By Gail Pérez / La Prensa San Diego / Originally published July 8, 2011
In 1970 when the Chicano community took over the land under the Coronado Bridge and demanded that a long-promised park finally be constructed in the Logan Heights neighborhood, park activist José Gómez announced to the world that anyone attempting to take the land from the community would have to “wade through our blood.”
On any given day in Chicano Park, his words sound far away. The park is mostly quiet—a flock of elementary students following their teacher to playground swings, so-called homeless folks relaxing on benches, and José Mendoza tending the remarkable stand of roses at the base of La Virgen de las Americas mural. Many of the most historic murals from 1973-1975 like Women Hold Up Half of Heaven are fading and damaged. But on June 20, 2011 five of the original artists—Felipe Adame, Victor Ochoa, Norma Montoya, Guillermo Rosette, and Michael Schnorr—put paint to concrete and began the most ambitious restoration project in the park’s history. After eleven years of wading through bureaucratic red tape, a $1.6 million federal grant, approved in 2002, has finally been implemented with the cooperation of the Chicano Park Steering Committee.
Guillermo Rosette, restoring the Chicano Park Takeover mural, defines this moment’s importance:
“In history, we are the first artists to restore our own murals.”
Rosette worked on the very first murals in 1973, and he brings the memory of that time to restore not only the vivid orange sky of the mural but also its significance and energy. Unlike other important mural projects in Mexico during the Revolution and in the US during the New Deal, Chicano Park muralism is grassroots; yet it has become one of the most important sites in the world. The people power that Rosette’s mural memorializes—the community’s direct action to take the land—is the same spirit responsible for the artwork.
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