By Brent E. Beltrán
Since I live across the street from Chicano Park I sometimes take its beauty for granted. I see it every day as I exit my apartment complex’s parking structure. I see it when I do laundry. When I walk to Las Cuatro Milpas for my tortilla fix. Whenever I return home from wherever I’ve been. I live within its shadows and those that helped create the space.
It’s an ubiquitous presence in my Barrio Logan life. It’s always there. Standing proudly in the background of my existence. Because of that sometimes it all blends together. But not this coming Saturday, April 20. The annual Chicano Park Day Celebration is when Chicano Park is at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s a time to remember and celebrate the occupation of land and a community fighting for its dignity. It’s a time when the park shines from within the shadows of the San Diego Coronado Bridge.
I know what Chicano Park means to me. But I often wonder what does it means to others? I thought I’d ask a few people that question. What does Chicano Park mean to you? Here are their answers, in their own words and in their own linguistic style. After reading please make a comment below and let me know what Chicano Park means to you.
Chicano Park exemplifies a unique continuum of art, culture, history and politics that serves as an homage to a people engaged in an ongoing struggle for equality, respect and human dignity. It represents an historical roadmap of the trials and tribulations, celebrations and recognition of all that is CHICANA/O. With its beauty and splendor, the iconography, images, sculptures (and more) communicate messages to all of humanity through a universal language. This is a place, where the sacred and secular combine in syncretic harmony, where memorializing the past and present help to ensure the future. I am honored to know many of the individuals that helped create Chicano Park, to come from a city in which such a unique park exists, and to share in the classroom (and beyond), its importance with hundreds of college students each year. Que viva Chicano Park!
— Kathleen Robles, professor at City College
Chicano Park is, was and always will be the metamorphosis of my life–the jewel of Aztlan!
It represents the art, culture and history of Chicanos. Its listing on the National Register documents Chicano history beyond our own cultural borders.
Chicano Park is En La’Esh! El Es Dios.
— Josephine Talamantez de la Logan Y-Que!
Chicano Park is a Vortex of the Mexican and indigenous diaspora unifying the past with the present and the future. It undulates to a rhythm captured by the energy of El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido! It’s murals like monolithic spears jutting out of our sacred Madre Tierra proclaiming, “AQUI ESTAMOS Y NO NOS VAMOOOOOOS! It defies the Eurocentric models of education, and turns the four sterile walls of the classroom inside out. One need only stand at the kiosko facing any of the cardinal points to hear the echoing shrieks of our heroes — El Pueblo, The People proclaiming, VIVA LA RAZA as the chachayotes of our warrior danzantes spin like water to the center and back again, to the center and back again as do our children, our youth, and our elders, QUE VIVA CHICANO PARK!!!!!!!! Tierra Sagrada — CHICANO POWER!
— Mario Chacon, artist
Creative Barriologia desde El Ombligo De Aztlán
— Alberto López Pulido, USD Ethnic Studies Chair
Chicano Park, like some tattooed essential body part (an arm? a leg? my heart?), is the spiritual center of San Diego, California. A beating heart at the base of a gross superstructure, it works at the level of myth and memory to remind an all-too-often whitebread SoCal that the pulse of our cultural core is the obvious and subterranean conversation taking place between the United States and Mexico. From the ravages of “urban development” and “progress,” the murals of Chicano Park speak to a different audience, addressing the past and the future, our legacy and our destiny here on the West Coast of the US
— Dr. William “Memo” Nericcio, SDSU professor and artist
Chicano Park is the sacred center. It is where I went to learn and to see on the walls the history that is still being censored. It is a recuerdo, a memorial to the power of the people and a reminder that we have power in unity, even when we feel we do not. It gives hope to all who go there no matter the failings that we all have. The artists put their best selves on the walls.
— Gail Perez, professor of Ethnic Studies at USD
— Isaias Crow, artist
Before I moved across the street from Chicano Park, I thought it was only a place where old murals were on the stanchions of the Coronado Bridge. But now I know it is much more than just paint and memories. Chicano Park, and Barrio Logan to a greater extent, taught me the history of my people in our place. It showed me how the struggle of a determined few can alter the machinery of a privileged majority. Chicano Park stands as inspiration not just for Chican@s because el parque isn’t below stanchions of a bridge or the murals on the stanchion of a bridge but a stanchion for all people and all causes.
