The saying goes that not all heroes wear capes. This is true of Mexican-American social activist Rudy Lozano. He dedicated his life to the Chicago Latinos by giving voice to the community’s working poor struggling with zero political representation. 

That light was cruelly extinguished on June 8th, 1983. Lozano was killed at gunpoint in his home in what many still consider a “political assassination” even 40 years later. 

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The real reason is still a mystery — although Lozano’s union and organizing activities fueled several theories about his killing. His death dealt a blow to the city’s Latino community, robbing them of a dynamic political leader.

Lozano was 31 and had been chosen as a member of the transition team of the just-elected Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor.

His assailant, Gregory Escobar, a gang member, was 18. Escobar went to Lozano’s home, knocked on the door, and shot him once in the head and twice in the chest.

Rudy Lozano, a son of the people

Born in Texas in 1951, Rudy Lozano was an activist from an early age. His inspiration was his icon, Mexican union leader Cesar Chavez.

According to his siblings, while still in high school, Lozano “organized a walk-out to protest shoddy facilities” and the absence of Latino representation in the curriculum. 

After graduating, Lozano attended the University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduation, he joined the Centro de Acción Social Autónoma, Hermandad General de Trabajadores (CASA).

CASA fought to unionize undocumented workers and educate them about employee rights while providing welfare services. 

Lozano also became the Midwest director of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. He joined the fight for the rights of the many Latinas that worked in the industry for low wages and in poor working conditions. 

He started his political work in the 22nd Ward by registering Latino voters and establishing unity between the Latino and African-American communities.

A social struggle that ends in tragedy

Rudy Lozano fought for “a black-brown unity” and campaigned for Washington — a vital link to the voting Latinos in Chicago. He ran for Alderman of the 22nd Ward, hoping to become the first Mexican-American elected to the Chicago City Council.

Sadly, an assassin’s bullet cut short the promise of an illustrious political career and killed a man described by Mayor Washington as one “driven by a search for unity among people.

At Lozano’s funeral, the mourners called him “un hijo del pueblo” — a son of the people. 

Today, the Pilsen branch of the Chicago Public Library carries Lozano’s name, and the Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy was named in his honor. 

Lozano’s voice continues reverberating throughout the Latino Chicago community 40 years after his untimely demise. 

At Lozano’s funeral, a folk singer sang the words that echoed in a community that had lost its leader:

“Your death is not in vain.

For we have your ideas in our hand

It is better to die on your feet

Than to live on your knees.”