The power and impact of Latinx journalism are immense but also fraught with strife, both historical and present.

USC Annenberg hosted a panel with Latinx professors and journalists from the L.A. Times to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Chicano Moratorium.

From Top left to bottom right: Esmeralda Bermudez (LA Times), Laura Castañeda (Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism), Félix Gutiérrez (Professor Emeritus of Journalism), Gustavo Arellano (LA Times).
From Top left to bottom right: Esmeralda Bermudez (LA Times), Laura Castañeda (Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism), Félix Gutiérrez (Professor Emeritus of Journalism), Gustavo Arellano (LA Times).

The journalists discussed the legacy of this historically significant event and their personal paths navigating an industry that has been racist, anti-Latinx, and has continuously tried to diminish the booming power of the Latinx voice.

The Chicano Moratorium was a movement led by Chicano, anti-Vietnam war activists who were growing frustrated with the U.S government’s involvement in the Vietnam war, which had a disproportionately high death rate of Mexican-Americans.

In the peaceful protest of Aug. 29th, 1970, over 30,000 demonstrators marched against the Vietnam War. The march ended in tragedy as the peaceful protestors were tear-gassed, subject to police brutality. Four people were killed-- most notably, Ruben Salazar, an award-winning journalist who was working for the L.A. Times at the time of his death. His career and subsequent death would come to be the catalyst for many future Latinxs to pursue a career in an industry that has so often denied them entry.

Mourners line up in a LA chapel to memorialize Ruben Salazar (Photo by: George Rodriguez)
Mourners line up in a LA chapel to memorialize Ruben Salazar (Photo by: George Rodriguez)

Fifty years after this devastating and poignant time in Chicano and journalism history, what effect did this have on the Latinx community, and what is being done now to improve the representation of Latinxs in journalism? Panelist Félix Gutiérrez, discussed his relationship with often student-led Chicano movements of the 60s, calling them moments of “mass mobilization.”

The Chicano moratorium was “a teaching moment for me,” remarked panelist Esmeralda Bermudez, driving home the importance of this historical moment and how it motivated her to center Latinx narratives in her career.

While many in the Chicano community know about The Chicano Moratorium and the killing of Ruben Salazar by police, this is still something, as Laura Castañeda mentioned, largely left out of history textbooks and classroom lectures.

An unknown teenaged kid holds a sign reading ”National Chicano Moratorium Aug 29”. (Photo by George Rodriguez)
An unknown teenaged kid holds a sign reading ”National Chicano Moratorium Aug 29”. (Photo by George Rodriguez)

This points to a larger issue of Latinx representation-- which narratives are being centered? The fight to have Latinx voices heard isn’t new but it is a fight that has switched gears. While many people, especially within the Chicano/Latinx community, sought inclusion and equal representation, the movement that coalesced in the 70s and to the present day, focuses heavily on justice and empowerment.

Things have changed since Ruben Salazar’s killing on that fateful day. In the city of LA, Latinos comprise 13% of newsrooms-- an improvement, albeit a small one, from the newsrooms that dominated Salazar’s career.

Esmeralda Bermudez discussed the start of the Latino Caucus within the L.A.Times, a collective of Latinx-identifying employees at the L.A. Times that hold their management accountable for their present lack of Latinx-centered news coverage and lack of diversity initiatives in the workplace.

The panelists ended the discussion with some remarkable advice for Latinx journalist trying to make it in the industry. Gustavo drove the point home, “know your history.” Educating ourselves on moments like the Chicano Moratorium ensures that we know the events of the past and their effect on how we approach equity and representation measures in the present.

The Latinx community makes up more than 50% of Los Angeles county. “We are not a significant minority, we are a plurality,” culminated Gustavo Arellano.