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Activist And Journalist Raul Ruiz Dies At 78. Remembering A Hero Of LA's Chicano Movement

Raul Ruiz holds up the photos he took outside the Silver Dollar Bar and Cafe as seen in "The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the Movement" (Screenshot from a panel discussion with Ruiz, Mario Garcia and Rosalio Munoz)
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Raul Ruiz, a major leader of the Chicano movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, has died.

His longtime friend Jorge Rodriguez confirmed Ruiz's death, saying he died in his sleep on Thursday.

"Raul always talked about how you gotta capture the injustice, not only intellectually, but in film, and in pictures, so people can see it, and generations ahead can see it, and learn about it," said Rodriguez.

Ruiz, who was 78, documented a key moment in Chicano rights movement in Los Angeles when he covered the 1970 Chicano Moratorium March, which left three people dead, including a prominent journalist.

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At the time, Ruiz had taken on the role of editor of the influential Chicano publication La Raza. While covering the march, Ruiz photographed the moments before -- and after -- Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazarwas killed by a tear-gas canister fired by a L.A. County Sheriff's deputy into a bar in East Los Angeles.

His photos of that day became an indelible part of history.

He later went on to earn a doctorate at Harvard, and became a professor of Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge.

Ruiz was one of three key figures of the Chicano Movement profiled in Mario Garcia's book "The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the movement."

Garcia, a professor of Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara, said the movement was "the largest, most significant civil rights and community empowerment movement" for Latinos in the U.S., up to that time.

Raul Ruiz documented the Chicano movement in his role as a journalist for the influential La Raza publication. Pictured are LAPD officers at a Los Angeles Civic Center demonstration, circa 1970. (Courtesy of Raul Ruiz and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center)

Garcia said Ruiz was born in El Paso in 1940 but moved to L.A. with his family. He was, Garcia said, a "Renaissance Man" of the movement.

"He went to local Catholic schools eventually went to what became Cal State LA and got a degree in history," Garcia said. "And it was around the time that he was in Cal State LA that he became involved in the Chicano movement. He was one of the college students that was very important in helping to organize the 1968, so-called blow out, or walkouts in East L.A. public high schools."

Those walkouts are considered to be a pivotal moment in calling attention to the unequal treatment of students enrolled in predominantly Latino schools. Ruiz also got involved in the Chicano underground press.

Garcia said Ruiz continued his activism even as he was a reporter and an editor.

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He also was among a group of Latinos who pushed the Catholic Church in Los Angeles to do more to improve conditions in East L.A. Garcia said L.A.'s cardinal at the time, James Francis McIntyre, refused to meet with Ruiz and others asking for investment in the community.

"So they organized significant protests on Christmas Eve of 1969 and they protested at the Cardinal's Midnight Mass on December 25, 1969," said Garcia.

McIntyre, aware the protest was planned, had brought in deputies to serve as ushers, Garcia said.

"And so as all the others tried to get into the church, the so-called ushers pounced on them, and there were literally fisticuffs going on at the back of the church," Garcia said. "It was a televised match. You couldn't see the conflict. But you could hear the uproar that was going on."

Ruiz was among those arrested that night.

"And then he became involved with the significant Chicano anti-war movement, which was the largest anti-war movement by any minority group because Chicanos would be disproportionately drafted," Garcia said. "They were dying in Vietnam and Raul publicized it through the magazine."

Garcia said Ruiz and the others he worked alongside laid the groundwork for Latino political power today.

"Raul should be remembered as a very courageous and brave and dedicated, committed activist who always wanted to improve the Chicano community and to improve Los Angeles, so that it would not be a city that would be divided by race and class and other kinds of ethnic conflicts," Garcia said. "And, and he worked all of his life to do that."

Watch Garcia's 2016 conversation with Rosalio Munoz and Raul Ruiz >>

Rebecca Nieto, Megan Erwin and Megan Garvey contributed to this report.