Wednesday, June 25, 2014

CHICANO PARK--"THE MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS"


      I have seen glimpses of colorful murals when passing by Barrio Logan; however, I have never taken the time to stop and visit. I decided that today was the day to explore this unusual place that claims 72 
Chicano murals. It's a sunny day, but most of this park is shaded from the bridges above. It is noisier than most parks due to the nearby interstate. A small parking lot and street parking are available.
     The Barrio Logan area of San Diego was originally settled by Mexican American immigrants in the late 1800s; it is now home to the unique Chicano Park, which displays the nation's largest collection of outdoor murals. What makes the display particularly interesting is the fact that it is under the many ramps that merge onto the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. With the arches and pylons going in various directions, and 72 colorful murals painted on the walls, trusses, pylons, arches, overhangs, restrooms, and curved bridges, it is a remarkable sight. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
     In addition to the artwork, the park provides a children's playground, benches, picnic tables, sculptures, gardens, fountains,and a place of rest and relaxation for many.
     This area was called the East End in the late 1800s when it was settled by Mexican American immigrants. The name changed to Logan Heights in 1905. It eventually became known as Barrio Logan. This was a growing area that flourished during WW II with a population of 20,000. However, in the 1950s the area was rezoned as industrial, and the population began to decline. This was followed by the bisection of the barrio by Interstate 5 in 1963, and the Coronado Bridge construction in the late 1960s. By 1979, the population had declined to 5,000, and sadly many homes had been demolished.
     It was in 1967 that the residents began demanding a neighborhood park under the bridge. Two years later, the pleas for a park were met, and a 1.8 acre parcel was approved. It would be located at the east approach to the bridge between Logan and National Avenues. When bulldozers appeared on the adjacent property in 1970 to begin grading for a police substation, almost immediately, hundreds of local residents, students and community activists gathered to demonstrate. A human chain was formed around the bulldozers and the construction ceased. The victorious community raised a Chicano flag and then proceeded to plant the area with trees and cacti.
     The addition of the murals is due to the determination of Salvador Torres, a local artist, who decided to convert his disdain for the bridge pylons into something positive. In 1969, he expressed his vision of local Chicano painters and sculptors turning the bridge pylons into things of beauty, reflecting the Mexican American culture. Finally, after three years of lobbying and planning, they received permission, and painting began in 1973. Torres is described as the “architect of the dream” for his role in inspiring and launching the project.

     The murals, painted by local artists, reflect Chicano life, history, and mythology. The use of murals as a tool of political resistance is a long Mexican tradition. One of the most popular murals in the park is Colossus (1974) by Mario Torero. It is an image of Atlas, from classical mythology, supporting one the the bridge exit ramps.
     Chicano Park continues to be a source of pride for the many who have worked for its existence. It is a symbol of what can be achieved by those who fight for what they believe in, and a special place that should be seen and enjoyed by visitors to San Diego and locals as well. I look forward to bringing future visitors to the park and plan to attend the next annual Chicano Park Day celebration April 25, 2015.

   
 
 
 
 












                            



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