After 50 Years of Murals at Chicano Park, New Generation Takes Up the Fight and the Paint Brush

by on May 4, 2023 · 1 comment

in Civil Disobedience, History, San Diego

By Katie Hyson / KPBS / April 25, 2023

Nearly everyone passing through Chicano Park calls out to the park’s cofounder Josephine Talamantez, who squeezes them tight and asks after their families. Highway pillars surround them, covered in colorful murals. From the time of Spanish conquistadors to the present, they depict a single message of Chicano resilience and self-determination: “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos.” “We’re here, and we’re not leaving.”

The space was born from this refusal.

In the 1960s, Logan Heights was a mostly Chicano community segregated from the rest of San Diego by redlining. The residents couldn’t obtain loans to live elsewhere. And then, like many states around the country, California built a highway and bridge right through the community of color — which had less resources to fight back — dividing it in half.

Talamantez estimated that three-fourths of the community was displaced. She said the highway cut off remaining residents of what was now called Barrio Logan from their church, library and post office.

They asked that the space underneath the Coronado Bridge be turned into a park in exchange for this loss. The city agreed. But when bulldozers arrived on April 22, 1970, they weren’t there to create a park, but a highway patrol station.

A witness walked to City College and found Talamantez and her Chicano studies classmates to tell them what was happening. They rose, marched the two miles back and placed their bodies in front of the bulldozers.

“We were going to create our own park, because we had gotten tired of being disrespected and basically treated like we had no place in our country,” Talamantez said.

The irony of the date is not lost on Talamantez — on the very first Earth Day, the protestors risked jail time for trying to build a park. Within a couple hours, Talamantez said a couple hundred people gathered. “It spread like wildfire,” she said.

The occupation would last 12 days before the city began negotiating, but Talamantez said she knew they won from the start. “We were not going to leave. Simple as that,” she said. They did win, and worked together to build their park.

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Frank Gormlie May 4, 2023 at 11:22 am

I was proud to be at the Chicano Park take-over with several OB radicals — and not at the first San Diego Earth Day.


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