Luis J. Rodriguez

Last updated
Rodriguez at the National Book Critics Circle Awards in 2012 Luis J Rodriguez 2011 NBCC Awards 2012 Shankbone.jpg
Rodriguez at the National Book Critics Circle Awards in 2012

Luis Javier Rodriguez (born 1954) is a poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and columnist. He was the 2014 Los Angeles Poet Laureate. [1] Rodriguez is recognized as a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. [2] He identified himself as a native Xicanx writer in his most recent book. [3] His best-known work, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. , received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, among others. It has been the subject of controversy when it was included in school reading lists in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas, due to its frank depictions of gang life.

Contents

Rodriguez has also founded or co-founded numerous organizations, including the Tía Chucha Press, which publishes the work of unknown writers, Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural, a San Fernando Valley cultural center, the LA Latino Writers Association, [4] and the Chicago-based Youth Struggling for Survival, an organization for at-risk youth. [5] [6]

Rodriguez was the 2012 vice-presidential nominee of the Justice Party. [7] In 2014, Rodriguez ran as the Green Party of California's candidate for Governor of California [8] [9] and received 66,872 votes (1.5 percent of the vote) in the June primary. [10]

Early life

Rodriguez was born in the United States-Mexico border city of El Paso, Texas. His parents, natives of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, had their children on the US side of the border to ease the transition there, where they had intentions of relocating.

In Ciudad Juarez, his father was a high school principal, but in Los Angeles he worked in a dog food factory, a paint factory, in construction, and selling pots and pans and Bibles. He retired as a laboratory custodian at Pierce Community College in Woodland Hills, California. Luis's mother, who is descended from the Raramuri, a people indigenous to Chihuahua, was a school secretary but in Los Angeles, she worked cleaning homes and in the garment industry when she was not taking care of the children.

Gang and early political activities

During the 1960s and 1970s, Luis was an active gang member and drug user in East Los Angeles, developing a long rap sheet. However, his criminal activity did not preclude his participation in the Chicano Movement, and he joined the 1968 East L.A. walkouts and took part in the August 31, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. At the moratorium, he was brutalized and arrested along with numerous other peaceful protesters.

However, unlike other arrestees, Luis with four other "cholos" (Chicano gang youth) was held briefly in the Murderer's Row of the Hall of Justice Jail and threatened with charges in the three persons killed during subsequent rioting after law enforcement attacked a mostly-peaceful crowd. He had a cell next to Charles Manson. He was later released with no charges filed.

Luis found a mentor through the John Fabela Youth Center, part of the Bienvenidos Community Center in South San Gabriel, who recognized Luis' capacity as a graffiti writer and community leader. With this mentor's help, in 1972 Luis painted several murals in the San Gabriel Valley communities of Rosemead and South San Gabriel. Although Luis dropped out of high school at 15, he later returned and graduated from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, where he led school walkouts and became president of To Help Mexican American Students (TOHMAS).

He got arrested for "assault with intent to commit murder" at 17 in an incident in which four people were shot, but witnesses failed to identify him and he was released. He later attended California State University, Los Angeles briefly from 1972 to 1973, becoming a member of the Chicano activist group MEChA but eventually dropped out. [5]

The two currents in his life came to an inevitable head when at 18, a sentence imposed for a criminal conviction in a case in which Luis had tried to stop the police beating of a young Mexican woman, who was handcuffed and on the ground, was mitigated by letters of support from community members who saw his potential. Feeling a sense of indebtedness to those who had helped him, Luis decided to quit heroin and other drugs and gang life, dedicating himself to Marxist study and revolutionary community organizing.

