Cultura, Los Angeles

A Chicana Outlook on Ruben Salazar

I discussed Ruben Salazar a few years ago while contributing to I was inspired by César/EMC’s post in which he summarized Salazar’s life.

The post and César’s blog no longer exist, but if I remember correctly César — an awesome writer himself — felt cheated as he watched a documentary on Salazar. César felt cheated, as I’m sure many of us have, when we learn of people and events like Salazar and the Chicano Moratorium in 1970. We wonder, why are we just learning about this now, more than 12 years in to our education?

Ruben Salazar, circa 1970
Ruben Salazar, circa 1970

You learn Salazar was born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, (where your grandfather was born), and he and his family grew up in El Paso where he also got his B.A. in Journalism from UTEP and became one of the very first Mexican-American investigative reporters at the El Paso Herald Post, where he worked hard writing about the police mistreatment of Mexicanos and the racist brutality that many Chicanos faced in Texas prisons. (César)

Ruben Salazar interviews civilians in Vietnam
Ruben Salazar interviews civilians in Vietnam, 1965

You learn the man later moved to Santa Rosa, California where he worked for the San Francisco News and later became a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where he persuaded his editors to allow him to write a column that gave a voice to eastside Chicanos and the same campesinos that Cesar Chavez fought hard to support. He wrote an award-winning series of articles on the L.A. Latino community that gained him the respect and love of the Mexican-American people as well as Chavez himself. (César)

Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War
Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, August 30, 1970

You learn that at the time that Salazar was writing these columns and helping his community, he was the first Mexican-American writer to hold a staff position at a major American publication. What Salazar did was utilize his love for writing and his career for a social cause. He worked for his gente.

Chicano Moratorium
Chicano Moratorium

Then you watch in disbelief as you’re told by the narrator that on August 29, 1970, during a Mexican-American moratorium against the use of Mexican-Americans in Vietnam, Ruben Salazar was unjustly murdered by a Los Angeles County Deputy Tom Wilson. (César)

LA County Sheriff points gun in to the Silver Dollar Café, August 29, 1970

Silver Dollar Cafe, where Ruben Salazar was shot and killed by an LA County Sheriff
Silver Dollar Cafe, where Ruben Salazar was shot and killed

Wilson shot a 10-inch projectile at Salazar’s head as he sat at the Silver Dollar café having lunch. Wilson was never charged although a coroner’s panel ruled Salazar’s death a homicide. (César)

Ruben Salazar Funeral
Mourners pay respects to Ruben Salazar, August 2, 1970

This Chicana, “a Mexican-American with a non-Anglo image of [her]self,” is still mourning and paying her respects.

All words in blockquotes (shaded blue) by César “EMC” Diaz

Photos from the UCLA Library Digital Photo Archive, used under Creative Commons License. Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library

Post inspired by: Ed who suggested the bloggers present at yesterday’s meetup post about Ruben Salazar and the postage stamp issued today in his honor.

More on Salazar:


16 thoughts on “A Chicana Outlook on Ruben Salazar

  1. great post, wonderful person, sad the way he had to go out, my first drink tonight will be in his honor. thanks for making this post.

  2. These words and images have the feel of watching the JFK assassination reels in slow motion. Wish I’d heard this affecting story long ago, in grade school… but I’m glad I’m reading it now. Thank you and well done, Cindy and César.

  3. Great post. Salazar’s murder still makes me angry, especially the fact that no one was brought to justice. No one paid for this crime, except for us Chicanos who lost a voice, lost a trailblazer.

  4. Hi Cindylu, it’s been a while since i dropped by your site (shame on me). but i’m glad i stopped today, great post on Salazar, I had been wanting to write about him for a while. I think we Chicanas/os and Mexicanos/as have a long history of committed journalist and social agitator who make use of la palabra. From revolutionaries like Ricardo Flores Magon and his paper Regeneracion (which was actually published in the US for a good while), to Ruben Salazar, and now people like Roberto Rodriguez and Patricia Gonzales of Column of the Americas (online). And I guess people like Chicana/o bloggers too.

    Ruben Salazar Vive! La Lucha Sigue!

  5. Cindy,

    Wow. I know I am late to read this post. You see, many years ago my mother first gave me the gift of my name. Then when I was old enough to understand, the story of my namesake, and now, the link to this post. Great pics. I didn’t even know about the stamp. I’m gonna get a whole bunch on Monday.

    I’m gonna be a more loyal reader, I promise! Hope you are well, Ms. Lu. I miss you!

  6. Gilberto says:

    Great information and the pictures are a very important part of our History. This information is imparted to us in higher education, we need to introduce our history during the primary years of our children education. Lets not wait for higher education to come to them, lets educate them Now…very nice job…

  7. Annika says:

    Beautiful post. I’m a middle school white girl, thoroughly of European descent, and somehow, despite living in Los Angeles, where the Caucasians are definitely outnumbered by other nationalities, I only learned about this man through a report I’m writing for Spanish class.
    The sad thing is, even though now I know who he is, none of the other people in my grade will.

