U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell designated 24 new National Historic Landmarks Wednesday, including Chicano Park in San Diego.
The park was the site of Latino community protests in 1970 that halted construction of a California Highway Patrol office on Barrio Logan property that the city had promised to use as parkland.
The park was eventually built under the mainland end of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and is now the site of numerous community festivals. The colorful murals of Chicano Park have long symbolized Barrio Logan's struggle.
“The murals depict that history from the 1970’s from the first takeover of the land, to the building of the park,” said San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez. “To the different fights, if you will, struggles that there have been in the community and that’s all depicted so you can walk through the park and walk through history in a way you can’t do anywhere else.”
“Our first murals were in the early 70’s so, you know, here was like a lot of different influences throughout those 46 years,” said Victor Ochoa, a painter who has painted a number of murals in the park. “You know different things to say, different styles but it all has the same basis of pride of the history of our community.”
A bill introduced by Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, that called on Jewell to study whether to make the park a landmark passed the House of Representatives last year but wasn't taken up by the Senate. He reintroduced it last week.
"The designation of Chicano Park as a National Historic Landmark is incredible news for the community of Barrio Logan in San Diego, the future of the park, and the many activists who throughout the years have advocated for a space where families can gather and where people can celebrate their shared cultural heritage," Vargas said.
"As a National Historic Landmark, Chicano Park will contribute to the diverse history of our nation for years and years to come," he said. "This designation will ensure that the story of struggle and unity of the Mexican-American community in Barrio Logan will continue to be told."
"I am very pleased to receive the news of the National Historic Landmark designation given to Chicano Park," Alvarez said. "Receiving this landmark status will help preserve this location for generations to come and further validate the communities' struggle for equality and social justice."
Among the other new landmarks are:
— the former Jackson, Mississippi, home of slain civil rights advocate Medgar Evers;
— the site where four Kent State students were fatally shot during a 1970 protest by members of the Ohio National Guard;
— the Neutra studio and residences in Los Angeles, also known as the VDL Research House, which are associated with Richard Neutra, a major figure of the 20th century modern movement in architecture; and
— Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel in San Jose, a key site in the Mexican American civil rights movement.
"These 24 new designations depict different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance," Jewell said. "Their designation ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past as we preserve and protect the historic value of these properties and the more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide."
According to the Interior Department, the landmarks program recognizes "historic properties of exceptional value to the nation" and promotes the preservation efforts of federal, state and local agencies and Native American tribes, as well as those of private organizations and individuals.