If you’re one of those people who follow campaigns, debates and political commentary on cable TV-the whole elections enchilada, culminating in that ultimate patriotic manifestation of heavy duty civic engagement: casting that vote come election day-then maybe this message is not meant for you. Seriously. Here’s why: you’ve probably already determined that 2008 is a pivotal year for all Americans, and you’ve probably picked a candidate. But whoever becomes the next President better get it right, and fast.

Times are tough and uncertain. People are losing their homes, jobs are scarce, gas is expensive, America’s image around the world is at an all-time low, and despite the optimists, we are teetering on the brink of a recession, all the while still fighting a war.

And yet despite the challenges and the doom and gloom, America continues to be the land of opportunity and innovation, a land of immigrants and possibilities, a place where citizens are making things happen, and as such, you’d expect a high level of community participation and civic engagement, yet few will show up at the polls come November.

Some argue that in the end their vote doesn’t matter with an all-too familiar tone of apathy about the whole political process. Others may not care or feel a part of the political discourse that will impact their life via taxes, legislation and reforms. But inevitably we all feel the impact of laws and legislation passed. There’s no option but to begin to grasp the cause and effect of our inactions.

Take Latinos, for example. We’re notorious for not showing up at the polls. And we have and will continue to pay the price through lack of political representation, and non-inclusion in circles of influence, resulting in little political clout as an ethnic group. That boils my blood, and it should boil yours too.

This must change. The national statistics are staggering with high school drop-out rates increasing for urban youth, incarceration rates significant for Latinos and African Americans, and a young population on the horizon ill-equipped educationally to face the challenges of this country, or become the next corporate CEO or the next Bill Gates.

Just as knowledge is power so is the use of knowledge in political participation. We can all do our part. The message is simple: register to vote and go out and vote on November 4 as if your life depends on it. Take your son/daughter/sister/brother with you and show them the way. Your vote counts. Use that power.

Making It Count In 2008: To Vote Or Not To VoteElection 2008Tuesday, November 4If you’re 18 or older and a U.S. citizen, it’s your right to vote!

Four Simple Steps For VotingStep 1:Register to voteAm I eligible to vote? According to the Federal Election Commission, you must:Be a citizen of the United States.Be a resident of the state in which you’re planning to register.

In addition, most states have the following two requirements. You must:Not be imprisoned or on parole for the conviction or a felony.Not currently be judged mentally incompetent by a court of law.

For more info contact your county registrar of voters on deadline to register.Note: If a person has been released from parole, he or she may be eligible, contact your county voter registrar.

Step 2:Know when and where to vote You will receive your polling location information in the mail after you register.

Step 3:Educate yourselfLearn about and understand the measures and candidates that will be on your ballet.

Step 4:Go out and vote November 4, 2008!Make time in your calendar for Election Day.Note: Don’t forget your ID

Q&A Once I register for the first time, do I have to do it again?Only if you move or change addresses. Make sure that you register in the state in which you’re a resident. You must also re-register or provide a written note to your election official if you change your name.

If in the armed forces or living abroad, can I still vote?All eligible Americans have the right to vote. You can still vote. The rules for people in the armed forces or abroad are different than for people living in the United States. For information about voting abroad, contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program (http://www.fvap.gov or 800-438-VOTE).

What are the main political parties?Constitution Party: www.constitutionparty.comDemocratic Party: www.democrats.orgGreen Party: www.gp.orgIndependent American Party: www.usiap.orgLibertarian Party: www.lp.orgReform Party: www.reformparty.orgRepublican Party (Grand Old Party): www.gop.com

Check This Out! If you’re not eligible to vote this time:You can still make a difference by volunteering on a campaign, posting a lawn sign, talking about issues and candidates with friends and family, and most importantly encouraging eligible voters to vote.

This page is powered by Explota El Voto, an initiative of the Urban Latino Development Institute. For more info log on to www.ExplotaElVoto.com.

Ruben Salazar StampLegendary Los Angeles journalist honored by U.S. Postal Service.On a bustling, sunny afternoon in East Los Angeles, California, more than a dozen young Latinos make their way to the dirt at Ruben F. Salazar Memorial Park, bats in hand. Unlike the civil unrest on the same turf 38 years ago, these young men are readying themselves for a baseball game on the brick dust of the park named for the honored Latino journalist.

