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"the Lord's of Creation" by Alonso Salazar

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To kill, or not to kill for a living is the choice that all youth boys growing up in the slums of Medellin must face, to live a short life of violence, or to live a hard life of poverty. "The Lords of Creation," an excerpt from Alonso Salazar's book Born to die in Medellin, describes the life and death of the hoodlum Antonio Montoya as told from the perspective of Antonio and his mother Azucena, and the influences that cause him to choose gang life over a less violent, subdued life. Antonio and his family live in the shanty-towns of Medellin, Colombia; furthermore, it is one of the most violent societies in the world. The specific influences of Antonio, which include values and experiences of his family, the environment that he grew up in, and his very nature, limits his choice of becoming anything but a gang member destined to die young.

From the very beginning of his life, Antonio is at a negative disposition living in a country where one of the two largest industries is widely considered illegal in the rest of the world. Also, he is born into an impoverished family in which a violent environment is not an uncommon occurrence. He is mainly raised by his mother, Azucena, who was a caring and nurturing parent to all her children, giving them unconditional love and support no matter what the circumstance. Very much like his mother in her youth, Antonio is taught by his mother core values that stick with him throughout his short life. The first is loyalty to family and loved ones no matter what, and secondly, to not let anyone push you around, to stand up and defend yourself, and to have pride and be proud of where you come from. For example, when Antonio is in his third year of grade school, he and a friend are abused by a teacher, Antonio asserts himself and stabs his teacher in order to defend his friend and him. Another instance when Antonio is still young is when a neighborhood kid insults his mother. Diego, his older brother, hands him a pistol and tells he to prove that he is a real Montoya, and he shoots the boy five times though not killing him. As Antonio states, violence is the method by which one defends himself from being controlled, a lesson that he learns early on and from his family.

By the time that Antonio gets out of the remand school that he is sent to after shooting the neighborhood kid, he is about twelve, and has one final chance to escape a violent gang life learning plumbing and electrics at San Jose school, how exciting for a kid. Shortly after he begins his studies, Antonio is back on the street, and hanging out with two new mentors, Lunar and Papucho, the leaders of Antonio's new gang. The gang's main source of income is that of being contract killers, along with stealing cars and other jobs. This line of work, while dangerous, is also quite profitable for the gang. A salary of half to three million pesos for each hit is not bad gross income for teenagers growing up in dirt poor conditions. However, Antonio does not forget where he came from or the people who have cared for him, and he gives money to his mother and siblings to help support them. Peer pressure and the lure of ready, easy money make the choice to join a gang an easy one for him. Although early death for members is clearly visible to all the young teenagers who join, the challenge of beating the odds, the excitement and adrenaline rush of being a killer, and not being controlled by the puppet-masters is enough reason as any to join. Once Antonio is in the gang, there is no turning back, his fate has been



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