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San Diego Author Captures 'Spirit Of Chicano Park' In New Children's Book

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The book's release coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Chicano Park in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Chicano park celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. And to Mark the occasion, a new children's story tells the history of the park through the eyes of two children who move into body or Logan it's author B a Teresa Maura called Chicano park quote, a symbol of a community that found its voice with its powerful murals painted on concrete pillars under the interstate five freeway, the book, which is called the spirit of Chicano park inspired, beautiful illustrations by illustrator Myra Misa B, the Maura joins us now. Welcome Beatrice. Good morning has to be here and illustrator mighta Mesa is also with us. Thank you for being with us matter. Thank you for happiness. So Beatrice, you were born in Barrio Logan and have become a long time community organizer. What inspired you to write a children's book about the founding of the park?

Speaker 2: 00:50 Well, actually I was born in Barrio Logan and, uh, shortly after my birth, my parents moved to Los Angeles where I was raised when I came back to San Diego as a young adult. Um, I first became acquainted with Chicano park and I fell in love with the park. The first time I stepped foot on the land, I think learning about the history of a community that in many ways had been overlooked. Um, but they came together in unity and uh, they worked hard. They found their voice and they asked that San Diego city of San Diego help them build a park. So I was amazed at their fortitude and their resilience and the fact that they had been so successful in accomplishing their goal.

Speaker 1: 01:38 You wrote about the story, it's one of struggle. And one that includes a part takeover that lasted 12 days in a protest against the construction of a CHP patrol station. Right? How did you explain this, this history to young kids in your book?

Speaker 2: 01:52 The most important thing is to be honest and yet not complicate the dialogue too much. And so I wanted children to understand that this community had been a vibrant community for many, many years. Um, it was, uh, a Barrio that the folks who live there felt so proud to live there. They had everything they needed and, um, it was a vibrant neighborhood. And then when I five came through and the Coronado bridge was constructed, um, about 15,000 residents were displaced through the laws of eminent domain. So I thought it was important for children to understand that this park is a symbol of so much more than a lovely park to come and visit and enjoy, but it's also a symbol of a community's voice and their efforts to restore their community and to develop more self determination.

Speaker 1: 02:56 So tell us a little bit about Betty bunkie, the, the two, um, main characters in your book.

Speaker 2: 03:03 Well, Betty is a young girl who is not all that happy to be moving once again. And this time though, it's different because her parents have actually purchased a home and they plan to make body a Logan they're permanent residents. So she's, she's been through this before and, um, she's not so happy about leaving her school and her friends. Um, and then her mom has a great idea to take both bulky and, but the down the street to the, to a park that she had seen and, um, as they visit the park, they begin to realize the richness of the culture, the richness of the Vibrio and, um, the enjoyment that people have, uh, being part of this park and identifying with the park. And then the end of the story, they realize that they have a lot to be proud of and that the park represents not only their past their future. And they happy then to be a part of Barrio Logan.

Speaker 1: 04:13 So Mito the, the artwork in this book, cause as colorful as some of the murals in Chicago park itself, did you turn to those murals for inspiration?

Speaker 2: 04:21 Yes, absolutely. I will both be at Reese and I both felt strongly about the murals is it tells a history. Um, it tells the struggle and, and that was definitely something very, very important to include in the book, along with, um, all the names of the, of the well, most of the people that did some, some murals that we have some interviews at the back that are very important to include them include Patrizia Victor Choa. And some of those, uh, those big shots that are, that got to experience, especially Victor got to experience, um, the takeover and the murals is just, if you walk through them, you could just, it tells a story. You don't need anything to be printed. You just walk through it. And, and it tells you the story of the struggle of the community and the victory that we, we all get to experience, which is why it's so important to continue, continue this, and to inspire the youth, to learn about the takeover and everything that took place.

Speaker 1: 05:27 You know, the publishing industry has long been criticized for, for lack of diversity in children's books. And you actually self published through Toltec out press this book, which is bilingual. How do you think that having books that reflect your own culture affects a child's?

Speaker 2: 05:42 Well, I think it's paramount when they have literature in front of them where they can connect when they can see themselves in the book, it comes to life for them and becomes real. It becomes an inspiring moment for them to understand that education is for them too. And so to me, I've always felt I'm a former educator and I've always felt that it was really important for kids to, um, to see themselves not only in the, in the books and the literature and the movies that they're learning about, but in their teachers, in their role models, in the community. And to know that they can have a positive impact in their world and that some of the negative stereotypes that dominate the media and in other venues are not the whole picture. They may be a slice of who we are, but they're certainly not all of who we are.

Speaker 1: 06:34 I'd like to ask both of you. How do you think parents can use this book to teach kids about today's current protest movements against racial inequity?

Speaker 2: 06:43 Well, I think the book demonstrates that, uh, a community that felt, um, unempowered a community that felt that no one would listen to them, spoke up organized and realize that if they, they were persistent, if they persevered that they would be successful. And I think the current climate that we're living in, we've been dealing with these issues for forever all of my existence, but coming to a culmination of the black lives matter, that basically means that all lives matter. And that means all voices matter in this country. I use this book a lot. I teach classes online and a lot of our painters are our children. So I'm very excited that a lot of them got to have this in their hands and enjoy it. And, and you can, you can learn so much from it. It's just important that we continue to teach our children that, um, it's important to speak up for ourselves, for our communities and to learn about our culture and to stay involved with our cultures as well.

Speaker 1: 07:50 The name of the book is the spirit of Chicano park. And we've been speaking with its author, Beatrice Zamora. Thank you, Beatrice. Thank you. And the illustrator, Myra Misa. Thank you. Ma'am.

Speaker 2: 08:02 Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.