My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King Book Review
My Bloody Life (2001) is an account of Sanchez Reymundo recollecting the memories of his up growing as a Latin Kings’ member, the Chicago’s largest and violent gang. Reymundo’s main purpose for this book is based the truth of the gangs existence in our societies and their life. It also narrates the reasons why some kids join such gangs. Reymundo is one of the examples of those kids lured by adults and who get used by them to achieve their objectives in the name peer pressures. The way the family setup can contribute to the children’s quagmire and their proneness to violent actions, may be counted as the major contributor such incidents. In Sanchez’s somewhat sad story; the young boy, with no education or skills, falls foul of his parent’s violent life which turns him to be a more violent boy. In his narration, his father had passed on while a toddler barely four years. His mother, who was a teenager by then, successively lived with Puerto and United States’ men who were violent. His mother and her boyfriends extended the same violence to him by beating him often. In this review we take a journey with Reymundo Sanchez and his life encounters in the gang. Did he get out of the gang? What are or were the contributing factors for him to join the gang?
In the beginning of the book we meet Reymundo Sanchez living in Puerto Rico with his mother. The mother had given birth to him at a bare age of sixteen (16). His father had passed on when he was seventy four years when Reymundo was five years old. At this age, Reymundo was sexually and constantly beaten by the relatives till he was seven years when he moved to Chicago to live with his mother and her boyfriend. Hoping against hope, his parents never treated him differently, they consistently beat him. It was at this time and age, which he started to hang out with the Latin disciples, a Chicago gang group whose friends’ older brothers belonged to. As the situation back home continued worsening, Reymundo started finding comfort and consolation in the gang as he spent more time with the gang members. He finally gained acceptance where some of the gang leaders offered to act as father and mother figures, something he had lacked back at home. At thirteen, he found himself in the world of alcoholism, drugs and sex. He lost his virginity to a thirty five year old lady. At this point, he finds himself entangled in the gang’s life and the Spanish lordship.
After his family relocating to Puerto Rico, it never took more than six months before he was sent back to Chicago to live with his brother who dealt with heroin. In Chicago, he was free to do anything he wished to. He uses this opportunity to familiarize himself with the gang and he gets acquainted with the gang’s hits. At the age of 14, Reymundo had wielded a shotgun and it was the first time that he participated in his first hit. From this point, he unceasingly stems to be very violent in his gang’s endeavors, which earns a nickname Lil Loco. He indulges himself in killing and shooting people or at times being shot at. This brings him near to full membership as the gang’s full-time member. He further takes alcohol and increases his hits making him gain higher rank in the gang’s kings. He gets an opportunity to learn the Latin kings’ governing laws and the way it functions. As time progresses, the Latin kings gang territory also expands and their activities increases in Chicago. As the territory extends, they are also becoming increasingly violent as their drug activities boom in the area. Through Reymundo’s violent persona, the gangs around start losing their loyalty and they start getting interested with drugs and money. Initially the Latin kings protected each other, but now they are more than willing to kill each other in exchange for heroin. Reymundo later gets acquainted with how the drug business is run. With his fame, most people he meets do not want to identify themselves with him as he maintains his nickname as Lil Loco. This lands him in isolation and finds himself homeless and with no friends. He wanders along the streets and sleeps along the hallways. He becomes a disgust to anyone he meets as he goes weeks without cleaning. He later meets an old friend who is a cocaine dealer. He further takes time to learn about the cocaine business and does well in it. He becomes addicted to the drug due to its easy accessibility. He is arrested after consuming more the required and the drug almost killing him. After the Latin kings learn of his arrest, they come to get hopefully get him out of jail and out of their gang once and for all. Reymundo’s knowledge of the gang is that the only way out of it and staying alive was not through getting out of jail by them. He opted to do what he had always feared to do. He finally makes up his mind and leaves the gang and also moves out of Chicago to be far away from the gang.
My Bloody Life seems to be the perfect title of the book due to its story narration. The narrator’s story is scary which one could think it was a made up story. Apart from the literal meaning of blood, the story’s unfolds the problem faced by a number of children born out of wedlock or have single parents who are illiterate and jobless. The street children fall under this category as later we shall be looking at the state’s role in safeguarding their rights of being kept out of any harm.
The setting for this raw account which is more disturbing of a Puerto Rican boy takes place in Chicago in 1980s. The boy had lost himself to violence as a result of his indulgence to the gang’s activities. In a voluble voice, the boy now, Sanchez, with operatically replete and repentantly declaims the immoral actions of early life. The setting depicts territorial graffiti and shows how the cops who are meant to guard the security and dignity of a society are the greatest racists. The place is characterized with constant unfolds of drug riots, sex and gunplay. Sanchez (which is a pseudonym), takes us back into the late 1970s and narrates his family’s arrival in Northwest side of Chicago, where he describes the beating he was receiving form his grafter stepfather. It is through this tolerance that he got used to, which made him to be ritually bound and tough to bear the mistreatments he could get from the teenaged gangsters.
