Always Running


Luis J. Rodriguez

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Themes and Colors
Gangs and Crime Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Class Theme Icon
Politics, Resistance, and Activism Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Mentorship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Always Running, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Gangs and Crime

Luis Rodriguez is a gang member for many years, beginning when he’s in grade school and continuing, on and off, until he’s in college. During this time, he becomes acquainted with the various aspects of Los Angeles cholo (i.e., gang member) culture: drug use, dismissive treatment of women, and, above all, violent clashes with rival gangs. Luis personally commits some reprehensible crimes as a gang member. Though he never seems to ask for his readers’…

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One can’t understand Los Angeles gangs without also understanding the culture (and the cult) of machismo. Machismo—the rigid code of male behavior which male gang members follow to the letter—is the glue that holds gangs together. It builds unity, keeping Luis Rodriguez and other cholos loyal to one another by giving them a common set of beliefs. Machismo influences almost every aspect of the cholos’ behavior. Because machismo prizes the appearance of independence and…

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Race, Racism, and Class

The history of crime in Los Angeles is not a matter of class alone, nor of race alone—but of the intersections of these two issues. This holds true in Luis Rodriguez’s account of “La Vida Loca.” Los Angeles is one of the most racially diverse places in America, with large black, Asian, and Latino populations—yet the history of Los Angeles has been tarnished by frequent episodes of violent racism.

Even a cursory look at…

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Politics, Resistance, and Activism

In addition to being a touching coming-of-age story and a fascinating insider’s look at gang culture, Always Running examines the many different forms that political action can take. In Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, there are a great number of worthy political causes, both domestically and abroad. At various points, Luis describes participating in the resistance to the war in Vietnam, police brutality, racism, and other injustices. In doing so, he poses one…

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Coming of Age and Mentorship

Like many memoirs, Always Running is a coming-of-age story—in other words, it’s a story about how a young, immature person grows into a confident adult. In this case, the immature young person is Luis, the protagonist and narrator of the memoir. Over the course of his early life in the outer neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Luis develops the courage and self-reliance to thrive where other young people struggle to survive.

Many coming-of-age stories feature a…

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