Luis also ran for Los Angeles School Board in 1977 in a "Vote Communist" campaign after the California Supreme Court validated the right to run such campaigns based on the First Amendment. In addition, he worked as a bus driver, truck driver, in construction, a paper mill, a lead foundry, a chemical refinery, and a steel mill, learning the millwright trade, carpentry, maintenance mechanics, and welding. At the same time, Luis helped with various gang peace truces and urban peace efforts throughout the Los Angeles area. [5]

Writing career

In 1980, he began attending night school at East Los Angeles College and working as a writer/photographer for several East Los Angeles area publications. That summer, he attended a workshop for minority journalists at UC Berkeley, after which he covered crime and other urban issues for the San Bernardino Sun . At the same time, he continued to be active in East Los Angeles, leading a group of barrio writers and publishing ChismeArte , a Chicano art journal, [11] out of an office at Self Help Graphics & Art. He began facilitating writing workshops and talks in prisons and juvenile lockups in 1980 starting in Chino Prison. In the early 1980s, he also worked for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, in public radio, and as a freelance journalist, including covering indigenous uprisings in Mexico and the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras, until he moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he was editor of the People's Tribune, linked to the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, for three years, then a typesetter for the Liturgy Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and a writer/reporter for WMAQ-AM, All News Radio. Luis became active in the Chicago poetry scene, birthplace of the Poetry Slam, and founded Tia Chucha Press to publish his first book. "Poems Across the Pavement." and the books of leading Chicago poets, later doing the same on a national level. His readings and talks extended to prisons around the country as well as homeless shelters, migrant camps, Native American reservations, public & private schools, colleges, universities, libraries, and conferences.

In 1993, Curbstone Press of Willimantic, CT published Luis's first memoir, Always Running as a cautionary tale for his son Ramiro, who joined a Chicago street gang at the age of fifteen. The following year, Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster released the paperback. In 1994, Luis became a poet/teacher for men's conferences sponsored by the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, founded by mythologist/storyteller Michael Meade, and co-founded Youth Struggling for Survival (YSS) to work with gang and non-gang youth and their families. His son Ramiro and his daughter Andrea were also founding members. In addition, Luis began Native American and Native Mexican spiritual practices in 1995 with elder/teachers among the Lakota, Navajo (Dine), Mexica, and Mayan tribes. However, Ramiro began state prison terms at age 17 for various violent acts, eventually serving a total of fifteen years, including thirteen-and-a-half years for three counts of attempted murder. Ramiro was released in July 2010. [12]

In 1998, Rodriguez received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. [13] among other awards for his writing and community work such as the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, a Poetry Center Book Award of San Francisco State University, a Paterson Poetry Prize, Get Lit Players Ignite Award, and more. In 1993, Luis also received a Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize in Journalism with photojournalist Donna De Cesare to cover Salvadoran gang youth in Los Angeles and El Salvador. In 2000, Luis moved his family, then consisting of his third wife Trini and their two young sons, Ruben and Luis, to the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. His daughter Andrea and his granddaughter Catalina later joined them. In 2001, Luis helped create Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural in Sylmar CA with his wife Trini and their brother-in-law Enrique Sanchez, and in 2003 the nonprofit Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural and Bookstore with Angelica Loa Perez and Victor Mendoza. In 2005, he brought Tia Chucha Press, now a renowned small press with more than 50 books of cross-cultural poets, to Los Angeles. Over the years, Luis received other recognition, including a writers "Walk of Fame" signature and hand print on cement at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, CA; the Spirit of Struggle/Ruben Salazar award from InnerCity Struggle, "Hero of the Community" from KCET-TV and Union Bank, "Hero of Nonviolence" by the Agape Christian Center, and as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion," presented by the Dalai Lama.

Luis's other books included more poetry, children's literature, a short story collection, a novel, and a nonfiction book on creating community in violent times. In 2011 the sequel to "Always Running" appeared entitled "It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing," which in 2012 became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. By then Luis's writing had appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Weekly, U.S. News & World Report, The Nation, Grand Street, the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, the American Poetry Review, Fox News Latino, the Progressive, The Guardian, and the Huffington Post, among others.