    I think people like him deserve to be mentioned to students, even if it doesn’t happen.

  8. Annika says:

    And like people said before, I am also angry that his death was never brought to justice. I’ll never pretend to be Chicana/Latina/Hispanic or any of the other appropriate terms, but this is thoroughly ridiculous.

    White people stepped on way too many other races during history. Stories like these do not exactly make me proud of my heritage. Also, I’m annoyed by the way history books skate past all those horrible things the Caucasians did.

    I wonder how many of the people who edit those books are white?

  9. Antonio Perales Fierro says:

    I found this website because I was at the Chicano Moratorium with a lot of Chicanos and Chicanas from Sanjo, from the community and from San Jose State as well. I am originally from Casa Blanca, a Chicano community near Riverside, and I attended elementary schools in both places, k to 2nd grade. The education these racist parasites offered was zilch. But I was bright and bilingual and got hold of my uncle Rudy Perales’ comics in the 1st grade and was a great reader when I returned to Casa Blanca. The teacher was so impressed that she quickly prepared me to narrate the Thanksgiving play which was mostly two puritan girls discussing a possibly dangerous Indian who really was never seen in the play. How like life, no? I put that into my memory bank. Upon my return to Casa Blanca I had scoped out all of the books from 2nd grade to 5th and they were all of them childish babble of the Dick and Jane books: “Look, see Spot run!, run Spot, run!” No wonder I was. A better reader than 10 and 11 year olds, no one was being taught to read! The Rverside white oligarchy needed orange pickers, and the scools stayed segregated until 1965 when a school in Riverside was torched and the Bd. Of Ed.quickly “caved”, but they continued the usual raacist history, etc. We need a social movement with machistas in their place: elsewhere! I am gay and a femiinist and I believe that a lot of our “chicanismo” is dullard machista grandstanding. Patriarchy is a stupid and corrosive impediment to positive change. Look for my HATE CRIMEREVIEW, as part of my XLowrider-Times zine. I intend to kick two famous “activist”s asses. They are MAPISTAS for 30 to 40 years and they are unregenerate homophobic thugs named Steve and Stanley Santos. I have got their number because they are my brothers and I intend to retire these pendejo sell-outs with the image that I give them and not the pretend activist imagen that they carefullly maintain. My tia abuela was Pancho Villa’s esposa: Luz Corral Fierro, and this queer has more revoluionary blood than his criminal and elder abusing gay-baiting pig brothers. I am thedesigner of the Lowrider logo, having worked on LRM Oct. ’79 to May ’80and further , Teen Angel is agavacho expoiter and dumb shit, nvermind his simpleton criminal shit. So, yeah I had good reason to goto the Moratorium and was up near the stage when the pigs went berserk and ran to the alley and saw chotas beat innocent raza. Get hip raza , we need to clean house and renew our efforts with more mujeres and gays and lesbians orelse forget the whole thing. The movimiento is for the good of ALL, not just for confused cultural nationalist scum bags such as Steve and Stanley Santos of Fresno. I am outing these babosos they will NOT represent my family with their criminal version of “Hero of the People. Punto! Antonio Perales Fierro

  10. fyi did you know that a chicano theater group by the name of “teatro urbano” produced a play called “silver dollar”? it was performed all over the place back then. Ricardo Martinez was their photographer, curious? wanna see contact him by the way I was there too , don’t get me started! there is not enough time nor paper.

  11. Thomas Machuca Calderon says:

    Today I read in the LA Times that the “Silver Dollar” the play will be playing in Boyle Heights this weekend and by the same director Rene Rodriquez. I was a cast member back in the 70’s and I played Robert Morales a returning Vietnam Veteran 67-69, which I was in real life back then.I had just return from the battle field to the cry of “Chicano Power” and at that time that word was very new to me I could not understand what everyone one was yelling about on the street of whittier blvd. But in the play I got to understand what we were saying and what it ment to every Vietnam Veteran returning home and as for Ruben Salaraz in his role of keeping us inform of the unjust lies the new was giving us at the time.

  12. Pingback: This day in Chicano history: Rubén Salazar (1928) | Lotería Chicana

  13. Andrew R says:

    Although I was a child at the time, (my brother was only blocks away at the time)
    I have always been interested in the events around this shooting. While Salazar
    my have been illegally tracked by the LAPD I have a problem with calling this
    a deliberate premeditated murder. The simple fact that officer Wilson’s view of
    Salazar was blocked by a curtain ment Wilson truly had no idea of Salazar’s exact
    location and position at the momement he shot. An illegal and reckless act for sure but did the officer target Salazar for assasination? In my mind no.

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