By MADELINE ST. AMOUR | firstname.lastname@example.org | Boulder Daily Camera – On May 27, 1974, Alamosa attorney and University of Colorado Law graduate Reyes Martinez, 26, University of Colorado Boulder junior Neva Romero, 21, and CU Boulder double major graduate Una Jaakola, 24, were killed in a bombed car at Chautauqua Park.
On May 29, another car bomb near the Burger King on 28th Street, killed Florencio Granado, 31, who once attended CU Boulder, former student Heriberto Teran, 24, and Francisco Dougherty, 20, a pre-med student from Texas. Another student was badly injured, losing a leg and suffering severe burns.
No one was ever charged in the deaths of the students, all activists, and the FBI files on the case were lost in a fire.
There are few places where the students are remembered. Artist Pedro Romero painted a mural in their honor in 1987 in the University Memorial Center, but it was removed during the building’s renovation, according to a Daily Camera column by Carol Taylor, executive director at Historic Boulder. A memorial plaque for the students in 2003 was placed about a mile up Boulder Canyon by the Colorado Historical Society.
After watching a documentary, “Symbols of Resistance,” on the bombings, Jasmine Baetz, an Master of Fine Arts student at CU Boulder who studies American ceramics, wondered why there was no mention of them on the Boulder campus.
“I thought it was a pretty wild oversight,” she said.
In 2017 she started a project to create a sculpture dedicated to “Los Seis de Boulder,” the six of Boulder. The concrete, clay and grout monument stands a few feet tall and depicts the visages of the Los Seis in mosaics, with each one facing the direction in which they died, Baetz said.
Baetz made the sculpture with more than 100 people through community work days and received funding primarily from the Arts in Society organization, as well as the Boulder Arts Commission, Office for Outreach and Engagement, The Archive Transformed, and a Beverly Sears Graduate Student grant.
The Dairy Arts Center also let Baetz do a wheat paste installation of the portraits of Los Seis used to make the mosaics on the side of its building to raise awareness about the issue and the project, she said. The installation also includes text that says the center is one block away from the second bombing site.
The sculpture now sits in a small green space in front of Temporary Building 1, a former teaching hospital at the university that is next to Sewall Hall on the CU Boulder campus.
In May 1974, several students active in United Mexican American Students, or UMAS, took over Temporary Building 1 for nearly a month in protest of unfair treatment from the university, according to Nicole Esquibel, who made a film about one of the students, Neva Romero, who was killed in the car bombings. Esquibel is an associate professor of film and digital media at Avila University in Missouri, and also serves at the interim dean of the College of Professional Schools and chair of the School of Visual and Communication Arts.
Students weren’t receiving the financial aid checks they used to buy food and pay rent, and the director of UMAS was replaced with someone appointed by the university, whom the group felt spent money lavishly and only on a few students.
“It became a belief amongst students that they were, for lack of a better term, being ‘starved out,’” Esquibel said.
There were thousands of students who went to CU Boulder through the Migrant Action Program, which recruited Mexican-American students to the school to increase diversity, she said. During that politically wrought time in the country, they joined the UMAS and Chicano movements and took part in demonstrations and boycotts of Coors beer and Safeway.
“There was a generation of young people who made significant strides over a short period in the socioeconomic system,” Esquibel said. “They were children of migrants and they went on to become lawyers and judges and doctors and journalists and college professors. … They went back to those towns after graduating and became civic leaders.”
During the month of the building occupation, Los Seis were killed, adding another “shock to the system for the Chicano rights movement,” Esquibel said.
There were protests and ceremonies to honor the activists’ lives. There was a federal grand jury investigation, but no one was prosecuted. The Boulder County Coroner ruled that Los Seis were using faulty dynamite that accidentally went off and killed them, according to Esquibe, but others thought that the FBI and its active counterintelligence program had infiltrated the group.
Many questioned why the Boulder police, if they were watching these activists, would not stop them once they realized they were building bombs, if that was the case.
Esquibel said she’s not sure what the truth is.
“I wanted to come out of (making) this film with an answer, but I came out with a lot more questions than I have answers,” she said.
Baetz’s sculpture is a temporary installation honoring Los Seis, but she hopes to get it made permanent. She is collecting letters of support in hopes of convincing the university to keep the artwork where it now stands.
“It seems like a no-brainer if the values are inclusivity and equality,” she said.
But, she said it’s difficult because CU Boulder doesn’t appear to have a direct line to get public art approved if it’s not attached to a large donor or a building. Still, she’s hopeful the university will let the work stay.
Student and faculty art can be installed temporarily according to the Campus Use of University Facilities policy, university spokeswoman Deborah Méndez Wilson said in a statement.
“This policy enables us to honor the broad perspectives and expressions our faculty and students may bring to the campus experience over time,” she said. “… In order to provide the campus community opportunities to learn more about Los Seis de Boulder and this tragic chapter of Colorado’s and the nation’s historic Chicano rights movement, the graduate student’s installation was approved for the maximum allowable period of 180 days.”
The university community plans to discuss “the potential for additional exhibition” of the sculpture, Méndez Wilson added.
“Hiding our histories does everyone a disservice,” Baetz said. “… Most people I encounter at CU Boulder are shocked to hear of this history and want to unearth it.”
If you go
What: Celebration and dedication of “Los Seis de Boulder”
When: 2 to 7 p.m. Sept. 6
Where: The event starts at the site of the sculpture in front of Temporary Building 1 and will move to the CASE Building at CU Boulder
More info: RSVP to email@example.com