Death of Rubén Salazar

  • Frank Romero, Death of Rubén Salazar, 1986, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1993.19, © 1986, Frank Romero

Romero memorializes Rubén Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist and key chronicler of the Chicano civil rights movement. After covering the Chicano Moratorium of 1970, an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, Salazar stopped at the Silver Dollar Café in East LA. Reports of an armed disturbance sent deputies to the scene. A tear-gas projectile shot into the bar killed Salazar instantly. Romero combined references to this tragic day with a vision of the future when Salazar is the subject of a film announced on a theater marquee. The work’s large scale and subject link it with a tradition of grand painting that commemorates events that shaped history.

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, 2013

Rubén Salazar was a writer for the Los Angeles Times and was active in the civil rights battles of the 1960s. When Chicanos rallied against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970, police fired tear-gas canisters into the Silver Dollar Bar, where Salazar was struck and killed. To create Death of Rubén Salazar, Frank Romero combined the large scale of Mexican Revolution murals with the brilliant colors of the East LA barrio. To the right, a movie marquee announces that La Muerte de Rubén Salazar” is now playing. At the left of the Silver Dollar, the Casa de Cambio suggests not only the exchange of paychecks and cash, but the idea of change in the community. Officers, clouds of gas, buildings, and lowriders all share the bold brushwork and fiery color of graffiti, but this exuberance masks the emotional toll that painting the scene exacted. The year he painted Death of Rubén Salazar, Romero said that There’s all this talk about America not having a culture other than McDonald’s … I do have a culture. It’s Aztlan.” He was referring to the mythical birthplace of the Aztec people.

In my studio I have to deal with my own devils, and I wrestle with my own concerns and dreams and fears.” Frank Romero, Oral History interview, 1997, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution


Romero rinde homenaje à la memoria de Rubén Salazar, un periodista del Los Angeles Times y uno de los principales cronistas del movimiento chicano de derechos civiles. Después de cubrir los sucesos de la Moratoria Chicana de 1970, una manifestación contra la Guerra de Vietnam, Salazar fue al Silver Dollar Café, en East Los Angeles. Información sobre un altercado armado atrajo la presencia de la policía. Un proyectil de gas lacrimógeno disparado hacia el interior del bar mató a Salazar instantáneamente. Romero combinó las referencias a este trágico día con u tema de una película anunciada en la marquesina de un teatro. El gran formato y el sujeto heroico de la obra la vinculan con la gran tradición de la pintura de historia, un género artístico que conmemora los sucesos históricos.

Nuestra América: la presencia latina en el arte estadounidense, 2013

Death of Rubén Salazar
72 14120 38 in. (183.5305.8 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Architecture – vehicle – automobile
  • Cityscape
  • State of being – death – murder
  • Architecture Exterior – commercial – tavern
  • Occupation – service – policeman
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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