Course Hero Logo

Always Running | Study Guide

Luis J. Rodriguez

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Always Running Study Guide." Course Hero. 18 Oct. 2019. Web. 29 Mar. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, October 18). Always Running Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Always Running Study Guide." October 18, 2019. Accessed March 29, 2023.


Course Hero, "Always Running Study Guide," October 18, 2019, accessed March 29, 2023,

Always Running | Summary

See Plot Diagram


Early Childhood

Luis Rodríguez, who was born in the United States, is two when his family relocates from Mexico to the United States. The family settles first in Watts, an industrial area of Los Angeles. Rodríguez and his older brother, José René, attend an elementary school with no facilities for teaching Spanish-speaking students. Their father, Alfonso, gets a good job but then goes into heavy debt and loses that job, leaving them homeless. An attempt to live with relatives ends in the eviction of them all. Rodríguez's mother, María Estela, resolves to return to Mexico with the children but changes her mind at the train station.

Rodríguez acquires an acceptable grasp of English by age 10. By the time he is 11, in response to a gang attack upon his South San Gabriel school, "gangs" have begun to take shape among his classmates. He and some friends form a group called "Thee Impersonations," whose members vow that they will always look out for one another. About the time he finishes elementary school, his father finds steady work and buys a two-bedroom house. Rodríguez is enrolled in an intermediate school with a 50 percent dropout rate and begins getting into trouble on a regular basis both at school and with the police.

Gang Years and Beyond

Rodríguez joins a gang called the Animal Tribe, which in time absorbs the smaller, weaker gangs in the area. He and three friends become known as los cuatro (the four). A clash with members of rival gang Sangra results in fellow los cuatro member Clavo losing an eye to gunfire. Clavo leaves both los cuatro and the Animal Tribe, and a teen called Yuk Yuk takes his place. Yuk Yuk has done time in juvenile hall and networked with local criminals. Those connections provide the support for los cuatro to steal and fence (sell stolen goods) others' property. The four also begin committing armed robberies, and on one occasion Rodríguez is nearly shot by the proprietor of a drive-in.

Rodríguez's mother, María Estela, throws him out of the house when he is 14. After he spends some time on the street, she agrees to let him return provided he lives in the garage. At 15 he is enrolled in Mark Keppel High School, the first of three from which he will either be expelled or drop out. Drug and alcohol use become an integral part of his life (as does sexual promiscuity), and in time he becomes a heroin user.

The Animal Tribe falls apart, and a gang called Lomas arises to fill the void. Rodríguez, still 15, joins Lomas in a violent initiation ceremony that includes a random assault on four strangers. At 16 he is expelled from school. He meets a community organizer named Chente Ramírez who begins to assert a positive influence on his life. At 17 he is allowed to return to Mark Keppel High School and becomes active there in improving conditions for Chicano students. His involvement with Lomas continues, however, and his encounters with the police become steadily more serious.

A clash between Lomas and an Anglo biker gang results in Rodríguez's arrest and later acquittal for assault with intent to commit murder. He graduates from high school at 18 and begins taking college courses. These are cut short, however, by yet another encounter with the law that leads to several months of incarceration in county jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. Upon his release he drops out of college, but the experience has prompted him to quit drugs. When fellow members of Lomas begin to follow his example, four of his fellow gang members drive by in a car and shoot at him on the street. Although he realizes it is just a warning, he decides the time has come to leave la vida loca.

He contacts Chente Ramírez, who sets him up in a federally subsidized hideout in nearby San Pedro. After some time there, he settles in another part of L.A. He marries, has his first child that he is certain has been born, and embarks on an adult life of writing and social activism.

Always Running Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Luis Rodríguez and his family immigrate to California.

Rising Action

2 Rodríguez attends a school that is not helpful for Spanish speakers.

3 Rodríguez joins his first gang at age 11.

4 Rodríguez joins the Animal Tribe; he is ejected from home.

5 Rodríguez's life is violent, promiscuous, and drug-filled.

6 Rodríguez is initiated into Lomas. Later, he quits drugs.


7 Rodríguez's life is threatened by members of his gang.

Falling Action

8 Chente Ramírez helps Rodríguez leave gang life.


9 Rodríguez begins a life of writing and activism.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Always Running? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!