Chivo, an East Los Angeles gang member, teaches his daughter how to hold a 32-caliber pistol. Her mother, Yvonne, looks on. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo, who belongs to an east Los Angeles gang, counts his money the morning after a car-jacking. He stripped the car and sold the parts. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo plays with his son, Joshua, 2, as his sister looks on. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo offers cocaine to a neighborhood girl. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo sits at the breakfast table with his mother (right) telling him he better get a job. His sister and friend, Boxer look on. His mother, a bus driver, then left for work. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Gang family - a little boy withg his father in the background. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Steve helps another addict shoot heroin in the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
"Scooby," a member of the Evergreen gang, sits in the shade as his nephews play. "Scooby" is unemployed. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo cuts the lawn in his Boyle Heights home. His mother promised to throw him out of the house if he wasn't finished before she came home from work. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Chivo takes a break from cutting the lawn. He said he has never accepted the fact that his father, a member of the Mexican mafia, died four years ago. "I think if he were alive I might not have been a gang member." Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Seconds after a drive-by shooting in East Los Angeles, gang members still are not aware one of them has been hit by an automatic weapon and lies bleeding on the sidewalk. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
In a bar in Tijuana, Mexico, Chivo plays with a transvestite. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Minutes later, gang members help get a member to the hospital. He was shot five times with an automatic weapon and survived. The week of the shooting was supposed to be the start of a gang truce among many Latino gangs in East Los Angeles. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Steve and his ex-wife, Chris shoot up heroin in Boyle Heights. Steve and his family often visit his rich aunt in Altadena, a middle-class black neighborhood. "She used to pick me up and take me out there to get me away from the drugs and help me find work. I got a job working for the L.A. Times in the pressroom. I held that job for a few years until I got fired, because of drugs. We like coming to her home, it's the real American Dream. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
The toddler of a gang family looks on. His brother is a member of a gang in Boyle Heights. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Steve and his ex-wife were both members of the Evergreen Dukes in the 1960s and the 1970s. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Steve, 39, standing, and Albert, 41, who both live in their trucks, relax after they have taken their morning dose of heroin. Albert raises money for his drug habit by removing trash in his truck.
A young girl in Boyle Heights play wedding. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Albert and Steve remove grass from Albert's truck. Steve was a member of the first generation of the Evergreen gang, which was named the Evergreen Dukes. Both men have sons in the Evergreen gang. Albert grew up in Reynosa, a Mecian border town. "Most of my childhood I spent with my father in his truck." Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Micke and Steve hang out in the Evergreen cemetery afterthey have shot up heroin. Steve is homeless, by his own choice. In the morning, he takes his daughter and nephews to school, they buy his heroin. It's a sticky brown paste sold in colorful balloons. The men have been friends since childhood. In East L.A. your friends as grown-ups usually are the same ones you had as a child. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
A young mother walks the streets of Brooklyn Avenue in Boyle Heights. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
A gun salesman in East Los Angeles works out of his car showroom. His selection ranges from a 22 caliber pistol to an AK-47 assault rifle. One gang member said gun purchases are as easy as buying mild at a grocery store. This .380 automatic pistol is fresh from a box stamped United States of America Gun Company. Sale price: $150. Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
Unemployed youths in East Los Angeles with nothing to do writeon the walls of their housing project. These boys are not gang members, but belong to a tagger crew (graffiti writers). Photo by APF Fellow Joseph Rodriguez
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For the last year, I've photographed gang life in East Los Angeles. My aim is to get to the core of violence in America, not just the physical violence, but the quiet violence of letting families fall apart, the violence of unemployment, the violence of our educational system and the violence of segregation and isolation.

La Vida Loca, or the crazy life, is what they call the barrio gang experience. This lifestyle originated with the Mexican Pachuco gangs of the 1930s and 1940s. They developed their own style and language in the barrios of America. It was later recreated with the Cholos, or low life, a word appropriated by Chicano barrio youth to describe the style of local gangs.

The lifestyle became the main model and influence for outlaw bikers of the 1950s and 1960s, the L.A. punk/rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Crips and Bloods of the 1980s and 1990s. As Leon Bing commented in the book, "Do or Die," (HarperCollins 1991), "It was the cholo homeboy who first walked the walk and talked the talk. It was the Mexican American Pachuco who initiated the emblematic tattoos, the signing with hands, the writing legends on the wall."

Although there has been a gang truce with several of the Crips and Bloods gangs in South Central and Watts districts in Los Angeles since the riots of 1992, on the other side of town in East Los Angeles the gang wars still continue. East L.A. has long been a neglected neighborhood, with a predominantly Mexican population. It has one of the nation's highest school drop-out rates and youth unemployment hovers at 75 percent. Teenage pregnancy is at an all-time high in this community.

There is an aspect of suicide among many of these gang kids. They are between 10 and 21 years old and their options have been cut off: no education, no work, no opportunities for advancement. They stand on street corns and parks, flashing gang signs, inviting bullets. It's either la torcida (prison) or death. And if they murder, the victims usually are the ones who look like the, the ones closest to who they are---the mirror reflections. They murder and they're killing themselves, over and over.

In 1992, Los Angeles police cited these statistics: 100,000 gang members, 1,000 gangs, nearly 600 people killed.