Originally published April 16, 2013 at 4:13 p.m., updated April 16, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.
Jesse Constancio, Chicano Park Steering Committee member
Mario Torero, muralist
The murals in Chicano Park have been restored to full, vivid color and they will be the main attraction at this Saturday's 43rd anniversary celebration. The park and its murals have recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
"I think the people in the neighborhood will now always be reassured that Chicano Park will always be there," says Jesse Contstancio, member of the Chicano Park Steering Committee.
But that new status is a far cry from the radical beginnings of the park in 1970s and mirrors a resurgence of interest in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan as one of San Diego's vibrant communities.
The park was established on April 22, 1970 by activists who were protesting the construction of a California Highway Patrol station at the site. The activists occupied the area for 12 days and insisted a park be built, as previously planned.
Chicano Park is now considered a jewel and a source of community pride. The murals, which were restored last year, have been called "the largest, most important collection of outdoor murals in the country” by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.
There's been a lot of buzz around Barrio Logan. The neighborhood is now home to San Diego's new public market and a growing arts district.
Galleries, like Bread and Salt, have opened over the last few years attracting new residents too.
"I don't think they're coming in as conquerors they know we stand solid as artists as a community they know they need to work with us and we need to work with them, it's a reality " says artist Mario Torero, one of the original Chicano muralists.
While some neighbors like Constancio worry gentrification could eventually push long-term residents out due to rising home prices, he says Chicano Park is an emblem in the community and he believes the park and its spirit will be around for generations to come.
"There's money to be made, gentrification has stimulated outside interests, I think we've grown a lot over the years. But it will always be Barrio Logan in our hearts" says Constancio.
This weekend's Chicano Park celebration will feature ballet folklorico, live bands, a lowrider car exhibit and a children's art workshop led by muralist Victor Ochoa.
“Chicano Park: Aztlán’s Jewel & a National Chicano Treasure” is the theme of the 43rd annual Chicano Park Day to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 20. The event is free and open to the public.