The Chicano Park Historical Documentation Project

I n t r o d u c t i o n

........The Chicano Park Historical Documentation Project Committee, in conjunction with San Diego State University, is seeking support and funding for a multi-phased project focusing on the comprehensive documentation of the art, history, and culture of Chicano Park.

This unique project is Co-Directed by:

Kathleen L. Robles, M.A., Cultural Anthropologist, and
Richard Griswold del Castillo, Ph.D., Chicano Historian
(both from San Diego State University)
Any individual, business, or organization wishing to sponsor our efforts to make this long-awaited project a reality, may obtain additional information by contacting:
Kathleen L. Robles, project principal investigator
Office: (619) 542-0369
Email: krobles@mail.sdsu.edu
........The Chicano Park Historical Documentation Project is being undertaken at a very crucial time in the history of Chicano Park and the community of Barrio Logan. After Many long months of negotiating with the State Department of Transportation (CalTrans), numerous participants in the negotiation process are still somewhat concerned over the final outcome. CalTrans has devised an alternative method of retrofitting the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge for seismic safety, and officials say there will be minimal impact to the murals. However, we will not know exactly what type of impact this enormous project will have on the body of murals in Chicano Park, until completion of the retrofit.

........Though many residents of Barrio Logan, Chicano Park artists, scholars, community activists, and others consider the CalTrans decision a victory of sorts, they are proceeding with caution. Chicano Park houses the largest collection of Chicano murals anywhere in the world. The value of such a body of work has been notoriously overlooked and down-played for decades. The pillars in Chicano Park are not merely concrete and steel supports for a bridge, but diligently executed works completed by numerous artists over a period of nearly three decades. The murals combine with the surrounding land to form a powerful art pieced that communicates not only ancestral history, but the long and often turbulent history of Chicano Park itself.

........In the late 1960's, during construction of the bridge, the city of San Diego promised the community of Barrio Logan that a section of land beneath the bridge would be set aside for a community park. Instead plans were made to build a California Highway Patrol station on the site. In April of 1970, when workers with tractors and bulldozers arrived to begin excavating the land, members of the community gathered at the site and formed a human chain to impede the construction.

........This intense sense of pride, support, and loyalty to Chicano Park still exists today amongst the original Chicano Park artists, community activists, park supporters, scholars, and the neighborhood of Barrio Logan. Although many residents of (and visitors to) San Diego still remain unaware of the existence of the incredible murals and sculpture in the park. Instead they associate Chicano Park and the neighborhood of Barrio Logan with numerous negative connotations, primarily because of its high Latino population and lower income status. As a result, many people have missed out on a national treasure.

........The Chicano Park Historical Documentation Project will serve as a vehicle to document and disseminate information on the art, culture, and history of Chicano Park to a large audience through the execution of all three phases of the project:

Phase I.   Comprehensive Documentation Program
Phase II.  Two part symposia series
Phase III. Traveling exhibition

........We have received partial funding for Phase I, from San Diego Gas and Electric. All supporters will be acknowledged on all announcements, invitations, documentation, symposia and exhibition events, and other materials generated by this project.

........We are currently working on organizing the symposia series. The symposia panels will consist of community members, artists, and humanities scholars from a multitude of disciplines. Together, these individuals will address the topic of Chicano Park, its significance, and the ways in which it compares and contrasts to the history, art, culture, and political climate of other Chicano communities throughout the country. Any individual wishing to participate in the project may contact Kathleen L. Robles at the numbers listed above.

........One of the primary objectives of the symposia series is to unite humanities scholars artists, and community members from various ethnic backgrounds and levels of education in an atmosphere that will produce a free-flowing exchange of information, ideas, and culture. One of the symposiums will be held at a multi-ethnic cultural center (the Centro Cultural de la Raza), the other will be held at a university (SDSU). By holding the symposia in different locations, various communities will be brought together and symposia participants will experience an even greater multi-cultural exchange.

........Together, these community members, artists, and scholars from a multitude of humanities disciplines will address the topic of Chicano Park, its history, art, culture, and political climate. They will demonstrate the significance of Chicano Park and the ways in which it compares and contrasts to the history, art, culture, and political climate of other Chicano communities throughout the country.

........The 27 year history of Chicano Park and its monumental public mural program represent a long hard struggle for the individuals involved. A scholarly approach and thorough documentation program will help to disperse the information to areas outside of San Diego County and expand the recognition of Chicano Park, its history, culture, and collection of Chicano murals. The Museo del Pueblo, Chicano Park Historical Project symposia series will provide an exciting opportunity for Californians and others to understand the importance of this neglected cultural resource. By involving community members and artists with humanities scholars in a public forum, we feel that Chicano Park and its murals will receive the national and international respect and understanding they so richly deserve.

........The concept of El Museo del Pueblo originated in the 1970's as part of the "master plan" for Chicano Park. The plan also included a university, a mercado, and several other components. The idea was to create and build a museum adjacent to Chicano Park, which would house both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions focusing on the murals and history of Chicano Park, the neighborhood of Barrio Logan, and the art and culture of the Chicano / Mexican communities as a whole. Historical photographs and other material relating the story of Chicano Park would be placed on exhibit. The museum would serve as an educational enhancement and information center to all visitors who came to visit Chicano Park and view the murals in their unique open-air setting. The museum is still in the planning stage. Funding is being sought and construction is projected to coincide with the proposed Mercado Project scheduled to begin later this year.

........The Museo del Pueblo, Chicano Park Historical Project is being undertaken at a very crucial time in the history of Chicano Park and the community of Barrio Logan. Presently, the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge has been targeted as part of the State Department of Transportation's (CalTrans) seismic retrofit program. The proposed retrofit of this particular bridge poses a dilemma. The pillars in Chicano Park are not merely concrete and steel supports for a bridge, but diligently executed works completed by numerous artists over a period of 25 years. The murals combine with the surrounding land to form a powerful art piece that communicates not only ancestral history, but the long and often turbulent history of Chicano Park itself.

........In the late 1960's, during construction of the bridge, the city promised the community of Barrio Logan that a section of land beneath the bridge would be set aside for a community park. Instead plans were made to build a Highway Patrol station on the site. In April of 1970, when workers with tractors and bulldozers arrived to begin excavating the land, members of the community gathered at the site and formed a human chain to impede the construction.

........Nearly 26 years later, many of the original artists and community activists instrumental in the April 1970 takeover of the land on which Chicano Park was built are engaged in a heavy debate with CalTrans over the retrofit of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. The data and models presented by CalTrans to date show various degrees of impact to the park land and to the bridge pillars on which the Chicano Park Murals are painted. Many of these same folks are part of a special community advisory committee to CalTrans. The main goal is to work collectively with CalTrans officials in an effort to devise an acceptable plan for the proposed retrofit. The challenge lies in finding a design that will have minimal or no impact on the Chicano Park Murals and park land.

........It was decided by the community advisory committee to CalTrans and by countless others that a comprehensive historical and cultural documentation program must be implemented to assure scholarly documentation of the murals and the history of Chicano Park for future generations to utilize. Thus the Museo del Pueblo, Chicano Park Documentation Historical Project was initiated.