— David Tomás Martinez, writer
Chicano Park is a living canvas, a living text or codex, that carries with it much of the history of our people, both past and present history and that which has yet to be written, that is actively being written. Just as the kiosko is an ombligo to the park, in many was the park itself is an ombligo among many other ombligos to the broader history and struggles of Mexicana/o Chicana/o indigenous peoples.
— Roberto Hernandez, professor of Chicano Studies at SDSU
ha ha…what a question…. for me…. the park has been part of my personal development along with my community. as a artist when i look back at this …i first have to say….NO CENSORSHIP!!! to develop like this for over forty years…has opened up a POWER OF SELF, A POWER OF TRUTH….sprouting a garden of the spirit…EL ESPIRITU CHICANO… for ever. c/s
— Victor Ochoa, artist
— Carlos Beltrán, Voz Alta Project Gallery
It means home.
Full of memories…
Distant faces of people and experiences informed by history, cultura, struggle, cooperation, colors on the tip of Aztec feathers, drum beats on pylons
painting stories about barrio
warriors standing fearless in front of modern day Goliaths in police uniform.
It means my first kiss, my first dance, my first true love, my first child anointed in the water ceremony… yet it also means breakups and heartaches, too.
Chicano Park means OLLIN: Dualidad. Movimiento de mujer y hombre, luz y oscuridad, noche con día, harmonia y ceremonia, en balance la dignidad, la lucha, y el triunfo.
This is what Chicano Park means to me.
— Olympia Andrade Beltrán, artist and VP at Centro Cultural de la Raza
Chicano Park is the place I go to understand myself when I’m in doubt. The place I go when I feel oppressed. It is my home away from home.
— Francisca Orellana, artist
A place of belonging.
— Armando Nuñez, artist
It’s home… doesn’t matter where I was born, it doesn’t matter who calls me their own… I’ve felt the sun that shines on it, the rain that waters its grass and the stars that adorn it… con los homies, low riders, activists and we the people… sometimes with fists in the air, brushes or a beer in hand… in defiance or protest, in unity and celebration… in anger, sadness or happiness… and long after I’m gone… there will always be home.
— Pablo Pimentel, artist
Chicano Park is a living rebellion manifested through art, love and community. A sensory pictorial of our past, abounding opportunities for our present and aspiring possibilities for our many tomorrows.
— wika, xicana artivist
Coming from New Mexico to the Centro Cultural de la Raza in 1989, Chicano Park has always meant La Tierra Libertad! A place literally and symbolically of Affirmation and Resistance, the history and creation of the park an example of what being Chicana/o in San Diego, Califas, Aztlan is all about.
Chicano Park to me means La Gente and La Familia, a connection to people, some now gone, who have committed their lives to La Movimento to keep our space alive through place, through Arte, Cultura, and Celebration.
Chicano Park is home.
— Patricio Chavez, artist and professor
Chicano Park is the vanguard of rebellion against the machinations of the elite. A beacon of triumph and dignity flanked in the bay by the weapons of oppression.
— Rogelio Casas, artist and curator at Centro Cultural de la Raza
The original Chican@Park Artists which started in their early and late twenties, are now in their sixties as Roberto Torres is 75 years old. We know that we are the first pioneers of a new era, a manifest of a mayan/aztec prophesy that its the foundation of the Chicano Movement which prophesizes that every 500 years Quetzalcoatl returns to the earth to the people and just as that entity came 500 years ago in the form of death being the European Invasion. 500 years latter after that, just around this time, Quetzalcoatl returns again to a mystical place called Aztlan, which to us its Chicano Park and we all, the Chicano Movement its the spirit of Quetzalcoatl where the indigenous renaissance manifests into this new age of enlightenment, as the mayan prophesy of 2012 says and the whole world was aware of that. Thats why we came together again in 2012 to renovate this magical mural, that we entitled, “The return of Quetzalcoatl” and we documented it into a movie as a historical manifestation which we know will be watch 100 years, 300, 500 years from now and give testimony to our glorious past in the new present.
— Mario Torero, artist
The 43rd annual Chicano Park Day Celebration takes place this Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 10:00am until 5:00pm at Chicano Park underneath the San Diego Coronado Bridge. This free event features two stages of music, speakers, ballet folklorico, danza Azteca y más. Plus, a display of lowriders, a children’s art workshop led by Victor Ochoa, various informational booths and food, arts and crafts vendors. Featured musical acts include Quino & Friends, Agua Dulce, Cumbia Machin, Kid Frost, Los Románticos and Mariachi Imperial de San Diego among others. For more information visit www.chicano-park.org.