Luis J. Rodriguez, author of “It Calls You Back,” wrote the following comments on the state of human affairs for The San Quentin News:
The borders have marked and scarred a land where native peoples for tens of thousands of years roamed freely in connection with nature’s laws, with cooperative and abundant relationships.
All was not perfect—it never is with humans.
But people at least knew how to live and grow in the proper ties with others and with the land. Now after 500 years of conquests, wars, revolutions, nation building, and home markets, borders have made “strangers,” “foreigners” and “illegals” of the brown-red- skinned people of Mexico and Central America.
With laws, cultural erasing, bigotry, and class power, things have turned around.
Our Mexican and Central America brothers and sisters— many of whom come from tribes and traditions that don’t even speak Spanish, let alone English—are seen as the scapegoats for a failing economy and failing political system.
Today there are three-million Mayan people from Mexico and Guatemala within the United States—more than the actual number of Native Americans. Many more people have come from mostly indigenous states of Mexico like Oaxaca, Puebla and Chihuahua as well as Nahuati and Mayan-speaking peoples of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Yet even Raza here in the U.S., including Chicanos who have been here for generations, end up at war with their own people.
All the bigotry and borders have turned us against ourselves. Bigotry and borders are the two “B’s” that have been behind more wars and conquests. It’s time to end the disconnections. It’s time to see ourselves in others, to embrace the Mayan concept of ‘In Lak Ech’ (you are the other me) as our mantra and mandate. In accepting ourselves—knowing that most of us have been colonized, hybridized, “Hispanicized,” or “anglicized”—we can learn to accept others.
All races. All colors. All traditions. They are all valid under the sun. As the saying goes, “In essential things, unity; in nonessential things, liberty.” This means to unite and fi nd common cause around the essentials of human life, dignity, and peace. And to be free in our beliefs, ways of talking, dressing, eating, and other expressions (although having this is essential, imposing these on others is not).”
The End of Racial Hostilities in California Jails and Prisons:
Gang peace—whether from truces, agreements, or just from being plain tired—can only really happen when the gang youth and their leaders are integral to the peace. This will require addressing the roots of gang violence— poverty, social immobility, neglect, and race and class discriminations.
These factors lead to family breakdowns, loss of values, survival mentality (“Kill or be killed”), and especially mental and spiritual trauma.
“All races. All colors. All traditions. They are all valid under the sun”
When the warriors lay down their arms, society needs to pay attention and respond with truly restorative and healing measures. Now the arts need to be engaged—poetry, song, dance, theater, music, and more. Now comprehensive and adequate treatment to address drug and alcohol addictions, rage, disassociation, and mental illnesses must be dealt with. Now a new economy needs to be imagined and shaped with meaningful training, education, and jobs—turning one’s passions into professions.
To just punish and repress the violence has only made matters worse—treating people less than human only brings out the least human. And still people hang on, maintain their spirits and consciousness, and strive for peace.
Humans are the most complex machines of all, and all simple solutions will fail. Deal with things fully, deeply and for the long haul—that’s the key to making any gang or prison peace become real and lasting. And I maintain that at the heart of any such peace must be the once troubled, highly distrustful and disinterested participants. The fact is, from the most violent can come the most peaceful.
That’s been my experience in 40 years of working on gang and prisons on peace efforts—since the early 1970s in the East L.A. area, to 1992’s Blood-Crips truces, to Chicago’s peace efforts in the 1990s, to El Salvador’s gang prevention and intervention. My work has taken me to talks, summits, and peace session throughout the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Japan.
Unfortunately, my experience has also been that powers-thatbe, the authorities that should know better, do more to sabotage, undermine and derail these efforts than the gangs’ authorities that should know better, do more to sabotage, undermine and derail these efforts than the gangs themselves. Let this process grow organically, dynamically, with all the participants at the table. Victims are also integral to this peace. As I’ve said, this is about healing. It’s about a new reciprocity—and how to regenerate new life, ideas, and imaginations from the shadows, the violence and pains of our lives. As a poem of mine says, “from what polluted soils will my blossoms spring.”