The peacefulness of the spring afternoon is in sharp contrast to the turbulence that permeated the Whittier Boulevard park on August 29, 1970 during the National Chicano Moratorium March. On that day, hundreds of Latinos, as well as others who supported the cause, were armed with picket signs and rallying cries, demanding equality. Salazar was there as well, covering the moratorium for KMEX television. At that time, the park did not boast his name; it was called Laguna Park.

Salazar was killed that day by a tear gas canister fired by a Los Angeles County deputy. His untimely death rallied the Latino community, and Salazar was immediately hailed as an activist and champion of the Chicano movement. In the 38 years since his passing, Salazar’s name has been associated with numerous scholarships, community organizations and Chicano advancement movements.

Salazar brought a voice to the Latino community that had long been silenced, claims Felix Gutierrez, a professor of journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication. Salazar was a “barrier breaker” and was able to communicate the plight of Latinos to an audience that was largely ignorant to such struggles. “He really was a man who could function in both Latino and Anglo worlds, which were much more separate in those days,” Gutierrez says.

In April of this year, Salazar’s image was chosen, along with four others, for a United States Postal Service stamp collection titled “American Journalists.” His 41-cent stamp alludes to his death “during Chicano protest rally in East Los Angeles.”

Despite Salazar’s widespread fame, many of the youth gathered at the park know little about the man for whom the park was named. Tony Campos, a senior at Garfield High School, has been a regular at the Ruben F. Salazar Memorial Park and its programs since he was three years old. As big a part as the park has played in Campos’ upbringing, the 17-year-old has never stopped to think about the man behind the title. “I don’t know who he is,” Campos claims. “I just know that this is his park.”

Another after-school participant speaks up. “I know who he is. We learned about him in school,” states Robert Zoten, a seventh-grader at Stevenson Middle School. Zoten, 13, knew that Salazar was a journalist who was killed in the riots. And Zoten reasoned that Salazar must have been important because he had a park and a stamp in his honor. When asked what Salazar wrote about, or why he was considered such a prominent figure, Zoten just shrugged his shoulders.

Salazar was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and grew up in El Paso, Texas. He served in the Army in World War II and attended the University of Texas at El Paso. His first journalism job was at an area newspaper, the El Paso Herald Post. Salazar was hired by the Los Angeles Times in 1959. He worked as a foreign correspondent in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam before being named the Mexico City bureau chief. Salazar returned to California in 1969 to cover the emerging Chicano movement. The next year, he became the news director for KMEX, a Spanish-language station, but still wrote a regular column in the Times.

KMEX, then the only Spanish television channel, allowed him to communicate to Latinos. Salazar’s regular column in the Times gave him the avenue to continue to educate a largely Anglo audience about the Chicano point of view. “He described and defined us to others, and us to ourselves,” Gutierrez states.

Alex Marquez, a 21-year-old who says that he is “from” the park, believes that Salazar’s actions have made it better for him as far as equality and police contact. Marquez takes pride in the Ruben R. Salazar Park, comprised of 8.4 acres, a successful after-school program, computer lab, summer camp, karate, dance and senior activities. Marquez sits in the park with two friends and watches the children enjoy their after-school activities. A marked patrol car cruises through the park and Marquez is unfazed, despite previous run-ins with law enforcement. Marquez credits his ability to relax to Salazar.

“He was like another Cesar Chavez, but not as famous, you know,” Marquez says. “He fought for the Raza. After they killed him, a lot of things changed. There’s not as much discrimination or harassment.”

Some 38 years ago, the combination of police and Hispanic youth at that park produced a much different outcome. Police tried to disperse the crowd at the 1970 National Chicano Moratorium March and demonstrators fought back, escalating the protest to a riot. As the turmoil and violence escalated, Salazar and his television crew ducked into a local bar, The Silver Dollar.

Deputies responded to the bar on a report of a man armed with a gun. Before entering, a deputy fired a tear gas canister through the curtained entrance. The large projectile struck Salazar in the head and killed him instantly. Salazar’s premature and controversial death elevated his status from an influential journalist to instant martyr.

There’s no doubt that Salazar was an accomplished and ground-breaking journalist, said Chicano Studies expert Clara Irazabal, but if not for his death, Salazar may not have received such acclaim. “[His death] created a spotlight that he would not have gotten otherwise,” claims Irazabal, a professor of Urban Planning at the University of Southern California. “His premature and violent death he could not control. Of course, we would prefer to have him live much longer and do more good things.”

