Skip to main content

About this collection

The Ruben Salazar Papers, donated in 2011 to the USC Libraries by his children, Lisa Salazar Johnson, Stephanie Salazar Cook, and John Salazar, comprise Salazar's documents from his early life, his journalism career and his legacy. The physical collection, containing photographs, correspondence, clippings, typescripts of stories, cards and letters from supporters, awards, and realia, is housed at USC Libraries Special Collections in the Doheny Memorial Library. The USC Digital Library collection contains a selection of these items.

Salazar is known as the most prominent Mexican American journalist of the 20th century. The photographs and documents offer a glimpse into Salazar’s identity as Mexican and American. He served in the US military, graduated from a Texas college, became a naturalized American citizen, a highly respected American journalist in Los Angeles, advocating for the Mexican American community, enjoyed an American middle-class life in Orange County, and was honored in death as an American veteran.

His story may be familiar to other immigrants who were raised and educated in the U.S. Salazar, born in 1928 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was 11 months old. In 1947, as a student at Texas Western College, he filed his application for American citizenship. It took six years before his final naturalization hearing in 1953. He interrupted his college years to work with his father to earn money for his education and joined the U.S. Army. He served from 1950 to 1952 and was stationed in Germany. After an honorable discharge, Salazar returned to El Paso, Texas, and completed his college degree in journalism in 1954. Even in his early years as managing editor for his campus newspaper, and at his first job in 1955 as a reporter at El Paso Herald-Post, he was becoming an independent-minded journalist, devoted to truth and social justice. 

Hired by the Los Angeles Times in 1959, he was the first Latino journalist at an elite newspaper in the U.S. While at The Times he met Sally Robare, who worked in the classified section, and they married in 1960. As a local reporter he covered stories about national politics and the Mexican American community before rising to foreign correspondent and Mexico City Bureau Chief. From 1966 to 1967 he covered Cuba, the Dominican Republic revolution and the Vietnam War. In 1968, The Times recalled him from his Bureau Chief post in Mexico City to cover the city desk and the emerging Chicano movement. This was unfamiliar to Salazar, The Times and its readers.

Back in Los Angeles, Salazar explored injustices experienced by the Mexican American community and issues raised by Chicano activists. These issues still resonate today --discrimination, race-relations, freedom of the press, state surveillance, inferior schools, lack of political representation, and police abuse. His writings brought him local and national attention. Until his death in 1970, Salazar interpreted these issues for an English-language readership of the L.A. Times. Early in 1970 he began reporting full-time as news director at KMEX-TV for a Spanish-speaking audience, while continuing his weekly column for The Times.

On August 29, 1970, Ruben Salazar and other journalists were in East Los Angeles covering the National Chicano Moratorium, the largest anti-Vietnam war protest in Los Angeles’ history. It started peacefully, nearly 30,000 participants flowed through streets of East Los Angeles and culminated in a rally at Laguna Park (later renamed Ruben Salazar Park). By mid-afternoon an incident sparked a riot that ended in serious destruction, and in Salazar's death from a tear gas projectile shot by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy. Otis Chandler, publisher of the L.A. Times, delivered the eulogy at Salazar’ funeral. Among his comments he said, “He was a fighter, a firm believer that all men, regardless of color or language barriers, could, in the end, live together peacefully and productively in our city. He devoted himself to try to bring about this sense of comprehension through the medium of communications….”

For additional information see the Finding Aid and the Ruben Salazar Project website.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search