Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Strange Rumblings in Aztlan
The article takes its title from the name Aztlan, referring to the "conquered territories" of Mexico that came under United States control after the Mexican-American War. The territory covered parts of modern-day Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and the southern half of California.
The subject of the article is primarily the events and atmosphere surrounding the reaction of the Chicano community in Los Angeles to the murder of Ruben Salazar on August 29, 1970 following the ethnic riots against police. Salazar was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and KMEX-TV in LA. While sitting at a counter in the Silver Dollar Cafe after covering the riots in a nearby park Salazar was hit in the head by a tear gas shell fired by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy Tom Wilson.
Though marginally involved in the nascent Chicano civil rights movement of the time, Salazar became a martyr to the community when the details surrounding his death became public. Thompson's report on the situation focuses largely on this history of the violence and repression that haunted the barrio neighborhoods of LA during this period. Following this lead the article lays out the timeline of events surrounding Salazar's death and afterwards. Of primary concern is the reaction of the Sheriff's department and what many saw as a cover up for a deliberate murder. Over the course of the reporting it becomes increasingly clear that the official stories offered to explain the shooting are in contradiction to eyewitness and eventually to previous 'official' versions of the event.
The article is also of note for the appearance of Oscar Zeta Acosta, an acquaintance and "sometimes antagonist" of Thompson's at the time. It was during his reporting for the Salazar story that Thompson and Acosta took a road trip to Las Vegas in order to escape the pressure of LA and to find a place where Acosta could discuss the case openly, without fear of retaliation from either the police or Chicanos who might see him as cooperating with the establishment. The road trip to Vegas became the basis for Thompson's book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Acosta serving as the inspiration for the novel's Dr. Gonzo.
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