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Barrio Logan Celebrates Murals, Chicano Park’s 43rd Anniversary

Evening Edition

Aired 4/17/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


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 artist Felipe Adame, at 10 year anniversary of Chicano Park

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.

Soon, there will be a new landmark in the neighborhood. An 80-foot-wide community sign is going up by 2014 next to the recently opened Mercado Del Barrio.

Restored version of first mural painted at Chicano Park. "The Return of Quetzalcoalt", 1973

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.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | April 17, 2013 at 2:41 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | April 18, 2013 at 11:49 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

I have always found Chicano Park to be out of place. Aztecs were never in San Diego and Hispanics have virtually no connection to them. Aztecs would likely find Chicano Park to be quite offensive.

But some social groups invent connections to ancient cultures as a way to make their lives seem a little more interesting.

That's why I think we should set up a Viking mural on the other end of the Coronado Bridge. Vikings were never in Coronado, but it would be fun to pretend as they do on the other side.

We could sing songs to honor Thor in Japanese and pay tribute to Valhalla by flying Brazilian flags while eating Norse-Thai food. In a few decades of fierce devotion, nobody will question our invented cultural history.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | April 18, 2013 at 3:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Sorry for my slightly crass comment. What I meant to say is I have never felt that the area around chicano park was very safe or family friendly, even today. If I am in the area I have to keep an eye out for gang members who think my shirt is the wrong color. Why would anyone want to go somewhere like that?

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | April 18, 2013 at 4:11 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

"Chicano Park is now considered a jewel and a source of community pride."

Umm.... has the author ever been there? How is "jewel" defined? Maybe it is a source of gang member pride.

Every time I hear people praising Barrio Logan and Chicano Park, my ears perk up because I am expecting a punch line.

Most people who grew up around here in bad neighborhoods, going to public schools and getting beat up or threatened with knives and guns by these gang affiliated, Mexican kids from Logan know that Logan is no Jewel. It is the last place you want to go if you don't belong.

For those who disagree, here is a good way to test whether or not Chicano park is wonderful place: show up at Chicano park wearing your choice of all blue or all red. Make sure your shoe laces match the rest of your outfit. Just hang out and see what happens. If you last more than 30 minutes, I will change my opinion.

Here is another test: show up and play basketball, and see if you can shoot some hoops incident free. You can wear whatever you like.

One final test for the white, middle class family: Bring your young kids and have a nice family picnic there on a Friday after work.

Who knows, maybe this place has completely transformed 100% and all the gang members and thugs have permanently relocated far away. But I seriously doubt it.

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