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Keeping Youths Out of Trouble

May 29, 1993

I agree with Al Martinez's column ("All Our Sons," May 21), which is against the ordinance banning gangbangers in public parks. I would like to share my vida loca experiences.

I grew up in East Los Angeles raised by ex-pachuco parents (my dad was from Primera Flats and my mother lived in White Fence). My tattooed dad spent much of his teen-age years either in Hollenbeck Police Station or Juvenile Hall.

He did not want his four children to be involved in gangs or be hassled by the cops. However, we lived in the barrio and came from a family of pachucos, and by 13, I was fascinated by la vida loca , listening to oldies, ditching school, smoking pot, writing on walls and getting into trouble.

However, my dad was mean and I was more afraid of him than I was of my street enemies, teachers and cops. I got busted and he made me stay home and plant a garden all summer. He made me play sports, but since I did not like it, he made me join stupid clubs at school that I never attended.

He would kick my butt if I wore cholo clothes. I never understood his logic but it worked. In a few short years I was no longer into la vida loca ; eventually I was on my way to MIT for my master's degree.

I put my family through hell, but we pulled through and it paid off. I thought I left the gangs behind when I left the barrio, but gangs are everywhere in the city and no longer confined to Chicanos. Gangs are destroying families, barrios, neighborhoods and eventually our city.

Outlawing gang members from public parks is not going to make the problem go away or make streets safer (they'll hang out elsewhere). Parents should be targeted, and made aware of what their children are doing and what they are wearing! (Even to this day if I dress like a cholo I will be treated like one and shot by gangbangers or hassled by cops.)

On the contrary, more parks are needed to be built, and recreational programs established for our youths. Keep our youths busy!

JAMES ROJAS

Los Angeles

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