On November 17, 1994, when Oscar Gómez's body was found at the bottom of a massive cliff in Santa Barbara, California, he was a familiar and popular voice on the student radio public affairs program "La Onda Xicana" (The Xicana thing, or literally, Xicana wave) at the University of California, Davis. Gómez took decisive stances on political issues at the time, from immigration and police violence to the importance of education and learning one's history. "La Onda Xicana" mixed groovy, danceable music with political commentary, a combination that expanded Gómez's influence.
"The Forgotten Revolutionary" is a new series that tells the story of Oscar's life and death and a production of the podcast Imperfect Paradise, "a long-form narrative podcast showcasing California stories with universal significance. Each story takes on something essential about California — its progressiveness, its reputation as a home for dreamers and schemers, its heartbreaking inequality, its varied and diverse communities, its unique combination of dense cities and wild places…"
The Forgotten Revolutionary is "the story of Oscar Gomez, a radio DJ and Chicano student leader during a time of explosive anti-immigrant political rhetoric in the early 1990s. Some people thought Gomez was going to be the next Cesar Chavez. But then he died near the UC Santa Barbara campus, under mysterious circumstances."
According to this NPR interview with Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, "He died the day after a protest. The autopsy and coroner's report in Santa Barbara found that he died from blunt-force trauma to the head. And the manner of death was left undetermined. The sheriff's department investigators could not find any witnesses who saw Oscar fall from the bluffs there in Santa Barbara, which can be up to, you know, 70, 80 feet tall. So that left a lot of questions open. And when we talked to Oscar's father and closest family members, they believe that Oscar was murdered because of his political activism, because he was speaking truth to power, that he was broadcasting, really, within earshot of the state capital of California. And so we set out to investigate."
In a clip for his radio program, Oscar Gómez is heard saying, "Make sure and question the history that you've been taught because a lot of times you know that George Washington is not your father. What are these people scared of? That the raza's going to get educated, and they're going to be able to go back and empower their communities? It's something that we've got to ask ourselves, raza, and something that we must continue to ask ourselves because la lucha continua."