Documentary recounts Ignacio woman’s mysterious death

Friday, April 13, 2018 9:44 PM

IGNACIO – Forty-four years ago, an Ignacio prom queen who had led the Chicano movement at the University of Colorado Boulder was killed by a car bomb near the campus – her unlikely path to activism and her mysterious death remain a little-known story.

Filmmaker Nicole Esquibel, dean of the school of visual and communication arts at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, spent seven years creating a documentary, “Neva Romero: Jama Olvidados,” bringing Romero’s story to the forefront. She showed the film this week at the Ignacio Community Library.

“It’s sad this story has not been given its due in Colorado history,” Esquibel said.

Esquibel, who, like Romero, was born in Alamosa, said while growing up in Denver she never heard Romero’s story. She came across it while reading from a book featuring poems by regional authors.

She read a poem about the “Los Seis de Boulder,” recounting the turbulent times at CU in the early 1970s and the two car bombings that killed the leadership of the Chicano movement on campus.

“I was immediately drawn to this story, and wondered why I had never heard about it,” Esquibel said.

At the end of May 1974, two car bombings rocked the city of Boulder, killing Romero and five other young activists.

Most of the victims were politically involved in the struggle to improve conditions for minority students at CU.

They were working to achieve parity – a percentage of Latinos enrolled at CU equal to the percentage of the state population. There was a 19-day sit-in in progress by the United Mexican-American Students at Temporary Building No. 1, an old hospital on the Boulder campus. Tensions were high on campus as students and supporters sought changes in the faculty and more funding for programs aimed at helping minorities, especially Latinos.

The blast on May 27, 1974, at Chautauqua Park and heard all over Boulder, killed three: Romero; Alamosa attorney and CU law school graduate Reyes Martinez; and a CU double major graduate Una Jaakola, who was Martinez’s girlfriend. All three were involved in the Chicano rights movement.

Two days later, another car blast went off in a parking lot between a Burger King and a liquor store. It killed Florencio Granado, who once attended CU; former CU student Heriberto Terán; and Francisco Dougherty, a pre-med student from Texas.

Esquibel said the bombs wiped out the leadership of the Chicano movement that had grown to be an irritant to the CU administration and law enforcement officials. She also noted that charges against other members of the movement on campus for making bombs for use in politically motivated acts of violence were dropped after a grand jury investigation.

An Ignacio resident, who declined to be identified and was a few years ahead of Romero at Ignacio High School, said at the screening Romero’s path to political activism shocked most who knew her as the charismatic and intelligent prom queen and cheerleader.

The resident heard bits and pieces of Romero’s story when it happened and hoped the documentary would offer answers to her mysterious death. But just who was responsible for the bombings remains unsolved and a matter of contention.

The resident said older Ignacio residents know Romero’s story, but few younger people in town have heard about it.

To this day, many Chicano activists believe the CU Chicano rights leaders were murdered, and many believe the FBI was behind the bombings.

Law enforcement officials have said the six died in accidental detonations of homemade bombs they intended to plant as political acts of terror to press their case for more admission of Chicano students at CU and greater aid to minorities on campus.

Ron Schermacher with the Ignacio Community Library said two copies of the documentary, one in Blu-ray Disc format and one a DVD, are available for checkout.

“This is important, factual history that all residents of Colorado and the U.S. should know about,” he said.