The recent deaths of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Ramos, labor leader Richard Chavez and cultural activist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan are tragic enough on their own, but that they all occurred within days of each other makes the loss even more profound and disheartening. –Juan Gonzales
George Ramos, 63, was found dead from a heart attack on July 23 inside his Morro Bay home, according to the San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office.
As a reporter, editor and columnist at the Los Angeles Times for more than 25 years, Ramos played a key role in a groundbreaking series on Latinos in Southern California that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 1984. Ramos also contributed to the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
He taught Writing for the Media and Journalism History, and served as the Journalism department chair from 2003 to 2007 at Cal Poly, the school he graduated from in 1969. At one time, Ramos served as two-time president of the California Chicano Media Association and in 2007, he was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame. A lifelong journalist, at the time of his death, Ramos was editor of the news website CalCoastNews.com.
Richard Chavez, 81, the older brother of legendary labor organizer Cesar Chavez, died on July 27 from complications following surgery in a Bakersfield hospital, according to a representative from the United Farm Workers. Chavez helped his younger brother build the UFW, transforming it from a small union of migrant workers to a tremendous force of organized labor that exercised massive influence in state politics and agriculture in California. In 1962, according to news reports, Chavez designed the black eagle emblem that is still the union’s insignia and helped create the UFW credit union. He also oversaw construction of the union hall at UFW headquarters in Delano, Calif., and in 1966 he became the first director of the National Farm Workers Service Center.
Chavez worked for years in the union, organizing the California grape boycott in the late 1960s, and later, boycotts in New York and Detroit. He retired from the union in 1983, but remained active in labor politics. At the time of death, Chavez was a board member of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Gilbert “Magu” Luján
Gilbert Lujan, or “Magu” as he was known, died on July 24 after battling prostate cancer for more than three years. He was 70. The artistic career of this Los Ange les-based painter, sculptor and muralist with a master’s degree in fine art from UC Irvine, spanned five decades. Lujan is credited with forcing established Los Angeles galleries to showcase emerging Chicano artists, sparking discussions about the direction of Chicano art and helping to create a “barrio aesthetic.” A typical Lujan painting, according to news reports, included bright, chubby cars with low-rider paint jobs driven by Aztec warriors or, sometimes, by dogs behind dark shades. These caricatures can be seen daily in the public art he created for the Hollywood and Vine Metro Red Line stations.
In 1974, Lujan took that barrio aesthetic to the hallowed and very un-Chicano-friendly galleries of the L.A. County Museum of Art. Lujan and three fellow artists were the first Chicanos to exhibit at LACMA.
In the late 1970s, Lujan taught at Fresno City College and served as chair of the school’s La Raza Studies Department.