Film Pays Tribute to a Chicano Original: Oscar “Bandido” Gomez

Film Pays Tribute to a Chicano Original: Oscar “Bandido” Gomez

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Veteran New America Media and YO! Youth Outlook producer Pepe Urquijo decided to pay tribute to longtime friend and radio activist Oscar “Bandido” Gomez—unexpectedly found dead in Santa Barbara 17 years ago—by producing a documentary about his life and work, Radio Bandido. NAM reporter Raul Rodriguez interviewed Urquijo and writes here about the filmmaker’s relationship with Gomez, and his reasons for making the film.

The two met at a socio-political crossroads. Pepe Urquijo was moving up to Northern California to expose injustices through film, while Oscar Gomez was already an established radio activist based out of the University of California, Davis.

For Urquijo, Gomez was a “bandido” who came straight out of East Los Angeles -- bandido being a reference to early California outlaws who often rode around on horses carrying out their own brand of vigilante justice.

“Gomez’s horse was the radio and his terrain was the airwaves (which) he’d use to educate, entertain and politicize his listeners -- from the newly arrived farm worker to the neighborhood old timers,” explained Urquijo.

Unfortunately, Gomez’s life would end like so many of the early bandidos of the southwest. His body was found along the shores of Santa Barbara in mid-November, 1994. The cause of death remains a mystery. He was only 21 years old at the time.

“There was a lack of closure,” said Urquijo. “Something about the way he died was not complete.”

Urquijo's film explores the circumstances around Gomez's untimely death, and depicts Gomez’s life from his early days in Baldwin Park to his adult years in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara.

“I hope to present a better understanding of his life and what happened in Santa Barbara,” said Urquijo.

Gomez became heavily involved with the politics of his day, and was particularly active in the opposition movement against Proposition 187, the 1994 California initiative to prohibit undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services in the state, as well as the fight against the criminalization of youth through the Three Strikes Law.

“He would take these issues and put them into this bandido-type grinder and make these edible soundbytes that would explain how the issues were going to affect you,” explained Urquijo.

Urquijo was fortunate enough to have old recorded tapings of Gomez’s radio show, La Onda Xicana on KDVS FM. Friends and family of Gomez also got involved with Urquijo’s project, donating childhood photos, objects, and even old home movies for use in the film.

Over the course of producing his film – six years in the making - Urquijo has had to overcome some challenges of his own.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome has been with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. They have been very, very difficult to work with,” said Urquijo.

The troubles Urquijo faced were mostly related to his attaining official documents pertaining to the crime scene where Gomez’s body was recovered. Although the documents are legally attainable by court order, he said the process “could’ve been easier.” Despite the adversity and the number of years Urquijo spent on the project, the filmmaker’s enthusiasm and commitment remain undiminished.

“We deserve good quality films to get made about our stories,” said Urquijo.

The movie premier will take place in September at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The event will be open to the public. The Gomez family has expressed interest in attending the premier, according to Urquijo.