Ruben Salazar: The Mexican American Middle Man (By: Charmaine Garzon)

TITLE. Ruben Salazar: The Mexican American Middle Man

Intended Grade Level: 11-12

Reading Standards:
Key Ideas and Details

  1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole
  2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas
  3. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media to address a question or solve a problem
  4. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources

Writing Standards:
1. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
2. Synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation
3. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information

This lesson will seek to narrate Ruben Salazar’s career trajectory as well as provide greater insight into his historical context. A documentary will be watched to provide the class with a broader background of Salazar’s life. A primary source focused on the August 29 protest (the date of Salazar’s death) will be analyzed to explore the period of Salazar’s writing that consisted of great conflict and hostility among diverse racial groups. The goal of these modules is for students to improve their analytical skills by collaboratively and independently working through various sources, formulating questions about the sources, and integrating the sources together to better frame a historical narration of the essential questions provided.

Students will begin by reading a primary source of Ruben Salazar’s writing before class in which their focus will be on identifying the tone, theme, and audience of the editorial. This first step is to use guiding questions to introduce them into the practice of analyzing a primary source. The students will further practice this form of analysis in class so as to better prepare themselves for the analysis they will later do independently. Essential Questions for the module will be provided for students to answer on various handouts on different class days. Questions should match the topics covered in class that day. The goal is that students’ exposure to this information in specific intervals be oriented or framed in a way that will enable them to better utilize the information covered each class day as well as integrate information from previous class days. Following this structure, students should ultimately be able to answer all the essential questions by the end of the modules. Additionally, by having students create their own questions throughout the lessons, students can think more in depth on the material they are learning.

The documentary, a secondary source, hopes to provide students with a historical context and narration that can better allow the students to frame their later independent analysis of the primary source. The goal is for the students to be able to utilize and integrate all the resources in class so as to better formulate a historical narration of the topic. In addition, by increasing their group and collaborative discussions, students may be able not only to learn from the presented information, but most of all learn from their peers’ insights as well. Students’ formulated questions as well as their analytical development throughout the modules will be documented and later displayed to the class. This strategy is utilized to reinforce the important analysis done by the students, independently from the teacher’s facilitation throughout the three modules.

This lesson will investigate the influence the prominent journalist, Ruben Salazar, had on the Chicano community both in life as well as after his death. We will examine the importance his position as a journalist played in mobilizing various Chicano communities such as the Chicano Moratorium Committee and protests against police brutality. At the end, students should be able to understand why Ruben Salazar was a leadership icon for the Chicano community.

1. Who was Ruben Salazar?
2. How did he mobilize the Chicano community?
3. What was the effect of his journalism?
4. What effect did his death have on the Chicano community?
5. Why did Ruben Salazar become an icon for various Chicano communities?


  • Intersectionality: “the interconnected nature of social categorizations (i.e. race, class, gender, immigrant status) as they apply to a given individual or group” 2
  • 1.5 generation: individuals born in another country that have immigrated to a desired country before their adolescence. 3
  • Chicano:“people of Mexican descent that identify the Mexican community as a non-white race” 4
  • Chicano Movement: a social and political movement in the 1960s and 1970s in which “Mexican Americans defined and took pride in their identity, fought for their civil rights, and worked toward self-determination by improving their financial, social, and political circumstances.” 5
  • Vato: informal Spanish language term used to refer to a man. 6
  • Gabacho: informal Spanish language term used to describe an “English speaking, Non-Hispanic individual” 7

From his ability to traverse and immerse himself in unfamiliar spaces to his ability to connect and gain the trust of a diverse audience, Ruben Salazar’s admirable role as a journalist inspired a greater population of activism in his readers. The intersectionality of Salazar’s multiple identities as a Mexican American (1.5 generation), journalist, and veteran facilitated the assemblage of a greater audience of readers who could more easily relate to him on various levels of his identity. Whether it was writing about the discriminatory mistreatment of Mexicans as lower class citizens to reporting on the devaluing of Mexican bodies during war and by the police, the context in which Salazar’s writings took place, and their greater feasibility to be mass produced and readily accessible, allowed the greater collaboration and mobilization of the Chicano community as a response to these documented injustices.