In 2012, Luis was co-editor with Denise Sandoval of "Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community" (Tia Chucha Press), which in 2013 won an award from the Independent Publishers Association at the annual Book Expo gathering in New York City. He was also co-producer of the documentary of the same name, written and directed by John F. Cantu. The film and book were shown across the country, including in San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Pasadena, the Napa Valley, East L.A., and other cities. [6]

Beginning in 2014, Luis served as a script consultant on three TV shows: Fox's "Gang Related," Hulu's "East Los High," and FX's "Snowfall." He became Grand Marshall for the Latino Heritage Parade in Pasadena, CA and the Mendez High School Parade in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. In 2019, Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, produced the full staged version of "Always Running," co-adapted by Luis J. Rodriguez and Hector Rodriguez, selling out every weekend since August 31 and extended three times.

He also became a frequent speaker throughout the United States, represented by the Steven Barclay Agency of Petaluma CA. His international travels have included Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Puerto Rico, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, England, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Spain, Cuba, and Japan. In October 2011, he became a co-founder of the Network for Revolutionary Change in Chicago, dedicated to bringing together revolutionary leaders, thinkers, and activists from throughout the United States to plan, strategize, and organize social justice, equity, and peace through cooperation, imagination, and meaningful actions. In 2018, he became active in the National Poor People's Campaign, spearheaded by the Reverend William Barber and the Reverend Liz Theoharis.

2012 Presidential election

In July 2012, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson selected Rodriguez to be his running mate on the Justice Party presidential ticket. [7]

2014 California gubernatorial election

In 2014, Rodriguez was endorsed by the Green Party of California to be its Gubernatorial candidate in the "Top Two" primary election. [14] It was the first California governor's race using the new top two system in which the top two vote-getters advance to November's general election, regardless of party. [15] Rodriguez received 66,872 votes for 1.5 percent of the vote. He came in sixth—first among independents and third party candidates, but did not advance to the November election. [10]

Rodriguez's positions included a focus on clean and green energy and jobs, developing a Single-payer health care system, imposing a severance tax on oil companies, ending the California prison system, and ending poverty in California. [16] A key concern for Rodriguez, economic inequality, is described in his campaign document "A New Vision for California":

There have always been two states – one ripe for developers, corporations, financial institutions, and robber barons. The other state consists of the working class and poor, including immigrant whites and Asians, African Americans, natives, Mexicans, and refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Armenia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. ... Here is the California story we can't cover up or push aside: increased job eliminations, evictions, [and] home foreclosures as well as cuts in welfare and needed services in the face of a deepening poverty-creating economic crisis. Which way for California? Which way for the country? [17]

Rodriguez cited failures by incumbent Jerry Brown, stating, "with Governor Brown's budget cuts, his stand on prisons, the ensuing growth of poverty under his watch, he's just another bead on a long string of unresponsive pro-corporate politicians." [17] In an interview with Truthout, in May 2014, Rodriguez also criticized Brown's policies on incarceration, stating:

Governor Brown has proposed a $10 billion prison budget. I would stop warehousing people (and generating better criminals at taxpayers' expense) and provide rehabilitation, restorative justice practices, alternative sentencing, mental and drug treatment, healing circles, the arts, training and jobs. As proven around the country and world, this is far cheaper and more effective. [18]

Los Angeles Poet Laureate

On October 9, 2014, Rodriguez was named the second Los Angeles Poet Laureate by Mayor Eric Garcetti, succeeding Eloise Klein Healy. "During his four-term, he is expected to compose poems to the city, host at least six readings, hold at least six classes or workshops at public library branches and serve as a cultural ambassador," according to the Los Angeles Times. [1]

Bibliography

Poetry

Nonfiction

Fiction

Discography

Related Research Articles

Chicano Subculture, chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the United States

Chicano or Chicana is a chosen identity for people of Mexican descent born in the United States. The identity may also appear as Xicano or Xicana. The identity is sometimes used interchangeably with Mexican-American, although the terms have different meanings. In the 1940s and 1950s, prior to the Chicano Movement, Chicano/a was widely used as a classist term of derision, although it had already been adopted by some pachucos as an expression of defiance to Anglo-American society. Chicano/a was widely reclaimed in the 1960s and 1970s to express political empowerment, ethnic solidarity, and pride in being of Indigenous descent, diverging from the assimilationist Mexican-American identity. Many Chicano/a youth in barrios rejected cultural assimilation into whiteness and embraced pachuco/a and cholo/a identities as countercultural symbols of resistance.

