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|Born||March 3, 1928
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
|Died||August 29, 1970
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Rubén Salazar (March 3, 1928 – August 29, 1970) was a Mexican-American journalist killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970 in East Los Angeles, California. During the 1970s, his killing has been cited as a symbol of unjust treatment of Chicanos by law enforcement. Working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Salazar was the first Mexican-American journalist from mainstream media to cover the Chicano community.
Salazar was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 1928. He later moved across the river to El Paso, Texas. After high school, he served in the U.S. Army for two years. Salazar attended the Texas Western College, graduating in 1954 with a degree in journalism. He obtained a job as an investigative journalist at the now-defunct El Paso Herald-Post; at one point he posed as a vagrant to get arrested while he investigated the poor treatment of prisoners in the El Paso jail. After his tenure at the Herald-Post, Salazar worked at several California newspapers, including the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Salazar was a news reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times from 1959 to 1970. He served as a foreign correspondent in his early years at the Times, covering the 1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, the Vietnam War, and the Tlatelolco massacre (the latter while serving as the Times' bureau chief in Mexico City).
When Salazar returned to the US in 1968, he focused on the Mexican-American community, writing about East Los Angeles, an area largely ignored by the media except for coverage of crimes. He became the first Chicano journalist to cover the ethnic group while working in general circulation media. Many of his pieces were critical of the Los Angeles government's treatment of Chicanos, particularly after he came into conflict with police during the East L.A. walkouts.
In January 1970, Salazar left the Times to serve as the news director for the Spanish language television station KMEX in Los Angeles. At KMEX, he investigated allegations of police officers' planting evidence to implicate Chicanos and the July 1970 police shooting of two unarmed Mexican nationals. According to Salazar, he was visited by undercover LAPD detectives who warned him that his investigations were "dangerous in the minds of barrio people."
On August 29, 1970, he was covering the National Chicano Moratorium March, organized to protest the Vietnam War, in which some believed that a disproportionate number of Latinos served and were killed. Later studies, however, revealed that only 5.5% of those killed in the Vietnam War were of Latin-American ethnicity, while the 1970 census showed that 4.5% of the U.S. population was Latino. This difference is considered by many to be negligible and not indicative of racial bias on the part of the U.S. military. The peaceful march ended with a rally that was broken up by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department using tear gas. Panic and rioting ensued, during which Salazar was shot in the back three times with a shotgun while seated in The Silver Dollar Cafe. A coroner's inquest ruled the shooting a homicide, but Tom Wilson, the sheriff's deputy involved, was never prosecuted. At the time, many believed the homicide was a premeditated assassination of a prominent, vocal member of the Los Angeles Chicano community.
The riot started when the owners of the Green Mill liquor store, located around the corner from the Silver Dollar Bar on Whittier Boulevard, called in a complaint about people stealing from them. Deputies responded and a fight broke out. Later on that day, cadets from the nearby Sheriff's Academy were bused to the area and marched into the park. A fight ensued, with the untrained cadets being beaten up. This led to more rioting. The Green Mill liquor store is still located at the same place on Whittier Boulevard. The owners later denied contacting the Sheriff's Department.
The L.A. Times columnist was resting in the Silver Dollar Bar after the Vietnam War protest became violent. According to a witness, "Ruben Salazar had just sat down to sip a quiet beer at the bar, away from the madness in the street, when a deputy --ignoring the pleas of a woman outside who begged him not to shoot-- fired a tear gas projectile" at a crowd which went into the interior of the bar, hitting Salazar in the head and killing him instantly. The sheriff's deputy fired a 10-inch wall-piercing type of tear gas round (designed for use in barricade situations) from a tear gas gun, rather than the type of tear gas round designed to be fired directly at people (which produces a plume of tear gas smoke). The deputy was found to have mistakenly loaded the wrong type of tear gas round. The 10-inch tear gas rounds of both types were identical in size and shape, and a tear gas gun is extremely inaccurate beyond about twenty yards.
The story of Salazar's killing gained nationwide notoriety with the publication on April 29, 1971 of "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan," an article by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson for Rolling Stone magazine. In February 2011 the Office of Independent Review released a report of its examination of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department records on the death of Salazar. After reviewing thousands of documents, the civilian watchdog agency concluded there is no evidence that sheriff's deputies intentionally targeted Salazar or had him under surveillance.
Legacy and honors
- Salazar was a two-time winner of the Greater Los Angeles Press Club Award and in 1965 was presented with an award from the Equal Opportunity Foundation.
- In 1971, Salazar was posthumously awarded a special Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award
- After the controversy related to his death had subsided, Laguna Park, site of the 1970 rally and subsequent police action, was renamed Salazar Park in his honor.
- His death was commemorated in a corrido by Lalo Guerrero entitled "El 29 de Agosto".
- A classroom building at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) is named for him. On October 12, 2006, the hall was rededicated with the unveiling of his portrait by John Martin.
- At Sonoma State University, the former library, now an administration and classroom building, is named for Rubén Salazar, in memory of his work in Sonoma County as a reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
- On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would honor five journalists of the 20th century with first-class rate postage stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn, John Hersey, George Polk, Ruben Salazar, and Eric Sevareid.
- A documentary about Salazar by Phillip Rodriguez entitled Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle was broadcast on PBS television on 29 April 2014.
- "NNDB". NNDB.com. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
- Juan Gonzalez (August 31, 2010). "Slain Latino Journalist Rubén Salazar, Killed 40 Years Ago in Police Attack". DemocracyNow.org. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- Gustavo Reveles Acosta (August 29, 2010). "Ruben Salazar killing left impact on Hispanics, journalism". El Paso Times. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- Pilar Marrero, "Homenaje al periodista angelino Rubén Salazar," La Opinión Newspaper, 22 April 2008.
- Chavez, Ernesto (2002). Mi Raza Primero! (My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978. University of California Press. p. 70.
- Perry, Paul (2004). Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 153–54. ISBN 1-56025-605-2.
- Robert J. Lopez (February 19, 2011). "No evidence Ruben Salazar was targeted in killing, report says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
- "Three Times Reporters Win Awards". Los Angeles Times. June 25, 1965. p. A8.
- "Times Assigns Second Reporter to Vietnam". Los Angeles Times. August 8, 1965. p. A1.
- Sheryl Kornman (September 28, 2007). "UA educator succeeds in getting stamp for Hispanic journalist". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- Documentary on Life, Not Death, of Ruben Salazar ABC News, 2014-04-29.
- Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle PBS, 2014-04-29.
- Mario T. Garcia, ed., Ruben Salazar: Border Correspondent; Selected Writings, 1955-1970 (University of California Press, 1995).
- Stamp of Salazar issued by the USPS[dead link]
- Salazar Remembered as Champion of Chicano Rights - video report by Democracy Now!
- Ruben Salazar Collection at Sonoma State University Library
- Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle (documentary film)