This day in Chicano history: Rubén Salazar (1928)

Ruben Salazar, circa 1970

March 3, 1928: Rubén Salazar born in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México

Four years ago, the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Rubén Salazar and a few other notable journalists. I went to the Lincoln Heights post office with my cousin Nancy and picked up a few of my own. I’ve never used them. Later that day, I wrote a post, A Chicana outlook on Rubén Salazar — heavily cribbed from an older post — where I liberally quoted a friend and fellow blogger, César (El Más Chingón). César wrote about feeling cheated that in his 20s, he was barely learning about Salazar’s life and death. I could definitely relate.

Salazar’s violent death at the hands of LA County Sheriff’s deputy Thomas Wilson is often remembered. Over forty years after the Chicano Moratorium, there’s still investigation and speculation over what happened that day. Whether it was an accident or assassination is still up for debate depending on who you ask, but what remains clear is that an important Chicano voice was lost on August 29, 1970. [See: Finally, transparency in the Ruben Salazar case and the Ruben Salazar files]

While Salazar’s death is important, we should also remember his life’s work. Rosalío Muñoz points this out in a recent piece commemorating Salazar’s 84th birthday at KCET Departures:

Pioneering Latino journalist Ruben Salazar died at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff’s as they broke up the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. Today, his story is an inspiration to the Latino community, and to all those seeking social justice.

That’s why we should celebrate his birthday, and not just remember his death. [Source]

Ruben Salazar interviews civilians in Vietnam

If you don’t want to go read those posts about Salazar, here’s what you should know about him:
Salazar was born in Ciudad Juárez and later emigrated with his family to El Paso Texas. He earned his BA at the University of Texas El Paso thanks to the GI Bill. He became an investigative journalist at a time when few Chicanos held such jobs. From Texas, he came to California and worked for a couple of newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. He wrote articles giving a voice to Chicanos working to change the status quo. Although his career was cut short, his legacy and words live on amongst us “Mexican-Americans with a non-Anglo image of [ourselves]” (see: Who is a Chicano? And what is it the Chicanos want?, February 6, 1970).

Photo credits: UCLA Library’s Digital Collection, Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990. Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.

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