Following the events of the last chapter, Luis is in prison. He’s seventeen, meaning that he can be prosecuted as an adult. As he sits in his cell, he examines the graffiti and poetry that prisoners have written on the walls. A man in the cell next to Luis is a Sangra named Night Owl, and at first they argue with each other, but eventually they open up and start talking about music and women. Luis learns that Night Owl knows Viviana, who he claims messed around with a guy on her porch while her brothers watched. Luis realizes that he is the guy, and laughs. He then learns that Viviana is pregnant and living with another man, and he feels hurt.
Luis turns to poetry and music in his time of crisis, just as he’s done before. Notice that Luis is able to bond with Night Owl, even though they’re from rival gangs. This suggests that Luis is beginning to embrace Chente’s idealistic denial of boundaries. Just as Chente has said, different gangs should be working together for a common good, and here Luis seems to grasp this idea. Notably, here Luis also learns why Viviana broke things off with him so suddenly—her brothers had seen them together on the porch.
Luis’s parents don’t visit him in jail. But he gets another visitor: Chente. Chente tells him, “You messed up,” and Luis admits that Chente is right. Luis learns that Chente is trying to work with the community center to get Luis released soon. A few days later, Chente comes back and tells Luis that he’s getting out. Before Luis leaves, he shakes hands with Night Owl, who wishes him good luck.
Chente doesn’t forgive Luis for his behavior—as always, he’s straightforward (and that’s part of what Luis has always admired about Chente). However, Chente goes out of his way to give Luis another chance, since he recognizes that Luis is a talented young man who doesn’t deserve to go to jail for years.
In the following weeks, Luis returns to school. Esmeralda and the other ToHMAS members just say they’re glad Luis is okay. However, Mrs. Baez is furious with Luis for setting a bad example for other Chicano students. Luis doesn’t reply, but he gives her some poems and stories he’s written in jail.
Even though Luis has described himself as defending Latinos from the white bikers, he also seems to recognize that he’s done something wrong by resorting to retaliatory violence. He also knows that he’s setting a bad example for other Chicano students.
The white bikers refuse to cooperate with the cops by identifying Luis and his friends. However, the police are able to trace the gun back to Roger Nelson, who they arrest and charge with attacking the bikers. At Roger’s trial, Luis sees the biker who he shot in the butt—luckily, the bullet didn’t do any damage. Luis testifies for Roger’s defense that he obtained the gun from Roger, and in the end Roger is acquitted. Soon after, Roger gets married and Luis attends the wedding as Roger’s best man.
The biker incident comes to an end when the bikers refuse to cooperate with the cops—an action that, very oddly, mirrors Chente’s earlier claim that Los Angeles people should be working with each other against the LAPD and other corrupt authorities.
Chente hosts a community center meeting to discuss problems of gang violence. The problem has gotten too serious to avoid, he argues: children are dying because of gang feuds. Some people propose holding a meeting for representatives of the various gangs. But other people argue that this would only legitimize the gangs in the eyes of the community. Chente emphasizes the need to provide young people with an “economic foundation” that will give them incentive to stay away from gangs. Luis agrees, “It wouldn’t hurt if we had jobs.”
As before, Chente takes an economic view of the gang problem. He refuses to believe that gangs are forming because of the deterioration of values or the inherent wickedness of immigrants. The reality is that people join gangs because gangs represent a viable way of surviving in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Cokie is found dead in the street—somebody had “pumped [her] full of pills” and then brutally raped her. It’s whispered that Lomas killed Cokie, but many other Lomas, including Luis, are frightened by the crime, and conclude that nobody, Sangra or Loma, deserves that kind of pain.
Luis is beginning to grasp the horrors of the gang lifestyle, not just for himself but for women. He’s becoming more compassionate, and seems to take seriously the idea that he has an obligation to protect other people from the kind of pain that Cokie experiences.
At school, ToHMAS membership skyrockets. Luis and his peers organize Chicano dances. He continues to serve as the school mascot, encouraging Chicano athletes to join the football team. Luis catches the eye of a pretty young woman named Delfina Cortez, and convinces her to join ToHMAS.
Luis continues flirting with women, just as he’s done before. But where his earlier relationships with women caused him to gravitate toward gang culture, Luis now uses flirtation as a way to recruit women to his cause, ToHMAS.
Luis and the other ToHMAS members organize a dance, and Delfina attends. Afterwards, Luis asks her to hang out, and she says, “I’d love to.” This seems to upset Esmeralda. Alone, Luis and Delfina kiss, and Delfina tries to have sex with Luis. However, Luis notices that Delfina is on her period, and tells her that he’s reluctant to have sex. This upsets Delfina, who begins to cry. Then, unexpectedly, she says, “I think I love you.”
