La Muerte de Rubén Salazar

After the Death of Ruben Salazar by Frank Romero


By David A. Romero


August 29h, 1970 -

From the oppressive sunlight

Of a smoggy Los Angeles day

To the disorienting shade of an archway

The louvered wooden doors of this bar

Clack and rattle behind you

Flapping their tell-tale silhouettes

Onto drawn curtains

Like something out of an old Western

As you enter the bar

Filled with smoke

And the day’s events playing over the radio

You maneuver through the barstools

And past posters of naked women

Your feet are tired

Your shoulders ache

Your fingers crimp

It’s been a long day

Marching

Shouting

Sweating down Whittier

More than a million strong

This Chicano Moratorium

With its cries for Chicano Power

The restoration of Aztlan

An end to the War in Vietnam

Once appointed by an Anglo institution

You would've meant to only be an observer

Only to record

To interview

To take notes

But your throat

Like your feet and shoulders

Aches and tingles too from the day’s singing and chanting.


“Today is only the next step in a much larger movement”

You use your radio voice to say to the bartender

And he chuckles

“Today is the first step in a much larger movement”

You write in your notebook

A movement

That you

And Cesar

And Dolores

And Sal

And Rodolfo

And Reies

Everyone working with you at KMEX

And so many others

Have been building

From the fields of the Central Valley

To the barrios of East Los Angeles

And the mesas of New Mexico

This is only the beginning!

But for now

Ruben Salazar

Journalist and activist

With the breakout of violence outside

Brought on by agents, cadets, and idiots alike

With your dry throat

Rumbling stomach

And weary bones

You will stop your march

Settle for a cool cerveza and a bowl of cacahuates.


But you don’t rest for long

From Juárez to El Paso to Santa Rosa

You’ve never known true rest

You look over the day’s notes…

You write…

So, you don't forget anything

Can you commit all these feelings to paper?

The shouting outside only gets louder

The continued crashing of the Green Mill’s glass in the distance

No, you don’t agree with the young people’s tactics

But you feel their sentiment

Ruben Salazar

You keep your bricks for your interviews

You pack your punches into the pages of your show notes.


An old theater marquee outside reads

“La Muerte de Rubén Salazar”

In bold red letters

As you hear the LAPD march around outside

The riot squad

In their black and tan uniforms

They form up around La Casa de Cambio

After today

Nothing will ever be the same

Their boots thud

With goosestepping precision

They maneuver in and out of formation

Their limbs clink and clank

Like the loading and reloading of their weapons

These LAPD machine men

Boxy and wooden

Simple and rigid movements

A tag on one of them reads “Wilson”

His body moves with cold efficiency

The efficiency with which a nutcracker’s mouth breaks nuts

He moves into position of single-man-firing-squad

Like he was there on the Third of May in 1908

When Goya saw his countrymen fall

One in a white shirt opened his arms wide

To plead for his life

Or

To boldly stare death in the face

To call out,

“Bring on the bullets!”


He knew what was coming

But you don’t know

Ruben Salazar

How would you know

That this pig standing outside the Silver Dollar

Would shoot a 10-inch wall-piercing round

Through the flimsy front curtain

At the entrance of this bar?

Ruben Salazar

How would you know this 10-inch wall-piercing round

Would pierce through your head

Dropping you

Before filling the bar with much more smoke?

With gas and tears falling upon polished black shoes

And such a day’s notes?


Through the smoke

The young protesters on the radio on the bar counter

Still calling

Still responding

In the empty bar,

“Chicano - -

Power!”





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