Ruben Salazar is a local hero in Boyle Heights, a writer for the LA Times who was killed at the time of a Chicano activist demonstration. He was honored yesterday by the postal service by placing his picture on a first-class postage stamp. Just hearing his name invokes many personal memories for me. I posted my sentiment on one of the blogs where I read about the occasion.
I feel a certain silly connection with Salazar. When I was a kid I played pop warner football for about 6 years at Salazar Park. Long before I new who Ruben Salazar was, the name itself was synonymous with joy and family comfort for all the good times I had playing football on that grass. The park itself, seemed an organic outgrowth of the community culture, for good and bad, and sometimes the bad would invade that peaceful space. Like the time someone drove his truck onto the field and (what seemed at the time to my young eyes) tried to run over the kids as they scrapped across the field seeking cover.
When it was all over, practice resumed, and it seemed the coaches earnest desire to return that space back to normal again as quickly as possible. Almost every kid on that field would walk home after practice, and problems lurked in the barrio, waiting to consume many of these kids with the problems of gangs, drugs, older brothers, etc. Salazar Park was a brief respite they all looked forward to. It was a timeout, where baby brothers from different gangs called each other teammates and friends, and could forget, if for a few precious hours, that soon they would again be called enemies.
I have many good memories of that park and I am grateful that Ruben’s name invokes this feeling in me. You can read more about him at the LA Times website.