Friday, April 03, 2009

Mi Vida Loca

Mi Vida Loca posterMi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life, 1994) shows a series of events from the different perspectives of several Chicano teenagers belonging to the gangs in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles. This compilation is split into three chapters: "Sad Girls Y-Que," "Don't Let No One Get You Down," and "Sauvecito."

Sad Girls Y-Que

Sad Girl (Angel Aviles) begins by describing the Echo Park barrio as a place that has slowly evolved into a from English to a Hispanic neighbourhood and has everything you need. The residents live in a karma-like environment where they know that ‘what goes around, comes around’ and you just have to take the good with the bad. This explains the shocking scenes of teenage mothers having profane catfights; oblivious to how this is affecting their young children witnessing the scene from nearby strollers. Sad Girl and Mousie (Seidy Lopez) have been best friends since they could remember. They even joined the ‘homegirl’ gang the Locas (and thus the bizarre pseudonyms). Mousie soon becomes interested in Ernesto, aka Bullet (Jacob Vargas), who is part of Echo Park’s male counterpart gang, the Locos. Things soon get serious between the adolescents resulting in Mousie becoming pregnant and then giving birth to a son. As Mousie becomes reclusive with her child, Ernesto begins to take an interest in Sad Girl and their affair results in more offspring for Ernesto and an insurmountable barrier of hatred between Mousie and Sad Girl. Mousie then continues the story explaining how after being thrown out by her father, she had moved from house to house with her son until one day she has a confrontation in the park with Sad Girl (displaying their utter immaturity in spite of their attempts to be ‘bad ass’), which results in a plan for the two to settle their differences in the hills later that evening. The plot then turns to Ernesto who has turned to drug dealing in order to make enough money to support his progeny and to buy a new truck, Sauvecito, which he keeps secret from both Sad Girl and Mousie. But the truck is no secret to El Duran, the playboy leader of the River Valley gang, who stalks the Echo Park neighbourhood in his 1950s collectible cruisers, searching for the Sauvecito because he claims it should be his. Ernesto has pledged to both Sad Girl and Mousie that he will keep them safe the night of the fight, but as the girls hesitate while facing each other down, they are startled by two gun shots, echoing through the valley. It turns out that Ernesto had been dealing to a ‘white chick’ with his new female associate Whisper, a member of the Locas, when all of a sudden the client had pulled a gun, killing Ernesto and injuring Whisper in the leg. Mousie and Sad Girl turn despondent after the death, but are then drawn closer as they find strength through the similarity of their new situation which finds them without the father of their children.

Don’t Let No One Get You Down

Whisper then tells about when the Locas took a road trip to the nearby women’s prison to collect Giggles, an older generation Loca who was sent to jail for a crime that her deceased husband had committed. Giggles tells the group about Sauvecito, which she learned about from Big Sleepy, a veteran Loco who had down some work on the truck. The news causes the Locas to consider selling Sauvecito to make money for the families Ernesto had left behind. Mousie and Sad Girl take a covert peak at the truck, which is under the watchful eye of Ernesto’s younger brother Shadow; but he refuses to give the girls the truck because the River Valley gang is after it. The Locas at first look-up to Giggles because she was the first Loca to go to prison, but they soon change their minds when Giggles talks about getting a jobs with computers and starting a future where they don’t need men to take care of them. Giggles then tries to connect with her neighbourhood friends such as Big Sleepy. The two end up spending the night together which is when Big Sleepy offers for Giggles and her daughter to live with him, but Giggles refuses his kind offer on the grounds that she wants to be independent.


A side-story then introduced about Sad Girl’s sister, Alicia La Blue Eyes, which tells of the bizarre love affair that Blue Eyes has with a prison inmate named Juan Temido, whom she has only met through his poetry in a magazine and then weekly letters. The two end up pledging their love to one another, but then much to Blue Eyes’ disappointment, the correspondence stops. Next is El Duran’s perspective which describes the gang conflict between the Locos and River Valley which has been present for more than 60 years; as such, the issue of attaining Sauvecito is more a matter of honour for El Duran than his actual desire for the truck. Back in Echo Park, one of the Locas reveals that Juan Temido is actually the real name of El Duran and the group brings the heart-broken and naïve Blue Eyes to a River Valley party where she will unknowingly meet El Duran. Meanwhile, Shadow discovers that Sauvecito has been stolen and the Locos go on a blood mission to kill El Duran, who they assume is the culprit. At the party, Blue Eyes is captivated by El Duran’s way with women and the two begin dancing, but she is soon mortified when it is announced that El Duran and Juan are one and the same, causing Blue Eyes to flee from the building and into the comforting embrace of her sister. Suddenly the Locos arrive and immediately shoot El Duran, no questions asked, before escaping into the night. The next day it is revealed that a younger Loco had actually stolen and crashed the truck and that El Duran had been murdered without cause. But the killing continues as a group of River Valley girls attempt to shoot a Loco while outside a local store, but end up accidentally shooting Big Sleepy’s young daughter who was caught in the cross-fire. The film ends at the girl’s funeral, with Giggles slowly walking away from the grave with Big Sleepy and the Locas also walking away together, but on a separate path.

The ending of Mi Vida Loca displays the madness which saturates the lives of these Chicanos, but it also shows the wisdom which develops from living through such experiences. The veteran gang members observe the dead-end lives that result from the constant drug-dealing, fighting, and promiscuity. In this sense, the plot is similar to that of American Me, which also depicts a community of Chicanos stuck in the vicious cycle of younger generations picking up habits inspired by the older generations; even though the veterans of the ‘crazy life’ realize how illogical such a path is in attempting to find happiness.

Although Ernesto often criticizes his white, junkie clients as a class of ‘weak’ humans who get greedy when faced with the ‘stress’ of their perfect lives; the issue of gender in this film appears to take precedence over any concern about race. Even though the women still take on the role of care-givers to the children, they also identify with the machismo attitude of pride and the bond which develops from their inclusion in the gangs; so much so that some members tattoo their aliases onto their knuckles. These girls worry about being killed in gang fights, but still fuss over daily chores such as doing the laundry and getting groceries. Their lives suggest a new perspective on the Chicano community, one where the citizens accept their plight of life in American society and even acknowledge it by naming their gangs the 'Locos' and the 'Locas' (meaning ‘crazy’). Giggles remarks that “women need skills because their men are in prison, disabled, or killed by the time they are twenty-one.” These Chicanas have taken the matter of raising the next generation into their own hands, where they use weapons out of love instead of to prove a point. In the final scene, Giggles embodies the notion of moving away from the ‘gang life’ to start over as she walks away with Big Sleepy; but the cycle continues as the rest of the Locas choose a different path to walk with their children.

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