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Cholo identity, reflection & connection: On both sides of the iron bars

This week I received two letters, one from Carlos and the other from Alfred. The letter I received from Carlos really brought on a wave of emotions. I have been writing him for over nine years, and never once has he ever mentioned anything about second chances We all have that “If I had a second chance I would do things different” moment, but Carlos never mentioned it once in nine years. He has two kids and he recently had a visit from them. That is one reason that I hated visits or phone calls when I was incarcerated. He said he wanted to be a big part of their lives and he knows being in prison he can’t be. Carlos met his own father when he was twenty-one and they met in prison where they shared the same yard. He states that he wishes he could come home to Commerce/East L.A and hang out at the handball courts at Bristow Park. He misses the smell of the food cooking at the snack bar and the smell of the fresh cut grass. He just misses being home with us, his family.

rolando1Alfred is serving a life sentence, he has accepted his sentence and is moving on. We write to each other on topics from politics to religion, and anything and everything in between. He congratulated me on everything I’m doing with my writing and helping out the community. He said he thought that animals are smarter than humans, in preparing their offspring for the real world, and said that he has met some really big dummies in prison. He is mad that they validated him as a member of the Mexican Mafia back in November of last year. Since then, he has been placed in the S.H.U (security housing unit) or the hole. He calls the prison system’s court a kangaroo court and that they gave him a six year SHU term to try to break a m*therf*cker’s spirit and that it works for some idiots. The system tries to make you “debrief”, that means you turn into a jail house snitch. The SHU is a one man cell; Alfred tells me that the SHU is so overcrowded that they are putting two inmates in one cell. He also states that he hopes to run into our homeboys Shotgun and Chuco, who have also been validated and serving SHU terms. Chuco should parole from the SHU after serving a fifteen year sentence and Shotgun is serving a hundred and twenty five year sentence. He also plans to take advantage of the law library, they have in the SHU, and brush up his drawing skills. He also asked me to tell Carlos to get rid of any pictures or letters he has of him because they will validate him for that. He also recommended a few books for me to read and to get back to him about them after I read them.

These two men are a product of our society and shows that there is no rehabilitation in the California Prison System, none. Just a revolving door of inmates, 89% of Latinos who go to prison will return to prison. I remember being released after my term and they had a sign in wood that said “See you when you come back”, that’s encouraging. This is the reason we need to get involved in our communities and help the youth not become the next Carlos or the next Alfred. We need people who have made it out of the Barrio to come back and plant the seed and show the youth you can do it. We need that support in the Barrios and until we have that support we will always have Latinos like Carlos and Alfred around.

By guest contributor, Rolando Ortiz.

About Being Latino Contributors

Being Latino contributors consists of individuals and partner organizations. They join us in our goal of providing our audience with a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum. Together we aim to break down barriers and foster unity and empowerment through informative, thought-provoking dialogue and exchanging of ideas. Giving a unified voice to the multitude of communities that identify with the multidimensional culture that is Latino.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. What a touching post. (o:

  2. Write on, mi hermano. You are showing young people another path to make a mark in the world. You can make a difference with your writing and example.

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