Some of the controversy he reported included issues of race, cultural identity, the Bracero Program, the living conditions of farm workers, police brutality, educational dropout rates, and information regarding the border and immigration. 8 Ultimately, it was his greater exposure to the unpleasant truths of Mexicans’ unfulfilled American Dreams and the increased rising of Mexicans’ protestations that ignited his curiosity and involvement with Mexican communities. Salazar discouraged Mexican Americans from pointlessly seeking validation and acceptance into a white racial community that they could never completely become a part of. 9 Instead, Salazar focused on highlighting the experienced discrimination shared by Mexican Americans so as to better unite a collective group of people.

As demonstrated by his success amidst the lack of representation of Mexican Americans in El Paso-Herald Post and the Los Angeles Times, and his ability to passionately pursue a story overseas as a foreign correspondent, Salazar was not afraid of navigating new ground or being in the front line of action.10 Whether it was getting arrested to attain an undercover story of prison conditions or disregarding polices’ attempt to censor the publishing of his stories, Ruben Salazar did not sugarcoat the news, rather he sought out the reality of his living historical context to prompt awareness of issues and ultimately inspire action against them.11 Salazar believed in a form of personal reporting of facts that promoted transparency to the public conscious.12 “Be it vatos locos , Brown Berets, or the LA school district”,13 Salazar used the release of honest facts to diverse sectors of the Chicano community as a way to motivate better collaboration between them.

Ruben Salazar transitioned from catering to a predominantly White establishment and audience to functioning as a bridge, working simultaneously within the establishment and alongside his Mexican community. In this way, Salazar facilitated Mexicans’ accessibility to news that included their communities, as well as put a national spotlight and importance on the daily discrimination and violence that affected Mexican communities. Unlike the White-majority’s narratives that predominated the press, Salazar presented a different narrative that more greatly aligned with the Mexican community. As a result, his more wholesome narrations established the formation of a greater and stronger collective group within the Chicano Movement. Ruben Salazar’s journalism thus functioned as glue that sought to prompt awareness within the Mexican community on the various issues afflicting them so as to prompt a collective reaction that could ultimately strengthen the Chicano community’s ties with one another.

Salazar’s death affected a variety of subgroups within the Mexican community that ultimately led to the greater alliance of these subgroups with one another to form a stronger collective group. From educating his audience on the realities of Mexican communities to the protests that formed after his death, both Salazar’s life and death had an incredible impact on the mobilization of the Chicano community. Salazar’s talent resided in his ability to “chide the gabacho and Chicano with equal and unfailing affection”, 14 bringing these two words closer together. By functioning as a bridge, Salazar “helped define a people, their struggles, and their quest for equality”. 15 As a middleman, Ruben Salazar helped the Chicano community gain access to a predominantly White press so as to further expand the scope of their collaboration and mobilization.

Pre-Lecture: Trailer for Man in the Middle & Read “Latin Newsmen, Police Chief Eat…but fail to meet”

Day 1:

Day 2:


Note: The implementation of the following modules is scheduled for three class days and includes preparatory assignments prior to the scheduled class meeting times. Each module will be 50 minutes long.

To prepare for the lesson, the class should watch the trailer for Ruben Salazar: The Middle Man and read the Los Angeles Times article by Ruben Salazar, “Latin Newsmen, Police Chief Eat…but fail to meet”. The trailer is an introductory snippet of the documentary that we will watch in the following class modules. The second is an editorial that is an example of Ruben Salazar’s journalism that gives students a better understanding of the historical context as well as greater insight into some of the topics of Salazar’s writing. When reading the article, students are to focus on the tone, theme, and audience of the article. They will be told they will discuss this in their next class meeting.

Day 1.
At the beginning of the class students will be asked to discuss with their neighbor for 3 minutes about both the trailer they watched as well as the article they read. They will be prompted to especially focus on trying to come to terms with discussing the question: Who is Ruben Salazar?

After this short discussion, we will reconvene with the class. The teacher and the students will read through parts of the primary source assigned for that class day. The teacher should facilitate a conversation that focuses on analyzing the tone, theme, and audience of the article. Additionally, students should identify aspects that provide us with greater insights into the historical context of the editorial. This exercise should take 10 minutes. Some of the questions to ask the class are:

1. What communities does Salazar include in his editorial?
2. What does this source tell us about the existent tensions within these communities?
3. What are some of the issues Salazar speaks about?
4. What is Salazar’s message?
5. Who is his audience?