José Montoya was a poet and an artist from Sacramento, California. He was one of the most influential Chicano bilingual poets. He has published many well-known poems in anthologies and magazines. He was Sacramento's poet laureate.

<i>Blood In Blood Out</i> 1993 film directed by Taylor Hackfor

Blood In Blood Out is a 1993 American epic crime drama film directed by Taylor Hackford. It follows the intertwining lives of three Chicano relatives from 1972 to 1984. They start out as members of a street gang in East Los Angeles, and as dramatic incidents occur, their lives and friendships are forever changed. Blood In Blood Out was filmed in 1991 throughout the Spanish-speaking areas of Los Angeles and inside California's San Quentin State Prison.

Daniel Olivas American writer

Daniel Anthony Olivas is a United States author and attorney.

Alurista Chicano poet and activist

Alberto Baltazar Urista Heredia better known by his nom de plume Alurista, is a Chicano poet and activist.

Chicano poetry is a branch of American literature written by and primarily about Mexican Americans and the Mexican-American way of life in society. The term "Chicano" is a political and cultural term of identity specifically identifying people of Mexican descent who are born in the United States. In the same way that American poetry comprises the writing of the offspring of English and other European colonists to North America, so Chicano poetry and literature comprises the writing of the offspring of Latinos who either emigrated to the United States or were involuntarily included in the country due to the Mexican–American War of 1848.

Spencer Reece is a poet and presbyter who lives in Madrid, Spain. He graduated from Wesleyan University (1985). Reece received his M.A. from the University of York (UK), his M.T.S. from the Harvard Divinity School, and a M.Div. from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity School. At Wesleyan, Spencer took a class in writing verse with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Annie Dillard, whom he describes as "an early encourager," along with James Merrill, the Stonington poet with whom Spencer corresponded.

Stanley "Spoon" Russell Jackson is an American poet serving a life without the possibility of parole sentence. Currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Solano. Jackson was convicted of murder and incarcerated in 1978 and has served time in more than six California state prisons.

Juan Felipe Herrera American writer

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. Herrera was the 21st United States Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017.

Carlos Cumpián, a Chicano writer who examines American realities absent from mainstream poetry. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Cumpián has planted firm roots in the Midwest.

Alfred Arteaga was a Chicano poet, writer, and scholar.

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural is a non-profit cultural center and bookstore in Sylmar, California. It was founded in 2003 by noted Chicano author Luis J. Rodriguez, his wife Trini Rodriguez, Angelica Loa, and Victor Mendoza of El Vuh. Tia Chucha's provides arts and music workshops and events to the culturally underserved Northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Harry Northup American actor and poet

Harry Northup is an American actor and poet. As an actor, he made frequent appearances in the films of Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme.

Luis Omar Salinas (1937–2008) was a leading Chicano poet who published a number of well-received collections of poetry, including the Crazy Gypsy, which has been described as "a classic of contemporary and Chicano poetry"), I Go Dreaming Serenades, and Afternoon of The Unreal. He was awarded the Stanley Kunitz award by Columbia Magazine for one of his poems, and a General Electric Foundation Award. Salinas is regarded as "one of the founding fathers of Chicano poetry in America," with many of his poems being "canonized in U.S. Hispanic literature."

Francisco X. Alarcón American poet and faculty at the University of California, Davis

Francisco Xavier Alarcón was a Chicano poet and educator. He was one of the few Chicano poets to have "gained recognition while writing mostly in Spanish" within the United States. His poems have been also translated into Irish and Swedish. He made many guest appearances at public schools so that he could help inspire and influence young people to write their own poetry especially because he felt that children are "natural poets."

