In the gruesome novel of Always Running, where gang violence is a big factor, and racism is a big issue that affects the novel as a whole, along with that also come the internal issues these problems cause Luis to retain. In Always Running, it is both psychological and cultural historical forces that precipitate Luis Rodriguez’s journey into and ultimately out of gang life.
The novel takes place in the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s in East L.A. The Chicano civil rights movement, as stated in the article of The Chicano Civil Rights Movement was created and intended by many to enforce the equality, regardless of the struggles for the civil equality as well as fairness. This movement took place around this time and the chicano protests against the Vietnam War turned into riots. Throughout the novel, police dicrimmination plays a big role. Police acted against latinos very brutally and the minorities included excessive force as well as unnecessary verbal abuse, violence and psychological harrassment. Educational discrimmination was also an obvious issue. There was unsufficient funds for Latinos’ needs and they were discouraged from being in some classes and would enroll them into a non-english speakers class. In the novel, Luis Rodriguez claims that, “they just made it a crime to speak anything but english. If a spanish word sneaked out…kids were often sent to the office to get swatted or to get detention.” (Rodriguez 27) Teachers would also just sit them in the back of the class as Rodriguez mentioned that his teacher did to him, “Okay why don’t you sit here in the back of the class… I just stayed in the back of the class, building blocks.”(Rodriguez 26) As stated in the “Immigrant Paradox”, the longer that an immigrant spends part of their life in the United States, the greater probability of lower grades, absence of motivation, and truancy which is more impacting in those areas with highly segregated and violent schools. Some factors for this would be poverty, migration stress, racism and/or discrimmination.
Gang violence was a huge factor in Luis’s teenage years. Luis’ gang life spanned from the ages 11-19. His gang life included things such as shooting, fist fights, drug use, jail, sex, rape, murders, suicides, and stealing. Miguel, Luis’ childhood friend claims that there’s no other way besides the gang life when he says, “I’m telling you there’s no choice…you wanta live, you wanta breathe air, you got to be in the Tribe man.”(Rodriguez 54) The gag life provides them with a family bond that they may be lacking at home. It gives them that confidence because they’re all similar in one way or another. The gang life also gives them the feeling of fitting in because they’re a part of a group, as Rodriguez mentions, “We didn’t call ourselves gangs. We called ourselves clubs or clicas…It was something to belong to-something that was ours.”(Rodriguez 41) They also seek for the gang life because it makes them feel empowered, they feel as though they have a form of defense against people who won’t accept them or their race. This lifestyle also offers them money with the drug use, it can lead them to sell and make some profit out of it and that can also be a reason to join a gang. It gives them something to do, whether it be to get into trouble or stay out of it. This life also brings them to use a handful of drugs and the drugs could be their way of escaping from their personal problems outside of the gang life.
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