On the board, the teacher will write the name Ruben Salazar in a bubble and ask the class to share descriptive words or adjectives that they feel can describe Salazar after having watched the trailer, read a piece of Salazar’s writing, and analyzed the primary source. The teacher will write these insights on the board and connect them to the bubble containing Ruben Salazar’s name, ultimately forming a diagram. After class, the teacher will take a picture of this original diagram which they will later incorporate into their last lecture. This is important because it will be used to note how or in what ways the students’ original opinions about Ruben Salazar changed or developed throughout the course of these modules. This discussion should be planned to take approximately 8 minutes.

The professor will then provide a short introductory lecture that focuses on defining key terms that will be crucial to the class in the process of their understanding of who Ruben Salazar was, why he had an impact, as well as his role within the Latino community. Additional vocabulary included will also help to clarify any unfamiliar terms the students may or may not have been exposed to prior. The teacher should define the terms: intersectionality, Chicano, Chicano movement, gabacho, and vato. This should take 8-10 minutes. The class will then be shown 20 minutes of the documentary Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle.

Students’ assignment for the next day will be to answer questions from a provided handout in preparation for next day’s discussion in class. The handout questions and instructions include the following:

Handout 1 Example: Although we did not finish watching the movie, utilize discussion points from your classmates, the analysis of the primary source in class, as well as parts from the movie to complete this handout. For the next class period, please type or write in a separate sheet of paper the answers to the following questions. We will share responses to these questions in the next class so make sure to bring your completed handout and provided questions with you to class.


1. Who is Ruben Salazar?
2. How does the documentary represent Salazar as a “man in the middle”?
3. How can we describe Salazar’s writing?
4. What was the effect of his journalism? (Provide specific examples)
5. How did Ruben Salazar change over time?

Provide additional questions that could be important to consider adding to our discussion about Ruben Salazar. What questions do you feel should we consider that could give us a better insight into who Ruben Salazar was and how he made an impact on the Chicano community? (Provide 3-4 questions)

Day 2.

At the start of class, we will randomly separate the class into 5 groups. Each group will have to answer 1 of the 5 questions provided and additionally share some of the questions they provided in the handout with one another. The groups will have 8 minutes to work collaboratively with one another and provide a synthesis of their assigned question. The goal is for the students to create a synthesis that includes every group members’ analysis. After, each group will present to the class their group analysis to their assigned question. After each group is done sharing, students will be additionally asked to share some of the questions they noted as essential to answering in order to get a better understanding of Ruben Salazar and his role in the Chicano community. These questions will be written on the board. The teacher will save these questions and include them in their final lecture. The goal would be that at the end of the module, the teacher’s questions as well as the students’ questions should be answered. This should take approximately 15 minutes.

Next, the teacher will introduce the final part of the movie and encourage students to keep in mind the discussion they previously held as well as their pending questions. Students will watch the rest of the documentary (36 minutes). After finishing the movie, a short discussion will be held on their opinions, comments, and criticisms of the movie.

Students’ assignment for the next day will be to read and analyze a primary source (“The National Chicano Moratorium and the death of Ruben Salazar”) independently. The teacher will remind them of the first time they did this exercise in class together. Students are expected to follow the same procedure, but attempt to expand more in depth in their analysis. They will be provided with a handout to orient them in their analysis. The handout questions and instructions include the following:

Handout 2 Example: Earlier this week, you were asked to collaboratively analyze a primary source with your classmates. Together, we read aloud and analyzed an editorial piece of Ruben Salazar’s work. Now, it is your turn. Your job for this assignment will be to analyze a new primary source. Specifically, focus on what this source can tell us about Ruben Salazar, his historical context, and his role in the Chicano community. What parts of the primary source can we use as evidence to answer these questions? Do not just summarize the text. Utilize the information you learned from the documentary and the other primary source to guide you towards better understanding this new source.

Some important questions to answer:
1. How did Ruben Salazar mobilize the Chicano community?
2. What effect did his death have on the Chicano community?
3. Why was his death so controversial?
4. Why did Ruben Salazar become an icon for various Chicano communities?
5. Analyze specific quotes and share how they provide greater insight into the historical context in which Salazar’s writings took place.

Additionally, please provide some questions worth noting about the source (minimally 3).

Please come to class prepared with your selection of quotes from the source, written analysis of these quotes, copy of the source, as well as answers to the provided questions.Your work should be typed on a separate sheet of paper.

