Ruben Salazar questioned his own ethnic identity and the role of journalism in American society

EL PASO — Writing in his personal journal shortly before newsman Ruben Salazar was killed by cops during a 1970 Chicano Anti War march in Los Angeles, the now legendary Mexican-American journalists asks:  “Why do I always have to apologize to Americans for Mexicans and to Mexicans for Americans?”   

His question sounds almost innocent against the turbulent anti-establishment tone of the times. Yet it still resonates for most U.S. journalists with hyphenated identities, myself included. As I watched the PBS documentary, “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle,” a few weeks ago at a packed auditorium on the University of Texas El Paso campus, it felt like I was looking into a mirror and witnessing my own ambiguity about my Cuban and U.S. identities. It seems to me that ambiguity about identity frames the existential experience of most immigrants to this country. Where do we belong?

The film Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle draws a sympathetic hometown audience in El Paso

EL PASO — Exiting the cinema, a teary-eyed and choked-up man in his sixties wearing a white guayabera shirt and a Panama fedorasaid the film he had just finished watching was tragic and reminded him of his days as a Chicano activist in California alongside César Chávez. The film was Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle directed by Phillip Rodriguez, which explores the life and tragic death of the legendary Mexican-American journalist. Salazar was born in the Mexican border town of Cuidad Juárez, but was raised here just across the river. He graduated from El Paso High School and Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) before he started working at the El Paso Herald Post as a reporter and eventually at the Los Angeles Times. After leaving the Times, he went into broadcasting at the Spanish language station KMEX.