I spent very interesting three hours last Saturday in Chicano Park, Barrio Logan, San Diego with the artist and muralist master Salvador Torres. He took us around the park and explained the history of the park whilst we were taking photos of the place.
Before the photos, here’s a short history of the park for you in case you are interested in knowing more. (Reference: http://www.chicanoparksandiego.com/).
Americans had settled in Barrio Logan as early as the 1890s and at one point in its history, Barrio Logan had contained the “second largest Chicano Barrio community on the west coast, with a population of almost twenty thousand.” The barrio had originally extended to the waterfront, where there had been a local beach and a community pier.
After the U.S. Navy and defense industries moved in along the shores of San Diego Bay Barrio Logan lost access to the waterfront. In the 1950s the city of San Diego changed the zoning laws, from residential to industrial. Building the Interstate 5 and opening the Coronado Bay Bridge with its on-ramps and support pylons piercing the heart of the barrio caused dislocation of families and business closures, and by 1979 the population the barrio had declined to approximately five thousand residents. City, state, and federal governments had dictated the policies of change in Barrio Logan; there had been no local discussions regarding community and neighborhood planning. Residents had not realized they could petition and express their opinions.
In 1967, feelings of resignation and hopelessness began to change to those of empowerment, as community leaders began to demand a neighborhood park under the bridge pylons. Their demands were met, as the state of California agreed to lease to the City of San Diego the piece of land underneath the bridge in Barrio Logan for a neighborhood park.
Barrio Logan born artist Salvador Torres was first in rage to see the changes in his neighbourhood but his ‘artistic sensibility’ eventually overtook that of indignant citizen, as he began to observe the bridge in a different light, as an art object in itself providing concrete canvases. He began to sketch the designs that one day might cover their surfaces. Chicano Park Monumental Public Mural Program was conceived by Torres in 1969 and he is generally referred to as the architect of the dream of Chicano Park. The park 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.