Girls in the 'Hood

Mi Vida Loca has all the conventions one expects of the gang-movie genre. There’s poor Latino kids stuck in an urban purgatory with no way to get out. Rival gangs fight each other instead of the system that keeps them down. Drug deals go bad and people die. There’s the required drive-by shooting scene and some pontificating by older gangsters who’ve gone legitimate. In this way, Mi Vida Loca resembles Menace II Society, Boyz N the Hood, and even Colors.

But there is a difference. Allison Anders, who also directed Gas Food Lodging (1992), manages to make a girl-gang movie that’s more about relationships than gun battles.

The story hinges on the friendship between two Latina gang members, Sad Girl (Angel Aviles) and Mousie (Seidy Lopez). Growing up in troubled LA neighborhood Echo Park, they join a girl’s gang in their early teens. Parents, or anyone over 30, are non-existent in this world. Gang membership offers sisterhood and love to girls without much family.

Trouble comes when Sad Girl and Mousie fall for the same guy, Ernesto (Jacob Vargas), and each have a child by him. Their jealousy almost ends in a fight to the finish, but it’s interrupted providentially by Ernesto’s violent death. Tragedy reunites the friends and they return to gang life. A female friend, Whisper (Nelida Lopez), takes over Ernesto’s drug business and his fatherly responsibilities. Whisper gives drug money to the single mothers when food stamps and welfare fall short.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1994
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