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Always Running | Study Guide

Luis J. Rodriguez

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Always Running | Symbols


Rodríguez's Room

When Rodríguez is 14, his mother forces him to take up residence in the family's garage. He lives there until he leaves Lomas at 19. Throughout that period the cold room, with no toilet facilities, can be seen to represent his separation from his family. Conversely, this separateness makes Rodríguez more easily accessible to any "homeboy or homegirl needing a place to crash, to party or just hang," or for gang activity such as the hit on Chava in Chapter 5.

On a more positive note, the room also provides Rodríguez with a private space to listen to his music, practice his saxophone, or do his writing. In this respect, it gives him an environment that helps lead him to the final decision to leave gang life.


Throughout Always Running nicknames symbolize a degree of affectionate bonding among families and the surrogate families called gangs. Rodríguez begins Chapter 1, in fact, by relating the nicknames of the children in the Rodríguez family: he is "Grillo" (cricket); his brother José René is "Rano" (frog), and his sisters Ana Virginia and Gloria Estela are "Pata" (duck) and "Cuca" (cockroach).

Nicknames also seem almost a requirement of gang membership: Rodríguez becomes "Chin" because of the "disjointed, lopsided and protruding" jawbone he acquires in a school fight. Others include "Little Man," "Night Owl," "Puppet," and "Shark." These nicknames indicate the camaraderie and brotherhood of the group.

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