By Brent E. Beltrán
On Thursday, October 11 the architecturally aware people of San Diego got together to celebrate the annual Orchids & Onions awards at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. This annual event of architecture snobs serves as a fundraiser for the San Diego Architectural Foundation.
Local TV personality “Sam the Cooking Guy” Zien MC’d the ceremony that hands out Orchids to new architecture projects that the foundation likes and Onions to those they think, well, suck. This year’s program received 149 nominations. Of which 134 were for Orchids and 15 for Onions. Nineteen awards total were given out.
What makes this year’s event worthy of writing about in a column about Chicanos and Barrio Logan is that the foundation’s Grand Orchid, the top prize of the ceremony, was given to Chicano Park and the Mural Restoration Project. Normally they recognize buildings but this year they stepped outside their narrow box and gave the award to a public space. A Chicano one at that!
In the Orchids and Onions website the foundation states:
“The consensus of Orchids & Onions jury was that ‘the fact that the murals represent a space and not a building, as the center of culture, makes an important statement, especially given its location beneath the Coronado Bridge.’ These murals are a part of the unique cultural heritage of the city and provide a sense of pride for the neighborhood of Barrio Logan.”
Master muralist Victor Ochoa, a past Orchid recipient for his Geronimo mural on the outside of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, said to me, “One thing that is really important about the Grand Orchid is that the relationship between public art and architecture goes hand in hand. Something that some architectural purists don’t understand. After 42 years since the founding of Chicano Park our historical, cultural and artistic heritage will prevail.”
The murals of Chicano Park not only represent the culture and heritage of Chicanos, Mexicanos and Latinos they also represent our struggles as a community and as a people in the U.S. And these struggles continue (just ask anybody of Mexican descent who lives in Arizona).
From the inception of the park on April 22, 1970 to the present day Chicano Park is a shining example of what a community can do when they are determined and organized. Barrio Logan residents and activists joined forces to demand a public park instead of a California Highway Patrol substation. Through direct militant action and negotiations with the powers that be Chicano Park came to fruition. And now it is a beautiful sight to see.
Artist Mario Chacon stated a few months back when the project received a nomination, “Chicano Park is alive with color, cultura, and arte! …[I]t has been nothing short of [a] blessing to have contributed to the restoration of these marvels. Scholars and art aficionados from around the world [must] make sure to include the murals of San Diego’s Chicano Park on their must visit list, San Diegans would be wise to do the same.”
We’ve been here a long time and we aren’t going anywhere. So it’s about time our community gets recognized. Though we don’t seek recognition we appreciate it when we receive it.
Congratulations to all of the muralists and people behind the scenes for receiving this award. It is well deserved.
For more info on the 2012 Orchids & Onions award recipients visit http://www.orchidsandonions.
Brent E. Beltran is a third generation pocho that lives next door to Chicano Park in San Diego’s Barrio Logan. He’s the former publisher of Calaca Press, is married to Olympia Andrade Beltrán and is the proud father of Sandino “Dino” Tizoc Declan Beltrán. He’s an MMA junkie who likes to get his nerd on by watching superhero and sci-fi movies and tv shows while he’s not shouting at Republiklans for being blatant assholes and Democratas for being spineless chumps. He can be contacted through his Twitter handle @CalacaVato or on facebook.com/calacavato
Frank Gormlie says
Great post Brent, thanks so much. And welcome to the SDFP (I know this is your 2nd piece). Chicano Park is so important to the history of this region than any recognition it gets is good.