"A los doce años, Luis Rodríguez ya era un veterano de la guerra entre las pandillas de East Los Angeles. Atraído por una cultura pandillera aparentemente insuperable, fue testigo de un sinfín de balaceras, golpizas y arrestos y, más tarde, con un miedo cada vez mayor, presenció cómo las drogas, los asesinatos, los suicidios y una delincuencia callejera carente de sentido cobraban la vida de amigos y familiares. Poco tiempo después, Rodríguez encontro la manera de dejar atrás la vida del barrio a través de la educación y el poder de las palabras. Así pudo liberarse de años de violencia y desesperación. Una vez alcanzado el éxito como poeta chicano varias veces galardonado, Luis llegé a pensar que las calles ya no lo perseguirían, pero entonces su hijo ingresó en una pandilla. Rodríguez luchó por su hijo mediante el relato de su historia personal. La Vida Loca es una vívida croónica que se adentra en las motivaciones de la vida de las pandillas y nos advierte de la muerte y la destrucción que, tarde o temprano, se lleva la vida de sus participantes. A ratos desgarradoramente triste y cruel, La Vida Loca es a la larga una historia verdadera, llena de inspiración, esperanza y sabiduría, y una lección duramente aprendida para las nuevas generaciones.
Discussion Guide Always Running Luis J. Rodriguez 1. Luis Rodriguez relates the events that led his family from Ciudad Juarez to Los Angeles. What do you think the events that surround his father's coming to the United States say about the immigration experience? How do you think such a history could influence the self-perception of the locos and other Mexican kids--as well as the way Anglos perceive them? 2. The yearly battle, "the Tradition," seems to help reinforce the identity of the groups involved. Why do you think this tradition could be reassuring to both groups, even though it centers on violence? What does each group get out of it? 3. Luis reflects on the power of prejudice in this way: "If you came from the Hills, you were labeled from the start...Already a thug. It was harder to defy this expectation than just to accept it....Why not make it your own?" (p. 84). What are some examples of Luis and others making the stereotypes and prejudices "their own"? Do you think Luis's logic is empowering or self-defeating? Why? 4. Always Running gives many examples of how the violence between Sangra and Las Lomas is constantly renewed. Do you think this cycle of vengeance could be broken? If so, how? 5. Discuss Luis's near-death experience and attempted suicide? How were these two events connected to his officially becoming a Lomas loco during the same period? 6. Did the community centers affect gang life? If so, how? Discuss the influence of community center organizers Chente Ramirez and Sal Basuto in the life of some of the gang members--do you think more of these centers could alleviate the problem of gang violence? Why or why not? 7. Why do you think drug use was so prevalent in the communities Luis describes? Compare and contrast the different roles drugs played in the lives of the residents of these communities. 8. Discuss the role of women in Luis' life. How does he treat them? What do you think shaped his attitude towards women--the media? In his community? In his family life? 9. What role did politics and politicians play in Luis' life? Do you think political organizations were more effective than the many religious groups who also converged on the barrio? 10. The power of expression plays an integral role in Luis's journey, both in terms of personal growth and in terms of becoming a voice for an underrepresented community. Is there a difference between art as an expression of an individual and art as an expression of a culture? Is one more valuable than the other?
The son of Mexican immigrants, Luis J. Rodriguez began writing in his early teens and has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children's book writer, and critic. Currently working as a peacemaker among gangs, Rodriguez helped create Tia Chucha's Café & Centro Cultural, a multiarts, multimedia cultural center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Visit him at LuisJRodriguez.com.
"Rodríguez nos cuenta su historia a través de un relato vivo, crudo...feroz y valiente...He aquí una verdad que ningún televisor, aunque esté encendido noche y día, podría empezar a exponer." -- Gary Soto, The New York Times Book Review
"Bravo! Luis Rodríguez, por la belleza de una expresión robusta y singular." -- Piri Thomas, autor de Por Estas Calles Bravas
"Extraordinariamente evocadora y educativa." -- Paul Ruffins, The Washington Post Book World