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KPBS Midday Edition

With Landmark Status For Chicano Park, Boosters Renew Push For Museum

Mural in Chicano Park.
Angela Carone
Mural in Chicano Park.

With Landmark Status For Chicano Park, Boosters Renew Push For Museum
With Landmark Status For Chicano Park, Boosters Renew Push For Museum GUEST: Josephine Talamantez, member, Chicano Park Steering Committee

Maureen Cavanaugh recently spoke with the members of the Chicano community. One of the criteria for becoming a landmark is that the site tells a story that's important to the entire country not just a local community. How does Chicano Park story meet that standard? The way it meets the standard is that during the height of the Chicano civil rights era many of the community members were involved with Cesar Chavez and other issues affecting the Latino community nationwide at the time of the establishment of Chicano Park we were in the process of asking the city for a park because we had already experienced the loss of community because of interstate five going through the center of the community and then eventually the Coronado Bay Bridge also dissecting us one more time. The population of Logan Heights in particular went from about 20,000 residents in the 1970s and at that time when they were walking by the park they notice that they were great in the land and at that point they said they were going to build Highway Patrol station. So he started informing the community that again we were being bypassed and that they were building a Highway Patrol station and not the park to maintain some semblance of community that was left. The community became outraged and occupied the land and basically stop the builders and created a human chain around the bulldozers and occupied for 12 days. This became a tipping point in the relationship between the Mexican-American Chicano community and the powers that be in San Diego. You were part of the original protest the 1970 and now Chicano Park is a national historic landmark. What does this mean for you personally. For me personally I am honored I never thought that our story with the told and validated in such an honorable way in the nation. I had no idea. I always thought that growing up in Logan Heights that we really were pretty insignificant I was often referred to as Spanish and not Chicano or Mexican as if it was an insult even at the year in our family members standing up for our own self-determination and create in the spark that instilled a sense of pride in me that has transferred to my children who now have their own children and do not have their same start -- type of stigma How much of a parked you think the murals and Chicano Park and its historical significance. It is very significant when we went forward with the national registered within the murals. That was intentional because the murals -- the California Department of Transportation came down to assess the area in the 90s after than to with all [Indiscernible] they picked up the historian at the airport and told him that there were going to drive a very dangerous area and look at graffiti and walls and that they were not going to stop he was very confused. That drove him by the told him to stop and I did not want to stop and they were afraid of the area they had the stigma of Logan Heights. He demanded that they stop and he got out and was walking through the murals and internationally recognized artist such as Garcia or Joe and Mario to reroute and the Royal Chicano airports the came back and told them this is not graffiti and walls. It was not significant that the murals play an important role He talked to us last year about efforts to open a Chicano Park Museum. Why is that important? It is extremely important because the Museum and cultural Center has been and the making for over 10 years. We now have a website that has been collecting oral histories of many of the elders in the community that are now gone. The Chicano Park Museum and cultural Center will focus on art, history, and science. Josephine do you think that this new national landmark designation will make the effort to create that Museum any easier? I am hoping so we are working with many members of the city Council and the Mayor's office and real estate assets and San Diego Parks and Rex to determine a process to turn it over to this nonprofit organization and the community.

From an undeveloped site occupied by protestors in the 1970s to a National Historic Landmark, Chicano Park has had an extraordinary history. It was already part of the National Register of Historic Places when it was named last week to the far more exclusive landmark designation. Chicano Park advocates are hoping for one more prize for the park: a Chicano Park museum.

The Chicano Park Steering Committee has been trying for more than a year to lease a vacant city building on the edge of the park for use as a museum. Advocates claim the building was leased to the San Diego Community College District for nearly 40 years with the understanding that it would eventually be turned into a community center. The district left the building in 2015.

Steering Committee member Josephine Talamantez said she hopes the landmark status improves the chances the city avoids a public bid process that could put the building's lease out of reach.

"We’re working different members of the city council and the mayor’s office…to determine a process that will turn that building over to this nonprofit organization that is serving the community," she said.

The mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Talamantez joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on Chicano Park's national importance.