Sculpture Commemorates CU Boulder Chicano Activists Killed in Car Bombings

A collaboration among University of Colorado students produced a sculpture on campus honoring six Chicano activists who died in car bombings in Boulder in 1974.
A collaboration among University of Colorado students produced a sculpture on campus honoring six Chicano activists who died in car bombings in Boulder in 1974. Courtesy of Jasmine Baetz
Some tragedies are remembered with speeches and holidays. Others seem to be subject to a kind of deliberate forgetting until they're all but erased from public memory.

Over a two-day span in the spring of 1974, six former and current University of Colorado students were killed in two Boulder car bombings. All six — CU junior Neva Romero, pre-med student Francisco Dougherty, law school grad Reyes Martinez, and alums Florencio Granado, Una Jaakola and Heriberto Teran — had been involved in Chicano activism on campus, including long-running protests over the administration's financial aid policies that had culminated in Romero and other students occupying Temporary Building No. 1.

Government investigators maintained that the six died when bombs they were transporting accidentally exploded. Other activists countered that two identical "accidents" in 48 hours strained credulity — and theorized that COINTELPRO infiltrators or other rogue forces must have been involved. The sole survivor of the blasts, Antonio Alcantar, lost a leg; Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter declined to prosecute him for suspected bombmaking, saying there wasn't enough evidence for criminal charges. The question of who was truly responsible for the deaths of Los Seis de Boulder remained unanswered.

Then the selective amnesia set in. Few of today's CU Boulder students have ever heard of Los Seis. But that may be about to change, thanks to a startling new piece of art on campus.

Two years ago, Jasmine Baetz, a Master of Fine Arts student and ceramicist, saw a documentary, Symbols of Resistance, focusing on the Chicano movement in Colorado in the 1970s. Amazed that she'd never heard of the bombings, she put up fliers inviting other students to join her in developing a memorial. Approximately 200 volunteers were involved in some aspect of the sculpture that now stands outside Temporary Building No. 1 on the Boulder campus, a concrete-and-clay monument with the faces of Los Seis in mosaic.

"People are curious and have lots of questions," Baetz says of the response to the sculpture, which was unveiled in July and will be formally dedicated on Friday, September 6. "Since this tragedy is generally unknown on campus, there are usually expressions of surprise and sadness, and an eagerness to learn more."

Mateo Manuel Vela, co-chair of United Mexican American Students, says the campus group welcomes the memorial, which "serves as an acknowledgement by the CU community of the Latinx and Xicanx history that has been integral in shaping this campus."

Although the sculpture is officially designated a temporary installation at the moment, Baetz hopes it may become something more. "No one at the university has yet outlined a clear process of how to take it from its current temporary status to permanent," she says. "We've gotten a lot of support from both inside and outside of the university, and I'm hopeful that a process can be found."

Dedication events on September 6, which are free to attend, begin at 2 p.m. outside Temporary Building No. 1, followed by speakers at the CASE Auditorium, dinner, and a screening and discussion of Symbols of Resistance. For more information, email [email protected]
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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast