After his release from jail, Luis stops attending college. He works in a paper factory but continues to organize grassroots political events. Meanwhile, gang warfare continues. Luis visits Chente, who argues that “the rulers of this country” want gangs to fight each other. The turf that the Lomas are fighting for, he points out, is “tiny” in the grand scheme of things. It’s time for Los Angeles gangs to start thinking bigger, Chente claims—and that means working together.
In this chapter, Luis’s political beliefs crystallize: he sees more clearly than ever that the American establishment wants gangs to fight each other, because infighting weakens the minority population. The only solution is for gangs to work with each other against their common enemies—racism, prejudice, sexual violence, poverty, etc.
One night soon afterwards, Luis and some of his old friends are hanging out. A gang member offers Luis a cigarette laced with “angel dust” (i.e., PCP), and Luis declines. To Luis’s great surprise, every single gang member after him refuses the cigarette, too—nobody else wanted it, either. Luis starts to realize that he’s lost all interest in getting high. He wants to help his friends “become warriors of a war worth fighting.”
Luis no longer seems to be wrestling with depression (or if he is, not to the same degree he’s described previously). As a result, he’s not interested in drugs. But the fact that other gang members turn down PCP after Luis declines suggests that nobody else is genuinely interested in drugs, either! Instead, perhaps cholos do PCP because they want to prove their machismo and fit in, not because they actually want to.
The same night, Luis is walking home when a car full of Loma members passes by. To Luis’s amazement, one of the members fires a gun at him. Luis drops to the ground, but then realizes that the members intentionally aimed to miss him—they were firing warning shots, implying, “Next time you’re dead.” Luis is stunned: he’s been with the Lomas for years, and at one point he “would have died for them.” Now they’re firing guns at him.
The message is clear: Luis and the Lomas have parted ways. Luis has become too invested in social justice and cooperation between gangs to buy in to Puppet’s war with the Sangra gang, and vice versa.
Soon after this incident, Luis visits Chente and tells him that he’s ready to leave his neighborhood for good. With Chente’s help, he spends two months in a housing project in nearby San Pedro. Before he leaves, however, he says goodbye to his mother and father. María tells Luis that she admires him for sticking to what he believes, even though she never really liked his “revolutionary talk.” Alfonso doesn’t say much, but he shakes Luis’s hand and tells him that he can call or ask for money any time. Luis isn’t close with his father—he’s trained himself not to expect much from his father.
While Luis clearly has a lot of respect for his parents, he doesn’t seem especially close with either of them. At present, he’s become more invested in political activism, and seems to think of Chente as more of a father figure than his own biological father. However, both his parents seem to have a great deal of respect for their son despite his missteps and shortcomings.
A lot happens after Luis leaves San Pedro. The police officers who killed Miguel Robles are acquitted—just like “virtually every deputy ever accused of maiming or killing an unarmed person of color.” PCP becomes the new drug of choice, making ‘blabbering idiots of once-vigorous boys and girls.” There are more episodes of police brutality, including one that takes place outside Luis’s high school. Gangs take over the community center, and so the community center decides to disband rather than empower the gangs—a strategy Luis compares to “scorched earth” policy.
At the same time that Luis is becoming more involved in political activism in Los Angeles, the city is deteriorating, thanks to drugs and gang violence. Police brutality is both a cause and an effect of drugs and gang violence; it’s a vicious cycle that only results in further damage to the city and the Latino population. Even the organizations designed to repair the community disband, suggesting that gang warfare is so toxic that nobody can help.
In the years following Luis’s relocation, his old neighborhood changes. There’s an influx of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, and American real estate companies begin investing heavily in outer Los Angeles. By the 1980s, Luis’s old neighborhood has become much more affluent, to the point where almost none of his old friends can afford to stay there.
Luis jumps ahead more than a decade, showing how Los Angeles changes between the 1970s and the 1980s. In the process, he brings up a new antagonist for the Chicano population: gentrification. As a result of gentrification, immigrants and working-class people are forced out of their homes, and sometimes end up on the streets.
Luis travels to political conferences with Chente. He later moves to Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, and later Watts, among many other neighborhoods. Over the years, he continues writing and practicing journalism. He also works with community leaders to address police brutality, labor and immigration issues, and other political causes. In short, he begins “a new season of life,” based on his belief that he has a duty to contribute to society and help other people.
Despite the constant attacks on the Chicano population of Los Angeles, Luis remains cautiously optimistic. Using his education and training as a political activist, he battles injustice in all its forms and wherever he is able.
The chapter ends in the late ‘80s, with Luis attending his cousin’s quinceñera in San Gabriel. By this time, he’s married and has a child. Outside, Luis notices a strange, middle-aged man with a limp who asks him, point-blank, if he was in the Lomas years ago. Luis admits he was. The man shouts, “You’re going to die.” He explains that Luis stabbed him, and then pulls up his shirt to reveal the horrific scars on his chest. Luis tries to convince the man that he didn’t stab him. Luis realizes that this man is Chava, once a powerful Sangra warrior.
Chava appears before Luis like a ghost from the past, a reminder of the life that Luis could have lived had he not chosen to devote himself to politics. The sight of Chava as a pathetic middle-aged man is at once terrifying and poignant. It reminds Luis that La Vida Loca is ultimately suicidal: either cholos die in gang warfare or, perhaps even worse, they survive and grow into shadows of their former selves.
Chava cries out, “Somebody has to pay!” and pulls out a knife. Luis can see how disturbed Chava is—it’s as if he wants to hurt someone “just to salve his pain.” Luis gently tells Chava, “Don’t waste the rest of your days with this hate.” Chava begins to moan and wail. Luis is disgusted by this sight, but also sympathetic. He finds that he no longer hates Chava, or any other cholo. Chava turns and hobbles away into the night.
Chava is still obsessed with the code of “an eye for an eye”—i.e., the idea that he’s entitled to revenge for rival gangs’ attacks. Unlike Chava, Luis has seen that this mentality can be dangerous. Chava is living proof that the life of a gang member is full of pain, to the point where gang members can only wail, moan, and scream out for revenge. In all, Luis’s encounter with Chava is a powerful reminder of the life Luis could have had, but which he narrowly avoided. Chava is also a reminder of why Luis needs to use his education to fight for justice.