Open Letter: Chicano Movement Photographic Negatives

Community support sought for release of historic negatives' spanning late the l960s through the l970s to their rightful own

By Luis C. Garza
Published on LatinoLA: November 10, 2012

Open Letter: Chicano Movement Photographic Negatives

Editor's Note: Please see update to this story Movimiento Veteranos Resolve Negative Pedo

We write to inform you of an extraordinary community resource of photo archives containing thousands of photographic negatives and related document materials, which cover the Chicano movement and community from the late l960s through the l970s.

Yet this invaluable archive is unavailable to either the photographers who created these materials and hold legal copyright, or to the large number of scholars, community organizations, filmmakers and others who have attempted to access this resource over the past forty years.

Why? Raul Ruiz, a Chicano Studies Professor at Cal State Northridge, and also at Santa Monica Community College, took physical possession of these archives as a co-editor of La Raza magazine, when former editors Eliezer Risco, and then Joe Razo passed the responsibility on to his safekeeping in 1971, for temporary custody (not ownership).

Since the demise of the magazine in early 1980s, he has refused all requests to return the negatives to the photographers who created them or to make these materials available to these photographers, researchers or the community.

We are writing to alert you to the theft of this Intellectual Property, explain the development of this problem, and to make clear our commitment to have the negatives returned to the photographers who hold the legal rights, and to finally make this resource available to the broader community through a university archive.

Under the auspices of the publications, Chicano Student Movement and La Raza magazine (newspaper and then magazine), an archive of photographs and written materials were compiled between 1967 and mid-1970s.

This work reflects the efforts of magazine staff members and primarily that of twelve photographers who documented the civil rights struggle of the Chicano movement in the city of Los Angeles, Southern California, and the southwest United States. Our collective work is contained in this LA RAZA archive and is likely the largest collection of photographic documentation produced of the Chicano urban movement in the United States.

These publications and the related photographic archive were started as a grass roots community endeavor and not for the enhancement of a single individual's career. Raul Ruiz' appropriation of this material is a tremendous disappointment to all of us who know him, and certainly does not live up to the ideals within the Chicano Movement that we fought for.

We did not struggle to replace an oppressive and inequitable system with another one controlled by a brown face. Raul's actions are incongruous with, and contradictory to what he is supposed to stand for as a Chicano Studies Professor and have significantly damaged the cause of the Chicano Movement and the communities that it serves.

We intend to challenge this problem in two ways:

Generate community support to pressure for the negatives' release to their rightful owners via a Los Angeles university archive, where materials will be available for public access.

Work through all legal means to obtain rightful possession of the negatives.

LA RAZA staff-photographers: (partial list)

Pedro Arias
Manuel Barrera
Patricia Borjon
Oscar Castillo
Moctezuma Esparza
Luis Garza
Felix Gutierrez
Fred Lopez
Ruth Robinson Rivera
Devra Weber
Eliezer Risco~Editor 1967-1970
Joe Razo~Editor 1967-1971

La Raza photographic archived events: (partial list 1967-1978)

East Los Angeles high school student walkouts
Board of Education Los Angeles educational issues
Board of Supervisors Los Angeles mental & health facility demonstrations
Chicano Moratorium demonstrations against Vietnam War
August 29, 1970 anti-war rally; murder of LAT journalist Ruben Salazar
Brown Beret demonstrations
Catolicos Por La Raza, Saint Basil Church demonstrations
Police brutality and local/regional/national incarceration issues
Political suppression, reapportionment & representation
Teatro Campesino and UFW Farm Movement
Mexican-American stereotypes, and its negative media overload
La Raza Unida political party origins, influence and impact
Corky Gonzalez-Crusade For Justice, Colorado
Reies Lopez Tijerina- Land Grants, New Mexico

For more information, please contact Luis C. Garza at

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