Name: Luis Rodriguez
Hometown: San Fernando, CA
Co-founder: Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, Sylmar, CA
“My name is Luis Rodriguez … I believe the written word will foster imagination and peace.”
Author Luis Rodriguez knows from experience the power of the written word. After all, the handwritten notes he wrote as a teen from his jail cell evolved into his popular memoir, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA.” For Rodriguez, words, books, and the arts were all life-changing tools.
And what frustrated him most was the lack of access to such things in his neighborhood. “In the Northeast San Fernando Valley, there were no bookstores, no art galleries for 500,000 people – most of whom were Chicano, Mexican or Central American. I decided to create a space that would fill that gap.”
Helping create Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural and Bookstore, a not-for-profit cultural arts center and bookstore in Sylmar, Rodriguez has been using the arts to help regenerate families, communities and the economy, since 2001. The Center serves as a creative sanctuary for the community, offering books, poetry nights, musical performances, theater acts, author readings and more.
“My dream for California is to help make it a place of peace, imagination and arts for all Californians,” he said. “The state’s greatest resource is its people – we must provide them with the tools needed to feed their talents, creativity and potential.”
Rodriguez believes the government should provide more funding and resources to the cultural arts. “We need help to keep thriving,” he said. “We can do the rest. The hard work, the community networking, everything else we can do. The obstacle for cultural centers is the diminishing pool of funds available despite tireless efforts and fundraising.”
In the meantime, Rodriguez believes that every Californian can work to improve local communities. “Take the time to improve our future,” he said. “Look locally within your own neighborhoods to identify where the most need is. Everyone should do something if they want a better California,” he said.