Always Running


Luis J. Rodriguez

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Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez is the protagonist, author, and narrator of Always Running. Beginning in the early 1990s, when he’s a husband, a father, and a successful writer and community organizer, Luis pens a book in… read analysis of Luis Rodriguez

Chente Ramírez

Chente is one of the key figures in the memoir, and undoubtedly one of the biggest influences in Luis Rodriguez’s life. A charismatic Chicano politician, writer, teacher, and community organizer, Chente works at the… read analysis of Chente Ramírez

Alfonso Rodriguez

Although Alfonso is Luis’s father, he’s a surprisingly minimal presence in Luis’s early life, and in Luis’s memoir. A talented, educated figure in Mexico, Alfonso makes the difficult decision to immigrate to Los Angeles… read analysis of Alfonso Rodriguez

María Rodriguez

María is Luis Rodriguez’s fiery, intimidating mother. The descendant of Native Americans, María marries Alfonso Rodriguez while she’s still very young, and then moves to Los Angeles along with him. As Luis notes several… read analysis of María Rodriguez

Rano Rodriguez / Joe

Rano is Luis Rodriguez’s older brother, and an important influence on Luis’s earlier life. When Luis’s family moves to Los Angeles, Rano quickly becomes violent and unpredictable. He has trouble adjusting to his classes… read analysis of Rano Rodriguez / Joe
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Ramiro is Luis Rodriguez’s son (named, it would seem, after Chente Ramírez, Luis’s beloved mentor). Ramiro appears in the memoir’s first and final chapters. At first, he’s portrayed as a teenaged delinquent who… read analysis of Ramiro

Camila Martínez

Luis Rodriguez meets Camila Martínez in the late 1970s, when he’s a young, charismatic college student and she’s a beautiful high school student. The two begin a relationship, and shortly afterwards, Camila gives birth to… read analysis of Camila Martínez

Gloria (Cuca / Shorty)

Luis Rodriguez’s younger sister Gloria grows up in Los Angeles with Luis. As she matures, she becomes involved in gangs. During this time, she faces grave danger from rival gangs, who are trying to… read analysis of Gloria (Cuca / Shorty)

Miguel Robles

A childhood friend of Luis Rodriguez, who first forms a small-time gang called Thee Impersonations, and later convinces Luis to join The Tribe, a larger gang that eventually merges with the Lomas. Miguel is… read analysis of Miguel Robles


One of Luis Rodriguez’s middle school friends, Clavo eventually joins the gang The Tribe along with Luis. He’s shot in the eye during a fight with a rival gang, and soon after this he… read analysis of Clavo


Wilo is another one of Luis Rodriguez’s childhood friends. He joins The Tribe with Luis, and later the gang merges with the Lomas. Wilo is a close friend to Luis for long stretches of… read analysis of Wilo


Chicharrón is another one of Luis Rodriguez’s middle school friends. He’s instrumental in convincing Luis to join the Lomas in high school, and he and Luis participate in various gang activities together—everything from getting… read analysis of Chicharrón

Claudio Ponce / Yuk Yuk

Yuk Yuk is one of Luis Rodriguez’s friends from his teen years. Though Luis is never as close with him as Luis is with Chicharrón or Miguel Robles, Yuk Yuk and Luis participate… read analysis of Claudio Ponce / Yuk Yuk


Viviana is a beautiful young woman with whom Luis Rodriguez has a passionate but confusing relationship. Luis first meets Viviana at a parade, where he’s dismayed to learn that she’s affiliated with a rival gang… read analysis of Viviana


An important warrior in the Sangra gang, who’s targeted by the Lomas one night when they burn down his house. Though Chava survives this murder attempt, he’s later stabbed by rival gang members, leaving him… read analysis of Chava

Malcolm X

An influential political activist whose writing inspires Luis Rodriguez during his own political awakening as a teenager in the 1960s. Malcolm X’s political beliefs are still hotly debated fifty years after his death. X was… read analysis of Malcolm X

Eldridge Cleaver

A black activist and early member of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver is still celebrated for his influence on the “black is beautiful” movement and his emphasis on black empowerment and self-defense. However, Cleaver… read analysis of Eldridge Cleaver

Mr. Madison

The principal of Luis Rodriguez’s high school, with whom Luis has a number of head-to-heads. Madison is portrayed as a sheltered, “apolitical” figure who can’t fathom why Chicano students would want to celebrate their… read analysis of Mr. Madison

Mrs. Baez

Mrs. Baez is a teacher at Luis Rodriguez’s high school, as well as the sponsor of the Chicano cultural society. As a result, Mrs. Baez is instrumental in advising Luis and his peers while… read analysis of Mrs. Baez

Roger Nelson

A Los Angeles local and friend of Luis Rodriguez, who supplies Luis with a rifle that Luis later uses to shoot at some white bikers. As part of the fall-out from the incident, Roger… read analysis of Roger Nelson