Day 3.

To warm up, students will talk to a partner about what they thought about the article and some of their insights for 2 minutes. Then, as a class, we will have a collaborative discussion about the analysis they conducted independently on the primary source. The teacher will also ask them to compare and contrast this primary source to the source they first did together. Some discussion questions can be:

1. What are some of the differences in tone, theme, and audience reception compared to the first primary source?
2. What does this source further tell us about Salazar?

Students will then share certain quotes they felt were important towards telling our overall story, or historical narration of Ruben Salazar. The focus will be specifically on analyzing the issues surrounding Salazar within this time period as well as focusing on the reaction of Salazar’s death. This will take 25 minutes.

After, students will be placed into 4 groups in which each group will be asked to discuss 1 of the 4 top questions from the handout. Students will work together and prepare themselves to present their information to the class. Each group will take turns going over their major discussion points. This will take approximately 10 minutes.

The teacher will then put up the main essential questions for the modules, the questions the students previously had shared in a prior collaborative discussion, as well as the original diagram from the first class. Class discussion will then focus on analyzing the extent in which the students felt these questions were answered. Additionally, they will be able to see how their views of Salazar have developed or changed throughout the course of the three modules.

The teacher will end the module with a lecture by focusing on the importance of Salazar’s intermediary role as a journalist. Example topics can focus specifically on how Salazar utilized the media to help his community. The teacher will then begin facilitating a conversation on the role that media plays today in our culture. Discussion questions to ask can be:
1. How can movements be influenced through the media?
2. How is Ruben Salazar’s work an example of this? How do we see this today?

The goals of this future discussion will be to have students make connections between Ruben Salazar and other contemporary media figures today who too function as these “middlemen”. In this way, students can view the lasting influence of Salazar that extends till today.


1. California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. March 1, 2013. Accessed May 2, 2015.
2. Oxford Dictionaries, 2015., s.v “intersectionality.”
3. Reznick, Alisa. “Race Project | Between Two Worlds: America’s 1.5 Generation.” The Seattle Times, November 18, 2013. Accessed May 1, 2015.
4. Partida, Diana. “Changes to Eduational Curriculum: A subset of the Chicano Movement.” Accessed May 1, 2015.
5. “Chicano Movement.” Immigration in America. July 9, 2011. Accessed May 2, 2015.
6. Oxford Dictionaries, 2015., s.v “vato.”
7. “Gabacho.” Urban Dictionary. September 29, 2003. Accessed May 2, 2015.
8. Gonzales, Patrisia, and Roberto Rodriguez. “Salazar’s Brave Journalism Honored Today.” InGonzales/Rodriguez Uncut & Uncensored, 140-143. Berkeley, California: Ethnic Studies Library Publications Unit, University of California at Berkeley, 1997.
9. Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle. United States: City Projects, LLC, 2014. DVD.
10. Salazar, Ruben, and Mario Garcia. “Introduction.” In Border Correspondent Selected Writings, 1955-1970, 1-38. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995.
11. Refer to Footnote 9
12. Conde, Carlos D. 1999. “Eulogy for Ruben Salazar [excerpt].” 253-254. n.p.: 1999. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed April 12, 2015).
13. Lopez, Alberto. 1994. “Ruben Salazar remembered.” Low Rider Magazine 16, no. 10: 26. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed April 12, 2015).
14. Lopez, Enrique. 1970. “Ruben Salazar Death Silences a Leading Voice of Reason.” Regeneracion 1, no. 6: 5. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2015).
15. Refer to Footnote 8.
16. Refer to Footnote 9
17. Salazar, Ruben, and Mario T. A. “Four The Chicano Movement, 1969-1970 Los Angeles Times.” In Border Correspondent Selected Writings, 1955-1970, 245-246. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.
18. Refer to Footnote 9
19. Herrera, Albert S. 1971. “The National Chicano Moratorium and the death of Ruben Salazar.” 235-241. n.p.: 1971. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2015).


1. Acuna, Rodolfo. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. 3rd ed. New York, New York: Harper & Row, 1988. 376-381.
2. Chacon, Jose Andres. 1973. “Profile: Ruben Salazar.” 98-101. n.p.: 1973. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed April 12, 2015).
3. Gomez, David F. 1982. “The story of Ruben Salazar.” 499-505. n.p.: 1982. Chicano Database, EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2015).

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