Rodriguez begins an autobiographical account of his life in Los Angeles by dedicating it to a long list of friends (25) who had been killed by "rival gangs, police, drugs, car crashes and suicides". All of this happened during the first 18 years of his life there.
Luis and his siblings were born in El Paso, Texas, although the Rodriguez family lived across the border, in Ciudad Juarez. The parents, with plans to move into the U.S., knew that children born there automatically obtained their citizenship. The family finally ended up in Los Angeles, but had trouble finding steady jobs. Also the neighborhood they settled in was once designated "as one of the 10 poorest in the country."
It was difficult for Luis to stay in school, because Mexican students were always treated as second-rate. Both language and ethnic differences added to this, and at the same time ignited many gang wars. Whenever Luis was expelled from school, he would end up in a gang, on drugs, or in jail. His parents finally tired of bailing him out of jails, so kicked him out of the house to live in the garage.
The LA police and sheriff's department represented the main problem for minority boys and girls. One young Latino involved in the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising expressed the feelings of most all young Mexicans toward the law: "Go ahead and shoot us, we're already dead." Law officers at that time claimed their brutality against gang members was necessary to protect all law-abiding citizens. This attitude also became obvious in the Rodney King case. Luis, after being caught in a robbery, explained, "I don't mind paying for my mistakes. But it seems like we're [Mexicans] paying for everyone else's mistakes too."
Yet even when the big gangs attempted to unite and establish a truce between themselves, the police and FBI forcibly broke up meetings because they "feared the gangs were going to turn on them."
Rodriguez describes a three-mile radius of the South Central section of LA as...
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