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The Anniversary of Ruben Salazar's Death

September 14, 1985

I, too, as did Frank del Olmo, remembered the anniversary of Ruben Salazar's death on Aug. 29. It led me to reflect on where I was that day--running down Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, away from the tear gas and the police sweep that culminated the largest anti-war demonstration held in the Latino community, which had remained silent for so long. I view Salazar not as a martyr for La Causa but another victim of it.

Little change has actually occurred in the barrio. For instance, the level of poverty and unemployment remains the same if not higher, notwithstanding the increase in the number of Spanish-surnamed college graduates or professionals.

While there may be an increase in the number of Chicanos graduating from the still overcrowded high schools, those numbers merely reflect the increase in the student body enrollment. Latinos still have the highest dropout rate, one that dramatically surpasses other minorities.

The fact that conditions are obviously deteriorating is poignantly clear as evidenced in the retrenchment in social services programs and the Justice Department's assault on affirmative action. The war on poverty has become the war on the poor.

Salazar was a respected journalist. He wrote perceptively, with pathos, about the living conditions and discrimination faced by Latinos. But he also was a skeptic--he took nothing for granted--not especially freedom of the press. He did have a struggle publishing the stories of oppression experienced by a class of people.

Journalism is a great business; it was for Salazar his livelihood, but also what led him to his death. Salazar left an example for other Latinos to pursue his trade, and this will be a struggle for them also, as few Latinos have been given a chance to tell their story so far.

I hope that next year Del Olmo will again remember Salazar. None of us should forget him or our history from which we can learn so much.


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