Delfina is clearly attracted to Luis, even though she doesn’t seem to know him very well. Luis’s popularity seems to stem at least in part from his leadership position as the head of ToHMAS.
Love, Luis argues, is a word that “easily skims across our lips.” As a result, some people in San Gabriel make bad, rash decisions. Young women have children and drop out of school, and their boyfriends don’t always stick around to raise their children, since there’s “nothing at stake for them.” Some women raise their children without much “comfort and warmth,” because they didn’t receive much of either when they were children themselves. In other cases, cholos are killed in turf disputes, leaving their girlfriends or wives to care for the children by themselves.
Luis argues that young people in his neighborhood rashly commit to each other too soon. The result is that the men run off and the women end up raising children by themselves. Constant gang violence in the neighborhood (rather than the negligence of individual cholos) is another important cause of this single mother trend. However, this is one of the only points in the book in which Luis seems to argue that his neighborhood is deteriorating because of poor “moral values,” i.e., young men and women making irresponsible choices. Although Luis presents these choices as understandable and in some ways universal, his argument seems curiously out of step with his overall view that crime is caused by poverty.
One day, Luis learns that his friend Sheila is pregnant. She’s afraid that if she tells her parents, they’ll be furious. Luis encourages Sheila to tell her parents—but when she does, her father is so angry that he breaks her fingers.
Sheila’s father clearly didn’t want her to get pregnant, but he’s overly harsh and cruel to her, explaining why Sheila was afraid to tell him.
One day, Chente inspects the drawings Luis has made over the years and says that Luis has been invited to work on a mural project that summer. Luis will design a mural for his neighborhood, supervising a team of gang members, many of them female. That summer, Luis learns about mural design—and with that, “another world opened up to me.”
Luis learns more and more about artistic expression, thanks to Chente. And as he says here, his artistic education opens up another world, because it allows him to express his feelings and come to terms with some personal demons.
One night, police officers arrest Miguel Robles, Luis’s old friend. This is strange, because Miguel has been “going straight” for a year. He’s even talked about becoming a cop. But that night, the police search Miguel and his friends for guns. When one of Miguel’s friends runs, the officers chase him, and Miguel runs to help his friend. The cops shoot him in the abdomen. He’s rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Luis and his peers have a new cause: Justice for Miguel Robles.
Luis presents the shooting of Miguel Robles as an outrage and a scandal: once again, the LAPD has used excessive force on a defenseless Chicano (who, as it turns out, wasn’t even interested in the cholo lifestyle anymore). Justice for Miguel Robles, then, is a worthy cause for Luis and his peers.
The next day, the community holds a meeting to discuss how to respond to the news of Miguel. Sal Basuto, the head of La Casa Community Center, produces a peace treaty between the Loma and Sangra gangs, and the gangs’ leaders accept. Soon after, word gets out that Miguel has died in the hospital. Luis thinks, “Miguel, you were the best of us!”
The murder of Miguel Robles gives the gangs of Los Angeles a wakeup call: they realize that they need to work together to fight police brutality instead of fighting with each other (and making it easier for the police to persecute Chicanos).
Deputy Coates, the officer who shot Miguel Robles, is charged with murder. This would be the first time an officer is sent to jail for killing an unarmed citizen in Los Angeles. Chicano groups, including gangs, work together to protest against Coates.
Luis and his friends join together to ensure that Coates is jailed for his killing, sending a message to the city that injustice toward Chicanos will not go unpunished.
One day that summer, Santos goes to visit a friend named Indio. A car drives by, and someone inside fires on Indio and Santos, killing both of them. Rumor has it that Sangra gang members shot Santos and Indio, but nothing can be proved. Chente tries to keep the peace, but there are too many gang members on both sides who still want to fight.
Almost as soon as it begins, the peace between the Lomas and the Sangra ends. Old habits die hard: the gang members on both sides are so eager to fight that their hearts were never really in the truce to begin with.
Puppet calls a meeting of Lomas. At the meeting, he hands out guns and organizes a retaliation against the death of Santos. Luis hesitates and then points out that Sangra is probably plotting a “hit,” too. He argues that a war with the Sangra will mean that innocent people will die. Furthermore, he argues, the LAPD might have organized the killing in order to provoke a war between the Sangra and the Lomas. Furious, Puppet calls Luis weak and punches him in the face. Luis doesn’t fall, however. Puppet announces, “We move on Sangra tonight.” Luis is silent.
Here, it becomes clear how far from the Lomas Luis has drifted. Following Chente’s advice, he considers the shooting from a general, systemic perspective, and comes to the conclusion that Chicanos need to stick together rather than fighting with each other and giving the LAPD what it wants. Puppet’s reaction makes it clear that Luis is no longer welcome among the Lomas, something which Luis probably knew even before he opened his mouth.