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L Up and Out of El Paso Chicano Reporter’s Clips Provide a Profile of a Man and His Time BY DEBBIE NATHAN BORDER CORRESPONDENT: Selected Writings 1955-1970. By Ruben Salazar. University of California Press, 1995. 283 pages. $28.00. WHEN RUBEN SALAZAR attended El Paso High School five decades ago, the student body was mostly Anglo. This year, my daughter did her freshman year there, and the majority of her classmates have last names like Rodriguez and Solis. The change is relevant to appreciating Border Correspondent: Selected Writings 1955-1970. So are two other things about author Salazar’s alma mater. Onewhich greatly surprised my daughteris that when the O.J. verdict was announced last fall, most of the Anglo students were upset that he walked, yet the Hispanics were mainly jubilant. More on this later, but the other thing my daughter learned came during a visit she and I made to El Paso High’s basement. There, in an ad hoc museum of ancient band uniforms and yellowing yearbooks, we searched for a picture of Salazar. We leafed through the pages for every class, freshmen to seniors, during the 1940s, when Salazar was a student. We never found his photograph. We didn’t even find his name. Maybe we shouldn’t have expected to, because few of the smiling, self-satisfied boys and girls in these old books are Mexican Americans. As El Pasoan Elroy Bode observed in a piece he wrote years ago for the Observer, it was Anglos who were the cheerleaders in Southwest high schools of yesteryear. Anglos ran the clubs and got crowned Homecoming Queen. Anglos got photographed for the yearbook. Meanwhile, Mexican Americans were rendered invisible even while still teenagers. Border Correspondent is a sampler of Debbie Nathan, the author of Satan’s Silence and a longtime contributor to the Observer, lives in El Paso. Salazar’s reporting and commentary, from 1955, when he first started working in journalism, until his death fifteen years later. Editor Mario Garcia is a University of California Santa Barbara history and Chicano studies scholar. Besides the articles, Garcia has provided an introduction that recaps Salazar’s professional life. Taken as a whole, the book shows how a faceless El Paso high school studentand by extension Chicanos nationwidegained a voice in the turbulent years bounded by the beginning and ending of Salazar’s career. Salazar was the first Mexican American to cross over into major English-language media. His vehicle was the Los Angeles Times, and as Chicano history buffs know, he was out covering the Mexican-American community when he was killed during the dog days of 1970. His death was caused by head wounds inflicted by a teargas projectile. It was fired by a L.A. County sheriff’s deputy during the Chicano Moratorium, the biggest antiwar demonstration ever organized in the United States by Mexican Americans. Law enforcement behavior at this event sounds straight out of Mike Davis’ City of Quartz: after rumors started spreading about a dis turbance, hundreds of helmeted deputies arrived in East L.A., firing gas and beating unarmed men, women and children. In the ensuing riot, three people were killed, in cluding Salazar. Chicanos were enraged, and a sixteen-day inquest was held into his death. In the end, the D.A. declined to charge the deputy who threw the projectile, and the Justice Department refused to investigate. LL THIS HAPPENED five years after Watts and two decades before Rodney King. Sandwiched between these landmarks of black animus toward L.A. cop racism, the fate of a local Mexican-American reporter is mostly buried in the public mind. Likewise, there’s little awareness that half the people arrested during the Rodney King rioting were Latino. Nor do we hear much about the reaction my daughter noticed after CU’s verdicta reaction signaling that Nicole Brown Simpson is dead, but Ruben Salazar lives. Yet we’re told he would not want to be remembered as such a polarizing figure. One of Garcia’s aims is to show us that Salazar first and foremost considered himself a professional journalist. And as thenL.A. Times reporter Bill Drummond wrote shortly after his friend’s death, working at a distinguished establishment like the Times meant you were to stick to the facts and eschew bias, emotion, and any overt attraction to causes. Salazar, Drummond wrote, was supposed to be a “man in the middle.” Was he? Yes and no. Or rather, yes but later no; and to my mind, the change is what really makes Salazar worth remembering. It’s a change that emerges slowly, laboriously, and definitively in the selections Garcia has chosen. Beginning in 1955, the first articles are culled from the El Paso Herald -Post—-the first place Salazar worked as a reporter. The Post was \(and true to form, Salazar’s early writing exudes 8 MAY 31, 1996