The theme of violence tends to be the Sanchez’s memoir’s villain. It drives his all actions in the book. While he was in Puerto Rica, at a tender age of five, he could be beaten brutally by his aunts and cousins. His mother who was a teenage widow had left him with his aunts as she went for her honeymoon with the new husband Emilio. His last memory of Puerto Rico is of his eighteen year old cousin who had raped him and even sodomized him brutally. Later the family shifted to Chicago where the Emilio’s daughter was born. Emilio later started beating all of them including the mother and the three sisters. After the Emilio’s exit from the family, the illiterate Reymundo’s mother got married to another man, Pedro. The situation never changed, things became even worse than before. No sooner had they settled than the beating started. The situation even worsened when they moved to Puerto. At the age of thirteen, his mother abandoned him as she sent him to the United States to stay with an uncle there.
While with gang, Reymundo chronologically describes the brutal killings he witnessed. He describes how they senselessly killed, the sexual abuses they inflicted on women, the inter-ethnic hatreds they had among themselves and the way the community silently accommodated promiscuous drug-users hence ensuring the gangs sustained itself in business.
Despite that he amassed what he had never had in his early and tender age, the possession and privileges he was receiving could be acceptable bearing in mind that they were the fruits of violence.
Reymundo uses a perspective style in narrating his story in a past tense, first person narrative. This gives the reader Reymundo’s maturity of how he tells the anecdotes of his personal life in the kings. He sounds like person who is in jail. he further sounds like a person who has actually gained some emotional distance depicting that he has gotten enough time to enable him see thing clearer with some light. Currently, he can acknowledge and recognize the sense and completely accept the feeling he had while he was with the gang. These feelings, he reckons were fueled by the drugs the gang introduced him to. From his story, he acknowledges the gang’s recklessness and unwillingness to die for each other, even if the situation called upon for their attention. His current resentment is on the gang old member’s self-interest of earning enormous amount of money in the expense of the younger members. Through this perspective, he opts that education is the only key out of his quagmire.
The book’s relevance and timing
Classical theories (ratcoski, & Kratcoski, 1990) allege that people are presented with free will to choose criminal behavior. In most cases, as the classical theories further allege, crime is committed with people who are guided by greed and personal need. In our book, My Bloody Life, we are able to say that to some extent Reymundo was lured by some unavoidable circumstances to choose, though unknowingly to commit crime. In some occasions he has been used, while he thinks that it was a privilege, by drug barons to carry out their activities.
We understand that every individual has a right to be counseled and invoke privilege against self-incrimination (in re Gault, 1967). Even the juveniles have their rights which they can waive. However a few have the knowledge of their rights and who show comprehension of their constitutional rights. Reymundo is one of those who never knew their rights. They only grabbed what was available and reachable at their convenience. The legal rights of juvenile require being more vigilant in undertaking their roles of attending to the needs of such cases, for instance Reymundo, who fell in the trap of universal animosity. Basing on the classical theories, where one has free will of doing evil or good, Reymundo’s last alternative of getting out of Chicago can be interpreted that that he had a choice and ability of doing what was good. If it were not for the arrest he got, he could have continued committing crimes.
To sum, Reymundo’s turning away from school as he tries to escape from his childhood abuse, lands him in drugs, alcohol and sex. He is later abandoned by his mother to fend for himself at the age of fourteen. His Latin king’s gang became his only hope and where he sought refuge. The gang and the members became his world, brothers and sisters. However, his violent ambitions end up costing him his friends, freedom and almost taking his life. This book is a powerful odyssey showing the ranks of the drug mafia. In this occasion, the only dangerous people remain to be the members of one’s clan and not the rival gangs. It is no ironical that in one moment they promise you that they die protecting you and the next minute they are the once ordering your assassination. The book is relevant and timely since, with the improved technology, many young men are accessing to guns and are using these in committing crimes. The drug abuse rates are increasing in the face of technology. The streets have become increasingly insecure with daily news of gunshot and killings. A larger number of the juveniles have been used, either knowingly or unknowingly. The writers final decisions and option that the only way out of his dilemmas is through education, makes this book more relevant and timely. He recounts his mother’s illiteracy and the number of times she got married to violent husbands. Finally, juvenile rights have got to be communicated well so that they will be able to comprehend their rights well. This is to ensure that they do not follow the path Reymundo Sanchez took.
Gold, S. D. (1995). In re Gault (1967): Juvenile justice. New York: Twenty-First Century Books.
Kratcoski, P. C., & Kratcoski, L. D. (1990). Juvenile delinquency.
Sanchez, Reymundo (2001). My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King. Tantor Media Inc.