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The author's message is that gangs and violence lead nowhere, and that only through banding together as a community can we hope to save our children from that fate. The author had first-hand experience with gang culture, growing up in East Los Angeles. His first run-in with the police occurred when he was 10, & from then on he was essentially lost in the system. In fact, one could argue that he was at a disadvantage from the first moment he entered school, since he didn't speak English, and wasn't allowed to speak Spanish. He encountered teachers, social workers, and others in positions of authority who either simply didn't care, or were openly hostile. Due to all this, he dropped out of school. Along the way, he met Chente Ramírez at a community center created in response to the escalation of gang violence. A university-educated Chicano, Chente introduced Luis to political activism and Chicano pride. Luis returned to high school, where he too led political actions. He became the first non-Anglo to serve as mascot to the school football team, the Aztecs. He graduated and briefly attended college. It was this action of leaving his hometown that allowed him to escape the influence of gangs.
Rodriguez’s rescue from this self-destructive lifestyle came through art and politics. His writing and artistic ability flourished, so that he began to find more power in the pen and brush than in the sword. He wanted power to challenge and ultimately change the harsh social conditions which produce gangs. Thus, Rodriguez replaced the radical alienation of a gang member with an equally radical commitment to political action. This transition was the turning point in his life. It is this message that he wanted to share with others, especially his own son, whom he saw falling into the same patterns of violence he himself was susceptible to as a boy.
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