An attractive woman with whom Luis Rodriguez kindles a warm friendship and later a romance after they’re both arrested by the police and sent to jail. Licha and Luis promise to get together after they’re… read analysis of Licha
Minor Characters
The daughter of Alfonso Rodriguez from an early marriage. Alfonso and his family briefly live with Seni in Los Angeles.
A one-armed boy whom Luis Rodriguez befriends in elementary school.
A boy whom Luis Rodriguez befriends in elementary school.
Ana (Pata)
Luis Rodriguez’s sister, rarely mentioned in his memoir (even though they grow up together).
A childhood friend of Luis Rodriguez, who dies while fleeing from the police.
A girl on whom Luis Rodriguez has a crush in middle school.
A girl whom Luis Rodriguez dates in middle school, who encourages Luis’s gang activities.
Luis Rodriguez’s aunt, who tells him stories and sings to him while he’s still a child.
Luis Rodriguez’s cousin, who inspires him to start lifting weights and listening to soul and jazz music.
A young woman who spends time with the Lomas gang.
Black Dog
A Lomas gang member who goes to prison.
Luis Rodriguez’s uncle.
Jandro Mares
Notorious Los Angeles robber who’s connected with Yuk Yuk.
Shed Cowager
Notorious Los Angeles robber who’s connected with Yuk Yuk.
One of Luis Rodriguez’s friends, who’s attacked and nearly killed by racist police officers after a high school football game.
The sister of Wilo, Payasa develops a big crush on Luis Rodriguez. However, their relationship deteriorates after Luis realizes that Payasa is too dependent on drugs.
John Fabela
President of The Tribe, who’s murdered in his home by rival gang members.
A powerful figure in the Lomas gang.
Puppet’s girlfriend.
A friend of Luis Rodriguez, who’s shown to be disrespectful and abusive to women.
An attractive woman with whom Luis Rodriguez strikes up a brief romance, which comes to a sudden end when Luis realizes that she works as a prostitute.
An attractive woman with whom Chicharrón kindles a romance, even after he learns that she’s a prostitute.
Roberta’s sister, with whom Luis Rodriguez has a quick “rebound” relationship after he ends things with Roberta.
Luis Rodriguez’s sister, who died as an infant. As a teenager, Luis has vivid nightmares about Lisa’s death.
Mr. Rothro
The principal of Luis Rodriguez’s elementary school, who tries to convince Luis to stay in school.
Amiri Baraka
An influential African American poet, jazz critic, and activist who inspires Luis to channel his feelings about poverty, racism, and gang warfare into music and poetry.
A high school friend of Luis Rodriguez.
Charles Kearney
A restaurant owner who first arrests Luis Rodriguez for trying to “dine and dash,” but then declines to press charges after Luis tells him about police brutality.
A local police officer with whom Luis Rodriguez has more than one nasty encounter over the years.
Another local police officer in Luis Rodriguez’s neighborhood.
Rubén Navarro
A flashy boxing champ who helps teach Luis how to box.
Daniel Fuentes
Ex-boxer who runs the gym where Luis Rodriguez trains.
Esmeralda Falcón
A classmate of Luis Rodriguez, with whom Luis tries out to be the school mascot. Like Luis, Esmeralda is an active member of the school’s Chicano cultural club.
A close friend of Luis Rodriguez’s sister, Gloria.
Joe’s son and Luis Rodriguez’s nephew—named after Luis himself.
One of Luis Rodriguez’s many girlfriends, who suddenly claims that she’s pregnant, and then disappears.
Rodney King
African American resident of Los Angeles whose brutal beating at the hands of four LAPD officers—captured on film—sparked a city-wide uprising of black and Latino people, often called the “Los Angeles Riots” (though Luis avoids using the prejudicial word “riot” whenever possible).
Sal Basuto
The organizer of the La Casa Community Center, another Los Angeles space that supports impoverished city dwellers as well as ex-gang affiliates.
One of the main leaders of the Lomas gang, Puppet is a brutal warrior who’s shown never to shy away from physical violence. After Luis Rodriguez begins to distance himself from the gang, Puppet punches him, suggesting that Luis’s Lomas days are now behind him.
Joaquín Lopez
President of The Animal Tribe.
Delfina Cortez
An attractive young woman whom Luis Rodriguez dates for a brief period in high school.
A high school student who gets pregnant.
Luis Rodriguez’s friend, who’s later killed in a conflict with a rival gang.
Santos’s friend, who’s later killed in a conflict with a rival gang.
Mr. Humes
High school teacher who belittles his Latino students.
Mr. Pérez
Latino high school teacher whose sudden firing is protested by Luis Rodriguez and other Latino students.
A powerful chola (i.e., female gang member) for the Sangra gang, who is later raped and murdered.
A powerful chola (i.e., female gang member) for the Sangra gang.
Night Owl
Sangra gang member who befriends Luis Rodriguez during his time in prison.
Deputy Coates
Police officer who kills Miguel Robles but is later acquitted of the killing.