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Remembering Los Seis on the fiftieth anniversary of car bombings that killed 6 Chicanx activists in

Memorial sculpture of Los Seis de Boulder by artist Jasmine Baetz. In 2019 a student- and community-led group installed the sculpture on the CU Boulder campus.
Maeve Conran
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Memorial sculpture of Los Seis de Boulder by artist Jasmine Baetz. In 2019 a student- and community-led group installed the sculpture on the CU Boulder campus.

On May 27 and on May 29, 1974, two car bombs exploded in Boulder killing six people and seriously injuring a seventh. The cases were never solved. This was a time of tremendous student activism at the University of Colorado and all those killed and injured were active in UMAS, a Chicanx student group at the University.

Juanita Hurtado spoke with Brianna Centeno, a member of Concilio, the board for UMAS y MECHA at CU Boulder, about Los Seis and how they continue to inspire student activism 50 years later.

Brianna Centeno: Los Seis were integral to the Chicano movement in Colorado, as well as the club UMAS, now called UMAS y MECHA, United Mexican American Students, and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano Azulán, now a coalition. But basically, the six are seen as symbols of educational opportunity and the first three, Una Jaakola, Reyes Martinez, and Neva Romero were killed in a car bombing at Chautauqua Park in May of 1974.

And 48 hours later, Francisco Dougherty, Heriberto Terán, and Florencio Granado were killed in a separate car bombing on 28th Street, at the Burger King that's basically on 29th Street Mall.

But they were prominent Chicano activists. A lot of them were on student government, as well as they were lawyers. They were very prominent in getting parity and visibility for not only Chicano students on campus but also other BIPOC, so Black students, as well as Indigenous students on CU Boulder's campus.

Essentially, back in the 70s, CU Boulder wanted their student population to reflect Colorado's population. At the time, Colorado had a pretty small percentage of Hispanic and Latinx-identifying people in Colorado. So they wanted those percentages to reflect in CU's campus and created equal opportunity programs. Hence UMAS, United Mexican Americans, as well as Oyate, the Native American Indigenous Equal Opportunity Program, and BSA, the Black Student Alliance on CU's campus, to get those numbers up and recruit people from the local community. A lot of what they advocated for was sparking, I guess, a love for education in youth.

Juanita Hurtado: But advocacy for education and social justice soon turned into holding institutions accountable. UMAS members and other students occupied Temporary Building No. 1 demanding for the leaders of the Equal Opportunity Program to resign.

Centeno: In the 70s, at least at the time, during the occupation, the members of UMAS were protesting against how the University had been holding their financial aid checks. A lot of them used those checks to pay their rent, to buy groceries. And so it's speculated that these were withheld from the Latino community, the Chicano community, as well as the Black community because they didn't want them to graduate.

Hurtado: Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the graduation rates for students of color in the 70s and 80s here at CU. But, a study from the National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities, done in 1980, found that minority students tended to leave college at twice the rate of white students.

So initiatives like UMAS, BSA, and Oyate were incredibly important. However, in the last decades, they have strayed away from academic programs into registered student clubs. They provide social and safe spaces for these communities. But how have the commemorations for Los Seis de Boulder also changed in the last decades?

Centeno: For many of the anniversaries, a lot of beautiful things have come out of it. You can go in front of Clara Smalls (Arts and Sciences Building), which is near the recreation center, and you can see a beautifully-done memorial by Jasmine Baetz. She said she was inspired by one of the memorials and created a rock that has the faces of Los Seis engraved in it as well as their names and the dates on which it happened.

And that was actually supposed to be a temporary mural. Back in 2017, UMAS y MECHA advocated for it to be permanent on campus. As of recently, for the 50th, there is now a scholarship in place, called the Los Seis Memorial Fund that runs through the Bueno Center, which is a center in the education school, and they will be naming six recipients who will receive $1,000.

They're trying to get this to be a scholarship that remains permanent, that's endowed. But the kind of unique thing about the scholarship is students have to be involved in social justice of some sort. I think Los Seis were really fighting for educational opportunity, not just for themselves, but for their kids, and for future generations and I think that we're finally, we're getting that by giving people these scholarships.

Hurtado: I asked Brianna why the monument for Los Seis on campus does not get as much spotlight when there are tours or when we talk about CU's history. Here's what she explained to me.

Centeno: I think that obviously, it's an uncomfortable conversation. You don't like to think that the grounds that you're walking on essentially have had blood on them. It's a dark and gruesome thought. And in my opinion, these things haven't ended. I think that the way that we discourage Black and Brown students, Black and Brown people in our community is so systematic now.

You look at — I think just me, personally being someone whose parents are immigrants and whose parents didn't have a college education. I think having no support applying to FAFSA, having to explain to my teachers that I learned English and Spanish at the same time, and not getting accommodated for that, it's a systematic way to put people down.

And it's easier not to talk about these deaths because when we start addressing these deaths, we have to start addressing the problems that we're facing right now.

Another Jasmine Baetz sculpture honoring Los Seis will be installed in downtown Boulder this month. A dedication of the sculpture, “El Movimiento Sigue” (The Movement Continues) takes place on May 28.

Copyright 2024 KGNU.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Copyright 2024 Aspen Public Radio

Juanita Hurtado