchez cruises the streets of Washington in an orange 1974 subaru that his older brother sold to him.
Sanchez, whose family came to the U.S. from Chile 10 years ago, said if he were to write a book about growing up in the District, it would be full of the drama of street life and young romance. The Sanchez family lives in Adams Morgan, which is home to many Hispanics.
"It was rough growing up in the area where I live, being a white Hispanic. I have a lot of friends on my block (1600 block of Irving Street NW), but I used to have a lot of enemies," said Sanchez, smoking a Marlboro.
"I've been in fights many times. I fight when it's necessary. When somebody picks with me I defend myself. Sometimes fights start over a girl or some guy will treaten another guy -- call him names.
"The biggest problem in growing up in D.C. is facing up to the fact that it is a dog-eat-dog world and realizing that you're going to have to deal with it," said Sanchez, who aspires to be an air traffic controller. He added, "What I hate most is coming home late at night and being scared about something happening to me when I walk down the street. I might get mugged or something."
Being bilingual, Sanchez moves easily from one world to the other. He greets his American friends with, "What's up, bro?" He greets his Hispanic counterparts with, "Que andas?"
Sanchez, whose mother is a clerk typist at the Department of Agriculture and whose father is a construction worker, will be a junior at St. John's College High School. He has been working for a construction company in Southeast this summer and is saving his money for tuition.
"I'm glad I'm going to St. John's. I wasted a few years going to public school. I didn't want to learn. I just closed my mind. I was loose, out in the street, cutting a lot of classes, hanging out with friends. I got turned around when I attended Mt. Mission boarding school in Grundy, Va. They taught discipline. I'm calmed down now."
Lately, his favorite activity is driving his car and being with his girlfriend, Christine Sanchez (not related to him), who lives in Northwest's Chevy Chase community. "To me, love is caring. You can't be sure of it. But, I'm in love now, I think."