Anniversary of the take-over of Chicano Park – April 22, 1970

by on April 22, 2010 · 10 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

Originally posted April 22, 2009

This was the day a new park was born, created out of the dirt of a Highway Patrol station. The people of Barrio Logan on this day seized land that was supposed to hold a CHP station. They made it into a park – Chicano Park – which today stands as an historic center for murals, art, Chicano and Mexican-American culture.

Chicano Park Takeover mural.

I was there that spring day.  We had formed a large circle, a couple hundred of us, around the dirt pile that stood in the center. At the given moment, we rushed forward and claimed the land. The rest, as they say, is history.  It did give me inspiration to do the same thing in Ocean Beach around some vacant city land in northeast OB.  It was almost a year later that OBceans took over what was to become Collier Park.  So, just remember – those of us who started the campaign for our own park were inspired by the folks of Barrio Logan.

Now of course, the park is world-renowned as a center of gorgeous and wonderful murals.

Here is an except from “The History of Chicano Park” by Jess Santos, describing that fateful day:

Taking a cue from Chicano activists, the people of Barrio Logan began making demands of their own, one of which was to obtain land to construct a large recreational park that they could call their own. The state of California granted them a tiny parcel of land, but it wasn’t enough for what they had envisioned, so they submitted a request to obtain all of the adjoined land under the bridge. They patiently waited for a response.

On April 22, 1970, bulldozers finally appeared on the site and began to level out a huge three-acre piece of land, but they weren’t there to extend the people’s park, they were there to begin construction of a California Highway patrol station. Mario Solis, a brown beret and student at San Diego City College, was the first to hear of the news.

Angered he immediately ran out and gathered all of the friends and family that he could and together they all rushed out to the site, formed a human chain and stopped the bulldozers right in their tracks.

The Chicano Flag was raised and the land was seized.

Mike Amador, director of the Community Action Council in that area, expressed the community consciousness that demonstrations would continue, and that the city had been deceived by the state as to the use of the land in question. Solis, explained that the demonstrators would return the following morning at 7:30 a.m. Students would not return to class, but would remain on site.

During the next few days an unprecedented number of students, community activists and raza’s from Barrios throughout San Diego and other parts of Aztlan united to protect their Tierra. The protesters began to work the land, planting trees and flowers. They withstood several standoffs with the police. After 12 days city officials agreed to sit down and negotiate. The people of Barrio Logan finally got the green light to build their park, Chicano Park.

Celebrations of Chicano Park Day began in 1971 to commemorate the park takeover on April 22, 1970. One thousand people attended the first celebration which included cultural events and political speeches. Chicano Park Day is a symbol of community organization fighting to save a culture and a neighborhood, and should provide a positive example to other neighborhoods within San Diego that are fighting to stay alive.

For the remainder of the article, go here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frank Gormlie April 22, 2009 at 9:36 pm

The original Earth Day was also held on April 22, 1970, I believe. I just realized that’s why I wasn’t at it – I was at the Chicano Park take-over.

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avatar OB Joe April 22, 2009 at 10:01 pm

we’ll always be indebted to the people of Barrio Logan for their example. thank you. Chicano Park is an amazing place, and if you’ve never been there you are missing out an important slice of San Diego’s life, politics and history.

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avatar ruben April 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I was there, from the march on broadway to the actiual take over..heady times.. i do believe i am the only one whao has pics of the march, down market, and the actual birth of chicano park..pics are faded, and ive surprissingly keep them all this time..many in the pics didn’t survive the journey..

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avatar xicano vince September 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm

please copy them? i would love to see those pics!!!! im from san diego, im a brown beret, and a good friend to people who were there at the takeover.

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avatar xicano vince September 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm

contact me at brownberets.blogspot.com asap please.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 23, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Ruben – the OB Rag could try to scan them, so there would be duplicates – electronic at least. If you’re interested, email me at the blog’s email address: obragblog@gmail.com

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avatar annagrace April 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

Today, April 25, is Chicano Park Day. The battle for Chicano Park didn’t end 39 years ago. When Cal Trans began retrofitting bridges for earthquake safety in the mid 1990’s, the Coronado Bridge was on the project list. And Cal Trans stated that the murals could not be saved. The subsequent battle for Chicano Park took place inside of meeting rooms with the community and Cal Trans. Cal Trans of course said this was unfortunate y but….we’re just doing our job to keep the people safe. None of their engineering experts could figure out how to complete the retrofit and save the largest assemblage of Mexican murals outside of Mexico City. A resident, whose name I do not know, an abuela, no less, suggested a way to accomplish the retrofit without the destruction of the murals. (Cal Trans District 11 Director Pedro Orso-Delgado provided this anecdote to City Heights residents who were advocating for innovative solutions to our own Cal Trans “problem”- Highway 15 which cuts right through the heart of our community.)

If anyone knows the name the name of the woman who provided the solution, please fill in the blank. And ask Cal Trans to fire a few engineers and hire her.

The ongoing story of Chicano Park bears out Jefferson’s sentiment that the “price of democracy is eternal vigilance.” I acknowledge not only the people’s victory at Chicano Park, but their vigilance.

Here’s a brief history of the park from Calaca Press.

http://www.calacapress.com/cpsc/cpscbattleof.html

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

See? It’s great to have been a blog around for awhile. On historic dates, we can just post last year’s blog of the event. Again, an old OB Rag saying: If ya don’t like the news, go make your own. We made history that day, April 22, 1970. 40 years ago.

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avatar rak April 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

There’s a Chicano Park mural map showing the location and a brief description of the 73 murals posted at: http://www.calacapress.com/cpsc/cpmap.html

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avatar Ernie McCray April 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Now: All the way to the bay!

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