A History of Mexican Americans in California:
Chicano Park-Logan Heights
Chicano Park, located under the Coronado Bay Bridge which connects San Diego proper with Coronado, is a 7.9-acre open space for residents of southwest San Diego. Mural art forms adorn the bridge support pillars. A kiosk resembling an Aztec temple is located in the park.
Chicano Park was the creation of a community that underwent many physical and psychological changes. Barrio Logan, a San Diego community numbering approximately 20,000, is a predominantly Mexican community which has been victimized by progress, pollution, and physical destruction in the last 30 years.
The waterfront community, known as Logan Heights since the 1930s, has been denied recreational use of the waterfront itself. First closed off during World War II, the waterfront has now been zoned industrial. Recreational use is prohibited.
Industries brought an estimated 50,000 jobs to the community, but residents say most of the jobs have gone to outsiders. The community lives with noise, traffic, and air pollution which endangers the residents, their lifestyles, and their future.
In the 1960s, Interstate 5 was built. The Coronado Bridge was added to a community already dotted with junkyards, auto-wreckers, factories, homes, and run-down properties owned by absentee landlords. In the process of adding the concrete highway structures, the community was bisected, and homes, gardens, and a people's way of life were damaged.
Attempting to restore some vitality to the neighborhood, residents asked the city to build a park where people could go and rest and where children could play. It was Mario Solis, a resident of the community who has since died, who found out that construction of a California Highway Patrol substation and parking lot had begun while the plea for a community park had gone unheard. Word spread across the barrio, and on April 22, 1970, the residents of Logan Heights walked down to the site under the Coronado Bridge with shovels, pickaxes, and rakes, and constructed a park for the community, halting construction on the CHP substation and giving birth to Chicano Park.
Chicano students from the area walked out of their respective schools en masse, and joined the community in claiming the land as a park to meet the needs of the community. April 22 was later proclaimed a Chicano holiday by school officials, thereby exempting the students from any repercussions for their role in the walkout and takeover of the land.
The Chicano Park area originally was a 1.6-acre site, enclosed by an offramp from the Coronado Bridge that channels traffic onto Interstate 5. The park epitomizes Barrio Logan's cultural, physical, and societal commitment to the area. It has also recorded a people's history in the murals painted on the pillars of the freeway.
Salvador Torres, an artist who grew up in the area, envisioned the murals as a monument to peace and a symbol for community rejuvenation. Local artists, as well as artists from Los Angeles and Santa Ana, and the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), a Sacramento-based Chicano art group, have added their visions to the columns.
Despite its recent designation as a historical landmark by the City of San Diego, Chicano Park remains in danger of being vandalized or destroyed just as its surrounding neighborhood, Barrio Logan, is in danger of obliteration as a result of continuing pressure for new urban and industrial development.
NEXT> Cottage Hotel Site