The Ghost of Ruben Salazar Lives

By: 
Roberto Vazquez

The ghost of Ruben Salazar flew in with a gust of wind, just as an old man shuffled into the warm and cozy confines of Panera Bread.

Looking around, the old man and the ghost of Ruben Salazar spotted a young woman, not more than a girl really, as she diligently swept and simultaneously greeted patrons.

The old man quietly spoke to the ghost and asked, “Como vez, viejo?” (What do you see, old man?).

A Tradition of Excellence

Ana Laura Gonzalez, a senior at Poly High, has recently been awarded a Diverse Voices Scholarship to the prestigious Summer Academy at The School of The New York Times.

Gonzalez, 17, was one of more than 4000 applicants vying for acceptance to the highly coveted journalism program.

The program is for 100 students, between 10th and 12th grade, and ages 15-18. The program is two weeks long, offering in-depth explorations of subjects and headlines worldwide, and a chance to learn from some of the very best journalists in the world. The Summer Academy has an acceptance rate of less than three percent.

The New York Times Summer Academy offers courses in journalism, media, technology, arts, culture, sports, fashion and more, connecting industry insight with an ever changing global and cultural landscape.

The summer session offers courses such as Creative Writing and Food Culture and Introduction to Investigative Journalism. Gonzalez will study, Introduction to the United Nations.

The New York Times is home to more than 1,700 journalists, in more than 160 countries, and produced the likes of Ring Lardner, Red Smith, David Halberstam, Don Van Natta, Jr., Sidney Schanberg, Dith Pran and Bill Cunningham.

A Paradox Persists

When Ruben Salazar was killed by law enforcement during the National Chicano Moratorium March Against The Vietnam War protest on August 29, 1970, he was the most prominent Mexican American journalist, having worked as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times and news director at KMEX.

According to the Pew Research Center, between 1970 and 2020, the U.S. Latino population grew from 9.6 million to more than 62 million.

In 1970, however, there were few Mexicans in the media and Salazar served as a link to two worlds and two cultures; he was a bridge to a people and place mainstream media largely ignored or viewed as objects of derision and entertainment.

In 2022, the research shows that despite their growth in population, Latinos still lack representation in the press and Hollywood. According to the Government Accountability Office, the media industry plays an important role and has a significant impact in how Americans are entertained and educated.

It’s an issue that won’t go away overnight.

Moreover, the U.S. Census Bureau data indicates nearly 20% of all Americans are now considered Latino.

Yet, in terms of media representation, Latinos make up only 11-12 percent. Meanwhile, across all industries, Latinos have made more progress, climbing to 16-18% representation, indicating the media and Hollywood are out of sync with the greater society, largely offering the same, limited stereotypes of Latinos from long ago.

Gonzalez, who was at school when she learned the news. “I was in class, physics, to be exact.” She added, “I started crying because I didn’t really think I’d get in.”

She shyly admitted she didn’t know who Ruben Salazar was, nor could she name a Latina journalist.

“I feel like being a female and Latina it’s kinda hard to be taken seriously in the journalism industry and others because it’s male dominated.” Gonzalez stated an interest in various professions, including psychology, political science and law, adding, “I’ve always been interested in photography, too.” As she spoke, her eyes gleamed like only the eyes of innocence and youth can.

Gonzalez shares she is the only child of Mexican immigrants. Her parents are scared for her to go to New York, though they know it’s a great educational opportunity.

Their reactions are not surprising when one considers what journalism means in Mexico, a place where, since 2006, more than 150,000 people have died in cartel related crime. Those numbers also include journalists.

Since 1992, 62 journalists have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, including 58 who were murdered.

On March 15, 2022, Armando Linares Lopez was the latest journalist to be murdered.

The Journey Continues

Gonzalez said her parents are private, hard working people. Her father, Fidel Gonzalez, is from Oaxaca and her mother, Micaela Correo, is from Puebla. Ana Laura Gonzalez knows about all the hard work and sacrifices they made for her; all the hard times they experienced in their journey to the United States.

Now, she is aware she has to protect her parents’ legacy, as well as the legacy of those Mexicans and Latinas who came before her.

She seems to realize life is about to change.

As she turns to leave, she says, “It is more meaningful to me, because I’m being given this opportunity to learn from important people, and a chance to make my parents and community proud.”

Later, the old man, now slightly drunk with joy and cognac, called out into the dark and silent night, “Nueva York… tu crees?”

Just then, another gust of cold wind rose up, swirling around the old man. And just like that, the ghost of Ruben Salazar was gone, back to wherever the greatest spirits go.

As he stood alone, tears fell down his face.

The old man called out to the ghost of Ruben Salazar and shouted into the wind, saying, “Look what you did, Ruben… You changed the world!”

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