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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


OPERATION STREAMLINE AND SALAZAR: MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Last night's event at the University of Arizona showcasing a student video "Exposing Operation Streamline" and the showing of the Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle documentary was very successful. Both included student research and presentations. The Salazar presentation included a panel of former journalists, professors and a student. Here are a few photos and the link for the Streamline video:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Whittier Blvd. Connection: Salazar: Man in the Middle

4th entry (5th coming up... actual review of the documentary)

April 29, 2014
My Whittier Blvd. Connection
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

In my first entry, I mentioned that I have always felt a connection with Ruben Salazar because I was nearly killed by Sheriff’s deputies on Whittier Blvd., a few streets down from where he was killed.

To me, I always considered the Silver Dollar Café a place of pilgrimage. It was located across the street from Sounds of Music record store, which itself had its own fame among the lowrider scene. For years, the Silver Dollar changed ownership and transformed from café to bar to restaurant, etc. For years, a theatrical play on the death of Salazar was reenacted there. Last time I went by in 2013, I believe it is now a jewelry store… and they nowadays advertise that they sell “silver” there. Perhaps it is a reminder or a tenuous connection at best to the past. Or maybe the owner is completely oblivious. It should be a museum. It is a crime that it isn’t. It should at least be on the national register of historic places.

A few blocks down the boulevard, heading toward downtown L.A., is McDonnell street. There on that corner is where I was almost killed in 1979. Today, a few yards from McDonnell, in between this street and Arizona, there is an arch there, signaling the entrance to the Whittier Blvd shopping district. I always joke and tell people that they placed the arch there in my honor.

Joking aside, I have written and rewritten many times about what happened to me. And I don’t write about the dramatic details anymore. Through the years, many people have conflated what happened to me with the riots of Aug. 29, 1970. As mentioned, what happened to me took place nine years later. I always felt guilty because when I was almost killed, it was not part of a political action, but part of cruising and the lowrider scene, etc. Not that it was minor; 538 people were arrested that weekend and after that, Whittier Blvd has been closed to cruising ever since.

Only until about 30 years later did I recognize what happened to me in political terms. When I photographed that guy being beaten… it was a political act because I had already left because I did not want to be next. I did not want to be another casualty. It became political when after leaving, I intentionally returned to photograph him being beaten. While that was hapening, he was screaming about God… but by the time I left, there was an eerie silence everywhere as he was no longer screaming. Only thuds from the riot sticks to his body could be heard, echoing against the night air and the store walls.

That is why I returned. My conscience would not permit me to leave. There were about 100 members of the Selective Enforcement Bureau of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department all along the 1-mile section of Whittier Blvd that where the cruising would take place every weekend. The red and blue lights were everywhere. I was conscious of that as he was being beaten by some 10-12 deputies. I returned to photograph, knowing full well I would probably be arrested or beaten or both… or even possibly be killed. But I was compelled to return. Return I did and I did photograph the Sheriffs deputies beating on him. The last photograph I took was of a deputy pointing at me.

Suffice to say that I got my skull cracked, I was hospitalized and I was charged with several criminal counts, including: Assault and Battery on 4 deputies. And yes, the “weapon” was the camera.

It took nine months before my charges were dropped (I was detained or arrested about 60 times in those nine months) and then I filed a lawsuit against the deputies who claimed I tried to kill them. It was a long wait, but in 1986, after a 36-day trial, which included 10 days of deliberation, I won the lawsuit. It was near miraculous for two reasons; no one wins in court against law enforcement, but on the rarest occasions that it does happen, the victory goes to the spouse or parents. In my case, I won… and I’m alive.

Today, I teach at the University of Arizona… and there, I teach Salazar. I teach more than Salazar, but when I teach either “The History of Red-Brown Journalism” (a class I created , which has a special collections at the UA Library) or “the History of the Chicano Movement,” I teach primarily the journalism of Salazar, but also, his death.

Akin to this essay, I don’t really teach about my trials, in part because it is awkward to do so. I can’t actually compare my work or situation to Salazar, though as I have noted, for me at least, I do see a connection. I know I pursued the path of a journalist/columnist because of his death and I do know that my case was historic because it resulted in victory (thanks to my witnesses and my attorney, Antonio Rodriguez). I won both my trials, but I always know there should have been a 3rd trial. The 4 deputies should have had to face criminal charges themselves. They didn’t and of course, not one of them ever had to serve time behind this. In fact, what surfaced in court is that they all had subsequently been promoted.

