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Always Running: LA VIDA LOCA: GANG DAYS IN L.A.

Daniel Morrow

Juvenile Delinquency

Law 110

Professor David Nicholson


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Always Running is written by Luis J. Rodriguez. It is a compilation of memories in the

life of a former Los Angeles gang member. The book book tells the story of Luis attempts to

get away from gang life and turn his attention the betterment of his family and others like him.

He decided to write the book after his son became involved in a street gang like he had been.

Luis and was born in El Paso but his family moved back and forth between there and

Mexico. After his father was sent to jail, his family moved to one of the most destitute portions

of LA. He calls the area a Beirut by the beach. There Luis was introduced to what he calls, La

Vida Loca, or simply violence, sex, drugs, prison and death.

Luis first encounters with violence was from his siblings who constantly abused him. In

the schools he was mistreated because he was a Latino. Luis started to be a constant fixture in the

principles office after he would get into trouble. He said that he was viewed as a deviant, so he

began to act like one. Rodriguez joined his first gang at age eleven, and by age eighteen, he was

a hardened member of gang conflict, killings, police, drug overdoses, rapes, Mexican funerals,

and suicides. He began "sniffing" drugs at the age of 14 to give him relief. These episodes of

sniffing led to many times of Louis blacking out and not remembering anything. His family

soon got fed up with Luis disrespect the family and the house so they kicked him out to live in

the small garage.

Soon after this he is pulled into the Lomas gang and with his buddies started becoming

involved with the actions against rival gang members. He participated in beatings, riots and
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many other forms of violence. He become further dependent on drugs after he experimented with

the easily accessible forms of heroin and pcp. Louis admits to a depression all during his high

school and that he even attempted suicide on two separate occasions. He writes that several

times he attempted to leave the gangs but it always pulled him back. Louis depicts police

brutality, who justified their actions by saying that this treatment of gangs served to protect other

citizens of Los Angeles.

After seeing the death of several friends and family, Louis says that he was constantly

seeking to fill a void with more drugs. He moved from school to school getting kicked out of

each one due to violence and gang involvement. He eventually became involved in the Chicano

Movement which promoted the rights of Latinos.

Luis's family went through many hard times throughout the book. He describes how his

sister became involved in the gang life and his brother was murdered after a run in with gangs.

Louis writes that the turning point for him was after he was instructed to kill a innocent man to

gain initiation into a gang. He was caught and sentenced to a prison term. While in the prison, he

was able to think about what he wanted to do with his life and the impact that his life style and

choices were having. Luis decided to use his writing and desire to help gain the rights of the

Latinos to make a difference. He said that his organizational skills are far more helpful to his

people than a gun or a knife in his hand. While he was writing the book, many of the same

issues that he had gone through began to threaten his son. Louis son ran away from home on

numerous occasions and Louis described his attempts to bring his son home. Louis portrays on
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one occasion how he even went as far as putting up lost posters. Luis eventually helped his son

leave his gang and realize his life is more valuable to his family than to his gang.

I found Always Running to be an interesting read. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life

a teen on the streets of LA. I saw that Luis had built up his self- esteem and courage, even

after experiencing life and reality the hard way. To me he told his stories from the viewpoint

of a teenager, which provided an interesting perspective. I also enjoyed the small bits of

poetry placed throughout the book. This book really portrayed the rise from urban slums to

a success.
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Rodriguez, Luis J. Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days

in L.A. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.