Tino Villanueva is an American poet and writer. His early work was associated with the Chicano literary renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s, and Villanueva is considered to be a primary figure in that literary movement. More recently, Villanueva's work has treated themes from Greek mythology.

Armenian Power Armenian-American criminal organization and street gang located in Los Angeles County, California

Armenian Power 13, also known as AP, the Armenian Mob, or Armenian Mafia is an Armenian criminal organization and street gang located in Los Angeles County, California. They are involved in drug trafficking, murder, assault, fraud, identity theft, illegal gambling, kidnapping, racketeering, robbery and extortion. They are believed to have around 5,500 members and hundreds of associates, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. They are also well known for their affiliation with the Mexican-American mafia.

The Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards Poetry awards based at Claremont Graduate University

The Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards are a pair of American prizes based at Claremont Graduate University. They are given to poets for their collections of poetry written in the English language, by a citizen or legal resident alien of the United States.

David A. Romero poet

David A. Romero is an American spoken word artist, poet, and activist from Diamond Bar, CA. Romero is a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) and is the second spoken word artist to be featured on All Def Digital, a YouTube channel from Russell Simmons.

ChismeArte was an avant-garde Chicano magazine published by the LA Latino Writers Association (LALWA) and produced by the Concilio de Arte Popular, a California statewide arts advocacy group of Chicano arts organizations headed by Manual "Manazar" Gamboa. The magazine began publication in 1976. It was produced by Guillermo Bejarano in the early 1980s. Manazar Gamboa served as Director of LALWA and Editor of ChismeArte from 1981-1983. Organizational members of the People's Art Council included The Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista, The Royal Chicano Air Force in Sacramento, Mechicano Art Center in Los Angeles, and The Galeria de la Raza and The Mexican Museum in San Francisco, and The Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego.

References

  1. 1 2 Kellogg, Carolyn (2014-10-09). "A new L.A. poet laureate was announced Thursday by Mayor Garcetti: bestselling author Luis J. Rodriguez". LA Times. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  2. Tatum, Charles M. (2006). Chicano and Chicana Literature: Otra Voz Del Pueblo. University of Arizona Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN   9780816524273.
  3. "Author Luis J. Rodriguez "From Our Land to Our Land"". Los Angeles Times. 5 February 2020.
  4. "Full Biography for Luis J. Rodriguez". www.smartvoter.org. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  5. 1 2 3 Moore, Jina "Books were salvation for L.A. gangbanger". Christian Science Monitor. 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  6. 1 2 Sanchez, George B. "Tia Chucha's celebrates new location in Sylmar". Dailynews.com. 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  7. 1 2 Gehrke, Robert (July 17, 2012). "Rocky picks activist-author as his VP running mate". The Salt Lake Tribune . Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  8. Schwab, Dave (July 19, 2013). "Luis Rodriguez announces Green campaign for Governor of California". Green Party Watch . Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  9. "Redefining Democracy in California: An Interview With Luis Rodriguez". Truthout. 2014-05-28. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  10. 1 2 California Statewide Election Results (June 4, 2014) Governor - Statewide Results. Archived 2014-06-05 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 6-4-2014.)
  11. "Chisme Arte: Chicano Art". KCET. 2011-11-07. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  12. Rodriguez, Luis. "Biography". luisjrodriguez.com. Archived from the original on 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  13. "Hispanic Heritage Awards for Literature". Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  14. "Green Party Announce California Governor Candidate | DC". Democracychronicles.com. 2013-08-17. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
  15. Richmond, Josh "California's very weird governor's race". San Jose Mercury News. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  16. "GPCA 2014 statewide candidate questionnaire - Luis Rodriguez, Governor". cagreens.org. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  17. 1 2 Rodriguez, Luis "A New Vision for California". rodriguezforgovernor.org. Archived from the original on 2014-05-28. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  18. Hudson, Matthew "Redefining Democracy in California: An Interview With Luis Rodriguez". Truthout. 2014-05-28. Retrieved 2014-05-31.