The first thing that Nando Mondragon did when the cops in Las Vegas let him out of prison last week was go buy new clothes.
Mondragon, better known on Denver’s streets as “Yeyo,” got locked up in Sin City earlier this year as a Westword story was being written about the fashion mogul who was the go-to-guy for grillz. Mondragon had already served prison time in Nevada for a shooting. Upon his release he had his parole transferred to the state of Colorado, which he wasn’t supposed to leave without permission. When he caught a new case for a domestic dispute with his ex-girlfriend, Mondragon spent about six months locked up. He wasn’t supposed to be released until September 8 but the new domestic case against him was dismissed.
“Prison wasn’t too bad, when you have a date set that you know you’re getting out, even though it was eight or nine months ahead of time, at least you know when,” Mondragon said.
No one was more surprised than he when a guard came over to him last week and told him that he’d be moving to the “bull-pen,” a holding cell where inmates who are awaiting release spend their last days. When he got to the cell, Mondragon asked if they were sure he was supposed to be released, he even encouraged the guards to double-check it, which they did. When they confirmed his pending release, Mondragon gave away some shoes that he’d customized with blue, black and red pens to inmates whose company he appreciated.
A week ago, he was dropped off in the heart of Vegas, cashed his check from the money he earned working in prison and bought some new threads to get out of the jail-issued khaki suit that people in that city all recognize as prisoner garb. He got a plane ticket home and is back in the Mile High, putting together a new marketing plan for his father’s lowrider bike shop. Mondragon will be breaking some of his old bikes out of retirement for this weekend’s Lowrider show at the Denver Coliseum.
“I just gotta catch up for the last six months I just missed, I got a few ideas for the clothing line but pretty much just doing catch-up work now,” said Mondragon, who hopes to have a new clothing and grillz shop in Denver by next spring.
In the meantime, he’s selling off clothes that he says were so far ahead of the scene in Denver that they’re still in style, or even ahead of current fashion. --Luke Turf