Luis J. Rodriguez


Poet, memoirist, and activist Luis J. Rodriguez is a self-identified Xicanx writer. Born in the border city of El Paso, Texas, Rodriguez is the son of a principal and school secretary; his parents are both natives of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and his mother is descended from the Raramuri, an indigenous people of Chihuahua. When he was two years old, Rodriguez and his family moved from the El Paso–Ciudad Juárez border to the San Gabriel Valley of East Los Angeles, where Rodriguez would spend the remainder of his youth. As a teen in the 1960s and 70s, Rodriguez earned an extensive criminal record for drug use and gang activity. All the while, Rodriguez was an advocate and organizer within the Chicano Movement, participating in the 1968 East LA walkouts and the 1970 Chicano Moratorium. Rodriguez dropped out of high school at the age of 15, only to return and graduate from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra as president of To Help Mexican American Students (TOHMAS). Profiled and arrested numerous times for attending peaceful protests and attempting to prevent police brutality, Rodriguez was convicted in a criminal case at the age of 18; his sentence was mitigated and Rodriguez was released, as community members sent letters of support detailing his leadership and potential. Indebted to his community, Rodriguez vowed to quit drugs and end his involvement with gangs, dedicating himself to organizing and writing. Rodriguez went on to become a distinguished and celebrated literary figure, as well as a renowned gang intervention specialist. The 2014 Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Rodriguez has published 16 books spanning many genres, including two memoirs and several children’s books. In addition to his many literary achievements, Rodriguez has an impressive history in politics; he has twice run for governor of California, receiving endorsements from the Green Party, Peace & Freedom Party, and Justice Party. Rodriguez lives in Southern California with his family, where he runs the revolutionary press and culture center Tia Chucha. 


Photo Credit: Arlene Mejorado

Watts Bleeds

Watts bleeds

leaving stained reminders

on dusty sidewalks.


Here where I strut alone

as glass lies broken by my feet

and a blanket of darkness is slung

across the wooden shacks

of nuetsra colonia.


Watts bleeds

dripping from carcasses of dreams:

Where despair

is old people

sitting on torn patio sofas

with empty eyes

and children running down alleys

with big sticks.


Watts bleeds

on vacant lots

and burned-out buildings–

temples desolated by a people’s rage.


Where fear is a deep river.

Where hate is an overgrown weed.


Watts bleeds

even as we laugh,

recall good times,

drink and welcome daylight

through the broken windshield

of an old Impala.


Here is the Watts of my youth,

where teachers threw me

from classroom to classroom,

not knowing where I could fit in.


Where I learned to fight or run,

where I zigzagged down alleys,

jumped over fences,

and raced by graffiti on crumbling

factory walls.


Where we played

between boxcars,

bleeding from

broken limbs and torn flesh,

and where years later

we shot up carga

in the playground

of our childhood.


Watts bleeds

as the shadow of the damned

engulfs all the chinga of our lives.


In the warmth of a summer night,

gunshots echo their deadly song

through the silence of fear;

prelude to a heartbeat.


Watts bleeds

as I bled

getting laid-off from work,

standing by my baby’s crib,

touching his soft check

and fingering his small hand

as dreams shatter again,

dreams of fathers

for little men.


Watts bleeds

and the city hemorrhages,

unable to stop the flow

from this swollen and festering sore.


Oh bloom, you trampled flower!

Come alive as once

you tried to do from the ashes.


Watts, bleeding and angry,

you will be free.





Literary Movements:

Chicano Poetry


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age

Poems of Place

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


The use of multiple words with the same root in different forms.


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Transferred Epithet

When an adjective usually used to describe one thing is transferred to another.