I could write more… or speak in details about this in public more, but I no longer do this because I did live with post-traumatic stress disorder for the longest time (due to the traumatic brain injury). But over the years, I have learned that I can speak about what happened to me, without having to relive that nightmare and without getting into a trance, by giving specific details. Justice for me over the years has been the opportunity to fight on behalf of others – too numerous to mention – of peoples and communities that continue to live these traumas.

We should not forget that Salazar did write about police abuse throughout his career.

Here, suffice to say that the Salazar documentary is long overdue. I would say at least he is finally getting some justice. But a documentary is not the same as justice. But minimally, it will give millions of people around the country an opportunity to learn about this great journalist.

In speaking to his daughters through the years, I know they have always felt – and continue to feel – that it is not enough to honor their father. Justice for them is to answer once and for all whether their father was in fact assassinated or not.

Perhaps this documentary is taking us one step closer to answering that question.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at:

Sunday, April 27, 2014


NIN TONANTZIN NON CENTEOTL "OUR SACRED MAIZ IS OUR MOTHER." Today I turned in my final edited version of my forthcoming book: Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother" at 11:11 a.m. There is something magical about : 11:11. I won my first police brutality trial at exactly 11:11 a.m on Nov 7, 1979. Since then, they've been my lucky numbers. In Jan 2,008, I was awarded my PhD in Wisconsin, also, at exactly 11:11 a.m. (11:11 also has a special significance to the Zapatistas). Wish my book was out already but it doesn't get officially published til Nov., however, I will have copies sometime in Oct. Thanks to everyone who has accompanied me on this journey, especially from the time I lived in an alley on Whittier Blvd in East L.A. It's been a long road. Tlazocamati to all the youths and elders who have taught me what it means to be human, especially here in the most dehumanizing state of Arizona. (Next project: tenure, Smiling Brown... and Yolqui).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taking Back Cinco

Taking Back Cinco... one city at a time... Sobriety run and a Healthy Cinco de Mayo Food Festival in Tucson, Arizona... Let's make this idea go natoinal


"Salazar: Assassinated or accident?" April 23
Earlier posts:
Salazar, Justice, and “The Price of a Mexican” April 14
"Salazar and Me" April 1
go to:
(April 29 screening and program of Salazar documentary at the U of A ILC #130 7pm)

SMILING BROWN: Reminder: This is an ongoing project that will become a book, play and videologues. About 100 stories have been received. Continuing to gather stories of our earliest memories of color consciousness and when we realized that there never was anything wrong with our color. See prelim article and if interested, please contact me: Looking for 300-1200 word vignettes. No deadline... but June 1 is ideal because that's when major work will recommence on this very important topic, a topic that deals not simply racism and denial of Indigeneity, but also a deep internalized oppression, involving those closest to us. Thanks:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This, fall: Our Sacred Maiz is Our Mother

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Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother
Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas
By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez
288 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / 2014
Paper (978-0-8165-3061-8) [s]
Related Interest
  - Native American Studies
  - Latina and Latino Studies

Not Yet Published - Pre-order Today
"If you want to know who you are and where you come from, follow the maíz." That was the advice given to author Roberto Cintli Rodriguez when he was investigating the origins and migrations of 
Rodriguez provides a highly unique and multifaceted account of the ways in which de-Indigenized communities have managed to preserve and pass on knowledge of their traditions across centuries.

—Roberto D. Hernández, San Diego State University

Sacred maíz narratives offer the opportunity to recover history and, in the process, to recover one's Indigeneity.

—Lara Medina, author of Las Hermanas: Chicana/Latina Religious-Political Activism in the U.S. Catholic Church
Mexican peoples in the Four Corners region of the United States.

Follow it he did, and his book Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother changes the way we look at Mexican Americans. Not so much peoples created as a result of war or invasion, they are people of the corn, connected through a seven-thousand-year old maíz culture to other Indigenous inhabitants of the continent. Using corn as the framework for discussing broader issues of knowledge production and history of belonging, the author looks at how corn was included in codices and Mayan texts, how it was discussed by elders, and how it is represented in theater and stories as a way of illustrating that Mexicans and Mexican Americans share a common culture.

Rodriguez brings together scholarly and traditional (elder) knowledge about the long history of maíz/corn cultivation and culture, its roots in Mesoamerica, and its living relationship to Indigenous peoples throughout the continent, including Mexicans and Central Americans now living in the United States. The author argues that, given the restrictive immigration policies and popular resentment toward migrants, a continued connection to maíz culture challenges the social exclusion and discrimination that frames migrants as outsiders and gives them a sense of belonging not encapsulated in the idea of citizenship. The "hidden transcripts" of corn in everyday culture—art, song, stories, dance, and cuisine (maíz-based foods like the tortilla)—have nurtured, even across centuries of colonialism, the living maíz culture of ancient knowledge. 

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