IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pablo Guzmán, Young Lords co-founder and longtime TV reporter, dies at 73

Guzmán, who died Sunday of a heart attack, is being remembered for his long legacy of Puerto Rican and Latino civil rights activism and as “the best street reporter on TV.”

Pablo "Yoruba" Guzmán, one of the founders of the Young Lords Party and a veteran New York City reporter, has died.

He was 73.

Guzmán died Sunday of a heart attack, Young Lords co-founder Juan González confirmed via X, formerly known as Twitter.

Pablo Guzmán, information minister, rear wearing sunglasses, at a Young Lords news conference with Juan González, education minister, at right.
Pablo Guzmán, information minister, rear wearing sunglasses, at a Young Lords news conference with Juan González, education minister, at right.Anthony Pescatore / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Guzmán and González were among the six Puerto Ricans who in 1969 co-founded the Young Lords in New York, a group of young activists who fought against systemic racism in their Latino communities, which was reflected in the lack of basic services compared to other parts of the city. The predominantly Puerto Rican radical group spearheaded programs to provide health care, child care and breakfast to disadvantaged Black and Latino communities. The Young Lords also fought against police brutality, U.S. imperialism and militarism.

González remembered Guzmán as "the visionary former minister of information of the Young Lords party, longtime WCBS-TV reporter, and my comrade of 50 years." The Democracy Now! co-host also said Guzmán was “the best street reporter on TV.

“His legacy lives on,” González tweeted Sunday.

"What Yoruba had," said Gerson Borrero, a longtime New York City radio host and political analyst, "was that he was a friendly warrior. He went from being a bright kid, a Bronx High School of Science bookworm, but understood there was more to his existence than just being an intellectual."

Borrero recalled what Guzmán and his fellow Young Lords did when New York City's sanitation service wasn't picking up garbage in El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem, leaving mountains of trash piled up in the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood.

"So they crossed Third Avenue and burned the garbage ... who would think of this? That was brilliant," he said. After that, the city started doing regular garbage pickups in El Barrio.

“They had a connection to community, they weren’t there to destroy a community," Borrero said. "They caught the fervor of those days, which was revolution — things being done, but they did it for the right reasons."

Following his time with the Young Lords as a spokesperson and organizer, Guzmán started his broadcast journey in the late 1970s, becoming a television reporter, a radio talk show host and a writer for The Village Voice, according to his LinkedIn page.

Pablo Guzman.
Pablo "Yoruba" Guzmán.CBS

In 1996, Guzmán became a reporter at WCBS-TV, where he worked for almost 20 years and established himself as a recognizable journalism figure in New York City covering its neighborhoods, as well as law enforcement, national security, organized crime, politics and even pop culture.

His colleagues at the TV news station remembered him as a journalist with "a unique combination of street smart and book smart" that allowed him to become a trusted voice in the community.

Some of Guzmán's most memorable stories include his coverage of American gangster John Gotti Jr. and New York City's Gambino crime family, as well as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's press conference at the United Nations after being released from prison.

"There just hasn't been anyone like him and I don't know if there ever will be," said Mari Calvi, WCBS-TV news anchor.

His reporting on the murder of a policer officer earned him an Emmy Award, according to an archived biography of Guzmán. He also earned an award from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for a story on a controversial police shooting in Washington Heights that helped vindicate the officer.

Guzmán, who was a proud Afro Puerto Rican, consistently put a spotlight on racism, such as his essay that drew on his own experiences as a Black man and a Puerto Rican.

For more from NBC Latino, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies in New York City released a statement saying, "The entire team at CENTRO is saddened to hear of the passing of Pablo 'Yoruba' Guzmán, Emmy Award Winning Journalist & revolutionary co-founder of the NY Chapter of the Young Lords. May his legacy live on with us. Rest in power."

Guzmán was also a fan of salsa music, so much so that he even "liked to sign emails as ‘Salsero'," according to his former WCBS-TV colleague Andrew Friedman.

His love of Latin music also led him to serve as an honorary member on the selection committee for the first two years of the Latin music category at the Grammy Awards in recognition of his efforts to push the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to create that category.

Guzmán continued to advocate for his Puerto Rican community; In a 2017 commentary on NBC Latino, he slammed the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria after it devastated Puerto Rico.

Guzmán is survived by his wife, Debbie, his two children, Angela and Daniel, and his mother, Sally.

“Even as a radical, he wasn’t about hurting people but about changing the system,” Borrero said. “And he did it with mucho amor (with a lot of love).”