Know Your Roots Chicano Park

Chicano Park is a historical landmark in Barrio Logan, San Diego. Many people visit Chicano Park because it is seen as a celebration of Mexican-American culture but do not realize that in fact Chicano Park is a direct result of gentrification.

Barrio Logan

Barrio Logan was at a time a predominately Mexican-American neighborhood in Logan Heights near downtown San Diego's waterfront. Mexican-Americans settled in Barrio Logan as early as 1890.

From 1910 to 1920 migration increased in Barrio Logan because of the poor conditions they were suffering in Mexico. At one point in Barrio Logan's history it was home to the second largest Mexican-American population in the West coast with about twenty thousand Mexican-Americans.

The Controversy

In the 1960's Interstate 5 was built right through Barrio Logan, as a result Barrio Logan was separated from the larger community of Logan Heights. A couple years after Interstate 5 was created the construction of the Coronado Bridge began linking downtown San Diego to wealthy Coronado Island, and in the process displacing many homes and businesses in Barrio Logan.

According to Victor Ochoa, a Chicano Park mural coordinator from 1974 to 1979, "They threw Interstate 5 in the barrio, taking something like 5,000 families out of the barrio".

Not only was the construction of the Coronado Bridge a huge hit to Barrio Logan but also at the time new zoning laws were put in place. Because of the new revamped zoning laws Barrio Logan was changed from a strictly residential neighborhood to mixed use neighborhood such as auto junk yards, and industrial plants. Between both the zoning laws and the influx of these junk yards and industrial plants helped the dislocation of businesses and homes just like the construction of Coronado bridge.

By 1979 Barrio Logan's population had fallen from a pre-World War II high of 20,000 to only 5,000 residents.

Emergence of Chicano Park

In 1967 feelings of anger and empowerment arose in the community, and demanded to have a park under the Coronado Bridge pylons. After a two year fight Barrio Logan's demands for a park were finally met.The State of California agreed to lease a 1.8 acre parcel of state land to the city of San Diego to build a park. For five months residents of Barrio Logan waited anxiously for the construction of the park to start.

On April 22, 1970 bulldozers finally appeared under the pylons, but residents were shocked and furious to find out that the bulldozers were there to construct a California Highway Patrol station instead of their neighborhood park .By 7 a.m the next day demonstrators appeared forming a human chain around the bulldozers to stop the development of the police station. A wide variety of people went to in the community and even people from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara went to support the residents of Barrio Logan.

Even though the city had promised the land to the residents the land actually belonged to the California Highway Patrol. Residents of the neighborhood were outraged felt they had been deceived. The protest stopped the bulldozers and Councilman Leon Williams took noticed. He held a meeting with Barrio Logan residents and about 200 other protestors. When residents and protestors met with councilmen and women they vowed they were going to have that park no matter the cost.

At the council meeting one San Diego State student stated, "The word culture is used. To you culture means Taco Bell and the funny Mexican with-, the funny songs. We gave you our culture of a thousand years. What have you given us? A social system that makes us beggars and police who make us afraid. We've got the land and we are going to work it. We are going to get that park. We no longer talk about asking. We have the park."

A couple of months later the city of San Diego came to an agreement with the California Highway Patrol to relocate the station.On July 1. 1970. a $21~814.96 contract was authorized by councilmen for the development of the 1.~-acre parcel of land for a park in Barrio Logan, whose lease had been approved by the state in July of the previous year. The site would be graded. and sidewalks, a sprinkler system, and drinking fountain would be installed. The soil would be prepared for landscaping. The area to be developed faced the area now in dispute. City Manager Walter Hahn stated that the city intended to acquire this land to expand the park under the Coronado Bridge. The Chicano Park Steering Committee had prepared a model to illustrate the concept of a community park, and had informed the Department of Parks and Recreation of the desired name for the park, Chicano People's Park. Agreement between the city and state regarding the city's acquisition of state land in Barrio Logan was acknowledged on July 2. Meno Wilhelms, Assistant City Manager, presented a letter from the state to the City Council for approval of the terms. City Manager Walter Hahn was selected to sign the agreement and to participate in the negotiations of the final contract.

As you can see Chicano Park means more then just some pretty murals under a bridge. Chicano Park celebrates Mexican-American heritage it was a hard fought battle to create Chicano Park. From protestors creating human chains to gentrification which is still happening now. Many people are unaware of the battle people went through to have this park.

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