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From Gangs to Tattoos

From Gangs to Tattoos
May 31
14:34 2019

The price for living the gang life can sometimes be very high, and for Belize City resident and well-known tattoo artist Roque Rodriguez, 39, his disability is a reminder of just how important it is for him to prevent other youth, friends and family members from taking the same path he did in his teenage years.

At the age of 21, Rodriquez was at the center of the gang underworld in Belize City, until a single bullet penetrated his spine, leaving him paralyzed and changing his life forever. Rodriguez was hesitant to disclose under what circumstance he was shot, but he sadly reflected that on that specific Holy Thursday night in 2002, he was on Partridge Street when an assailant ran up to him and fired a single shot in the center of his back.

The gunshot caused major damage to Rodriquez’s spine and he lost movement in both of his legs. Since then he has been confined to a wheelchair.

Reflecting back on the life-changing experience, Rodriquez gave a piece of solemn advice to youth who are part of the ongoing gang war that has been flaring up throughout the city – “I would just like to advise them to give up on that lifestyle. Most of the time if you don’t end up in jail you end up dead or like me. I try my best to advise the youths and encourage them to use my life as an example. Either you end up like me or maybe worse than me. After witnessing all the stuff I went through and after seeing a lot of my friends die in the same way, I would certainly not recommend anyone to live the kind of lifestyle that I lived.”

While the incident certainly changed the entire trajectory of Rodriquez’s life and might have hindered his mobility to get outside of his home and live a normal life, it certainly did not hinder Rodriquez’s personal or family life and was, in fact, the birth of his career as one of the most recognized tattoo artists in Belize.

In his interview with the Reporter, Rodriguez reflected on how his journey as a tattoo artist started – “I did not get any training. I started out by making a homemade tattoo machine for a friend and when it was finished he asked me to draw something on his skin. The finishing work was exceptional and so I started practicing on more of my friends who encouraged me to do it as a business. I have mastered my craft and I am where I am today.”

From his small studio apartment on King Street and with the assistance of social media and other online platforms, Rodriquez has been able to successfully adapt to his disability and due to his exceptional work, friendly personality and reasonable prices he now boasts a considerable amount of customers and followers.

While Rodriquez explained that he had no plans of becoming a tattoo artist, his love for tattoos has grown over the years and with two daughters to maintain, and bills to pay there is no way he is giving up.

But Rodriguez told the Reporter that if he had the chance to live his life over again, he would certainly choose freedom and would give anything to go back to being a fisherman and sail the seas as he did once before the unfortunate night that he was shot.

Rodriquez is pleading to those who might be interested in using him as an example to be aware of just how serious the ultimate price can be for living the gang life – it could be a wheelchair, living behind bars or six feet under.

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