Issues

Further discussions and learning based on issues/topics from Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle.

Topic 1: Ethnic Identity and a Sense of Belonging


“The bridge and the border were a significant part of my life. Without them, life would have been quite different.” – Ruben Salazar

“Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and connectors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal (threshold) spaces between worlds, spaces I call nepantla, a Náhuatl word meaning tierra entre medio. Transformations occur in this in-between space, an unstable, unpredictable, precarious, always-in-transition space lacking clear boundaries.” – Gloria Anzaldúa

Ruben Salazar’s life was deeply influenced by the US-Mexico border. Born in Juarez, he crossed the border at a young age and grew up just across from it in El Paso, Texas. Indeed, Salazar’s life was lived straddling many borders including not just the national one, but ones related to his own individual identity. These struggles that alternated between personal and professional are explored in Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle. They are found in his father’s definition of him as Mexican and his mother’s rejection of his Mexicanness; in his journalism that tackled Mexican American issues and the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles; in his home life in a predominantly white area of Orange County; and in his shifting between traditional “objective” journalism and advocacy. While others chose to categorize (or miscategorize) him, Salazar thought of himself as a bridge. In Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, the evolution of Salazar’s thoughts regarding Mexican Americans and assimilation, both in relation to his own identity and to the political movements of his day, are reflected in his own writing and words.

Salazar wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times in 1970, titled “Who Is a Chicano? And What Is It the Chicanos Want?”: “A Chicano is a Mexican-American with a non-Anglo image of himself.” Salazar’s decision to use of the term “Chicano” caused reactions ranging from discomfort to anger amongst some of his readers.

Another rift Salazar’s career path explores is the one between English- and Spanish-language news media in the US. As discussed in the documentary, Salazar’s move to become news director at KMEX-TV, a Spanish-language television station, from his job as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, was almost universally seen as a step down due to the lack of prestige held by Spanish-language television at the time. This was especially the case in comparison to a “mainstream” and widely circulated English-language newspaper like The Times. Salazar expressed his feelings about the move - it allowed him to communicate directly to and advocate for Mexican Americans.

A study by the Pew Hispanic Center about how Latinos view news reporting in English- and Spanish-language media shows that viewership is currently trending toward a higher number of Latinos getting their news from English-language sources, television in particular. At the same time, Latinos view Spanish-language news media reports as having accuracy equal to that of English-language news and, moreover, that Spanish-language news is better at covering news relevant to them.

For Discussion:
*What about you? Which term do you prefer? Why?
*What affects a person’s sense of belonging to society, especially if that person is a minority? What role does language play in acculturation?

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