First and foremost, Salazar was an accomplished journalist despite his widespread reputation as an activist, says Gutierrez, who knew Salazar. Gutierrez claims that Salazar was comfortable with being a journalist. His role was to amplify the voices of the true activists. “I don’t know if he ever would have been marching,” Gutierrez says. “As a journalist, you have to make your call. Is my body more important on the front lines or my reporting?”

Salazar is one of a handful of Latinos whose images have been placed on a U.S. stamp. Cesar E. Chavez gained his commemorative stamp because of his role as a civil rights leader. Salazar, however, was honored not as an activist but as a journalist. Like Frida Kahlo, an influential Mexican artist who also merited a stamp, Salazar was honored for his body of work, not his political views.

Ruben SalazarSalazar’s inclusion in the “American Journalists” collection was not without effort. Olga Briseno, the director of Media, Democracy and Political Initiative at the University of Arizona, lead a national effort to push for a Salazar stamp. She collected 1,300 signatures and gathered resolutions from Latino organizations to submit to the Postal Service’s Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee.

Salazar’s passion was journalism, but Gutierrez is convinced that he would have moved on to be senior statesman or someone of high stature or political clout if he were not killed. “We benefit more from living warriors than from martyrs,” Irazabal adds.

At the Ruben F. Salazar Park the accomplishments of noted Latino leaders are not lost on the youth who congregate there. Although they may not be conscious of how fortunate they are to have been born into a vastly different political climate, they are taking advantage of opportunities afforded to them. Campos will graduate from Garfield High School in June. Zoten is excited to continue his education and looks forward to high school.

As for Marquez, he says that he still has not figured out what he wants to do with his life. The Chicano movement is over, Marquez declares. Opportunities are there for those who want to take advantage of them, but it’s an individual decision. The fight for the Raza has been won.

Gutierrez, who was Marquez’ age when opportunities for young Latino men were much harder to come by, certainly recognizes the changes made by his generation. There is no doubt that Latinos have made tremendous gains, but there are still gaps, Gutierrez believes. “We have the access that we should have to quality education and housing, but it’s too early to declare victory.”

Castrol Syntec Top Shop Challenge UpdateA Visit To The “Stealth Garage.”The top secret small-block 350-c.i.d. engine is under wraps no more as we have let the whole world know what we’re working on. As you might have seen in the last couple of issues, the Castrol Syntec Top Shop Challenge lowrider engine is coming together, thanks to Jerry Stettler at Ace Machine in Riverside, California. In fact, the World Products “Mowtown” cast iron engine is starting to look like an engine, as all of the necessary parts have been ordered, including the most important, Castrol Syntec oil, which will protect the internal components and give the engine longevity.

During a recent visit to Ace Machine, Jay McCarthy of Streamcities Video Productions was in the shop and he gave us a sneak peek at some of the video clips that they were filming exclusively for the www.SyntecTopShop.com website. You should take some time and check out what Jerry has to say about the competition and the parts that we’re using for this engine build.

There’s a lot of great content for you to see online and we are now full throttle on this project, so make sure to log onto www.SyntecTopShop.com and check out what’s going on with our custom engine build. Also remember to vote for your favorite lowrider engine and register to win this engine.

Golden Rule AwardCar Club Winning The Grand Prize In Eagle One Awards To Receive $1,500 For Favorite Charity.There’s more to car clubs than just cars and Eagle One is once again looking for clubs that not only help their community, but go the extra mile with compassionate achievements. Car clubs entering Eagle One’s 16th annual Golden Rule Awards have an opportunity to win a $1,500 grand prize, which will be donated to a charity of their choice. Three other winners will receive a $500 cash contribution to a charity of their choice.

The grand prize will be awarded to the car club judged to have performed the most compassionate achievement during 2008. Winners will be selected in four regions: West, Midwest, East and South for conducting the most outstanding community service program in their region during 2008.

In addition to a total of $3,000 in cash donations from Eagle One and cosponsor Valvoline, winners will receive a generous supply of premium appearance care products and motor oil for fund-raising purposes and a custom-designed trophy.

An entry form may be obtained beginning October 1 by visiting www.eagleone.com or by calling (818) 501-1445. The deadline for entries is December 31, 2008. Winners will be notified by February 10, 2009.

“Several years ago, the award was won by a lowrider club, La Gente-Imperial Valley,” Dick DeLoach, long-time Lowrider Magazine contributor said. “It’s time that another lowrider club is honored… but they have to enter to win.”