The biographical film La Bamba by Luis Valdez was about the life of the rock star Richie Valens: A young man who is passionate about music, whose dream was to become a star, even though he came from a poor family, was able to achieve his dream as a musician. His career only lasted eight months because as he was flourishing, he was tragically killed in a plane crash. The movie La Bamba was created to keep the memory of Richard Steven Valenzuela alive, but most knew him by his stage name, Ritchie Valens. Before Richie became famous, he grew up picking crops in the San Fernando Valley. Richie’s older brother Bob found them and took them to live with him in Pacoima, California and their lives were drastically changed. Richie went to school and played in a band called The Silhouettes. When Richie was playing at a dance, his music career kicked off by getting a record deal with Del-Fi Records, and his dream became a reality. Throughout the movie La Bamba Valdez uses symbolism to portray Richie Valens’s life, from his experiences, success, to his death.
The film La Bamba begins with a scene where Ritchie has a nightmare of a plane crash that occurred when he was a boy, this scene constantly appears throughout the movie. One of his closest friends dies from the plane crash that occurred at his middle school, Ritchie carries the image with him because he should have been at school, but instead was at his grandfather’s funeral. Valdez emphasizes Ritchie’s nightmare to foreshadow Ritchie’s death. During this time period flying was not as common as today, many who did fly were skeptical about flying. As anyone with ambition and determination Ritchie had the opportunity to go on a music tour in Philadelphia which would give him the chance to take his music career to the next level.
A constant reappearing theme that occurs throughout the film is a rattlesnake; in an earlier scene a rattle snake is seeing swiftly slithering across the road. Valdez uses symbolism to portray a relationship between the rattlesnake and Ritchie, suggesting that his journey lies elsewhere. Many will not see the significance of the rattlesnake towards later on in the movie. As the rattlesnake slithers across the road Ritchie advances his music career by going to Mexico. The main reason why Bob took Ritchie to Mexico was for Ritchie to lose his virginity; instead it exposes Ritchie to a new kind of music. This instance can resemble that Ritchie lost his purity from his normal rock in roll to playing an old traditional song in Mexico known as La Bamba. Ritchie brought a popular song from Mexico, which he alters to his personality. A scene in the film shows Ritchie waking up in an old man’s hut, where the old man skinning a snake. Valdez portrays the image of a turning point for Ritchie; and this scene foreshadows his success. The rattlesnake symbolizes “an underdog – creeping on the ground, but sly and crafty, equipped with a powerful weapon, and not afraid to stand up for itself, rattling loudly as if to say “don’t tread on me!”(The Rattlesnake As Symbol). The imagery that Valdez uses compares Ritchie’s guitar to a weapon; he fights through his lyrics and the choice of song like La Bamba. When Ritchie was in Mexico he ate a rattlesnake for the first time which symbolizes that Ritchie has become tainted, similar to him losing his sexual virginity.
The love and hate relationship in the movie between Ritchie and his brother Bob, reveals how he envies Ritchie’s success. When Ritchie saw his brother pawing at Rosie, who Ritchie had feelings for, at that instance Ritchie knew that his brother was still the same guy. Bob was able to convince Rosie to come live with him believing that Bob loved her and they both could have had a future together, but in reality Bob just wanted a girl that was available for him as he pleased. When Bob took Ritchie to Mexico he took him to see his spiritual advisor and gave him a talisman. The purpose of the talisman was said to protect Ritchie from his greatest fears and his nightmares. When Ritchie came back from a tour just in time for Christmas, Bob and Ritchie got into a physical altercation and Bob tore the talisman off of Ritchie’s neck. This causes a shift in the film, which affects during his tour first with his bus breaking down and he becomes ill. The scene of the altercation adds a dramatic effect that alters Ritchie’s fate because of the removal of the talisman. Many link the talisman to Ritchie’s death. Valdez creates a dramatic effect, linking Ritchie’s fear of flying and dying in a plane together, but in reality Ritchie was not afraid of flying.
Ritchie is forced to put his love life on hold, and focuses on his career as a musician. Ritchie became overwhelmed with his work, trying to provide for his family and did not have the time to think for himself, but mostly for others. When he came back from a road trip in his new car both Donna [girl friend] and Ritchie admitted that they loved each other. He was not expecting for her to wait for him, because he knew that he would be away focusing on his music career. Valdez shows that Ritchie’s commitment was elsewhere, yet he only had eyes for Donna revealing that he only cared about her. An earlier scene in the film shows Ritchie and Donna having a fallout because she would not return his calls due to her father. Ritchie would fight for her back; he created and sung her a song titled Donna, which expressed his true feelings for Donna. This demonstrates the love that Ritchie has for Donna, yet he is aware that her dad does not approve of her seeing him; he is determined to go out with her. Ritchie does not have the time, he is forced to invest his time elsewhere, and he remains focus on remains at large, his career. As well, it reveals that his ambition pushes him to continue to fight for what he wants in life like his music and the girl he loves. The dedication, desire, and determination that Ritchie has invested on his music made him one of the best musicians in music history.
The sadness that a legacy before his time was tragically killed in a plane crash will never be forgotten. His music has been carried through generations and will always remain close to our hearts and a role model to the Chicano community. The movie La Bamba was created to keep Ritchie’s memory alive through his music and his legacy that he created for others to hear. It is inspiring to see that his career only lasted eight months, yet he managed to be very successful. I wish that he would still be alive to have seen him flourish, the music he could have created, and the image that he would have created for himself. It is sad to see the youth that have so much potential, within a life instance; they are wiped from the earth. This example represents his career and his personality, based on a split second he is no more. I see Ritchie’s success did not influence him to change but, to be able to provide for his family and by purchasing his mother a house. Ritchie’s determination of being able to have an opportunity to make his own music and for it to be heard on the radio is a dream come true. It gives hope to the Chicano community of achieving the American dream. If one remains committed they will be able to turn their dream into a reality. I strongly believe that this movie reveals the life lesson that success, life is limited, and your time on earth is numbered regardless your fate.
“The Rattlesnake as a Symbol.” The Rattlesnake As Symbol. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. .