Olga Briseño wants everyone to know about the life and death of Los Angeles journalist Ruben Salazar.
And as a result of Briseño’s efforts, millions will.
The U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative first- class stamp depicting Salazar next year.
He is one of five journalists chosen to be represented in the “2008 American Journalist Stamp Series.”
The series will be unveiled in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. The names of the other journalists have not been disclosed.
Briseño is director of the Media, Democracy and Policy Initiative in the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona.
“Getting on a U.S. postage stamp is a big deal,” said Augustine Ruiz Jr., a U.S. Postal Service spokesman in California who guided Briseño’s effort.
He said the stamps “are meant to commemorate Americans who represent the ideals of America.”
“The stamp makes them an American icon,” he said.
Briseño said the Salazar stamp “gives Latinos pride because Salazar represents the best of who we are and who we can be.”
Briseño, a former journalist who came to Tucson from southern California in 2000, said she worked with Salazar’s daughter and with Hispanics throughout the country to get the attention of the postal service.
Salazar died in East Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 1970, at 42.
Salazar, a naturalized American born in Mexico, had been reporting an anti-war demonstration by 20,000 Hispanics. They were calling attention to the disproportionate number of Hispanics killed in the Vietnam War.
Salazar was in the Silver Dollar Cafe near the protest when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies surrounded the bar and fired tear gas. One of the 10-inch-long projectiles struck him in the head.
At the time of his death, Salazar was news director of KMEX-TV, a Spanish language station, and a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, where he had worked since 1959.
He covered the Vietnam war, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
He also covered the Mexican American community, writing about poverty, second-rate schools and police brutality.
Briseño said she sent 10 pounds of documents and petitions to the Postal Service through its Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, which receives about 50,000 suggestions each year for commemorative stamps.
About 30 of them are chosen by the U.S. Postmaster General.
Her package included support from the national Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the bipartisan Latino Legislative Caucus in Washington, D.C.
Briseño began her Salazar stamp project in 2004, after “a meeting in the desert quite by chance” with Ruiz at a National Council of La Raza conference in Phoenix.
She asked him why there weren’t more Hispanics chosen for commemorative stamps.
César E. Chávez was honored with a stamp in 2003.
Ruiz challenged her to begin her own grass-roots effort and volunteered to advise her through the process.
“She was so energetic, she went beyond what most people would when they send something in,” he said.
Briseño said she became friendly with the Salazar family, and it has turned over his archives to the UA.