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San Diego's Chicano Park
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If you've never visited San Diego's Chicano Park, you might imagine that it is just another typical park: grass and trees, playgrounds and picnic tables, weekend gatherings of families and friends. However, unlike other parks, Chicano Park is steeped in a profound sociopolitical history of Chicano life in our city.

By Jordan Tresham and Tom Johnston-O'Neill
Photos by Shimona Carvalho


Local resident Mario Solis, who came to be known as the Paul Revere of Barrio Logan, went door to door to spread the word about the unfolding events that threatened the prospects for a park. He spoke out at a Chicano Studies class at City College and was able to recruit students to help reclaim the land. Throughout the day, as many as 150 angry residents and local activists gathered at site to confront the bulldozers. Several residents formed a human chain around the bulldozers. Others began planting flowers and cacti. The Chicano Park Steering Committee was formed to promote the cause of building their community park. In the evening, Councilman Leon Williams, who enjoyed wide support from the African-American and Latino communities and was the first black person to sit on the city council, held a meeting at the Barrio Logan community center. Other officials in attendance were Jacob Dekema, district manager for the Division of Highways, D. T. Donaldson, the supervising inspector of the highway patrol, Captain Vincent J. Her, and Lt. Larry Watching of the highway patrol, Pauline Des Granges, city director of parks and recreation, and Clinton McKinnon of the San Diego Urban Coalition. At the meeting, officials were told that the demonstration would continue until a compromise was negotiated. Jose Gomez, vice-president of San Diego City College and spokesman for the new Steering Committee, informed them that "the only way to take that park away is to wade through our blood." Artist Salvador Torres offered his vision of turning the bridge pylons into works of art reflecting Mexican-American culture.

During the occupation, women prepared meals for the demonstrators. Others came in from as far away as Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to support the cause. More trees, cacti, and flowers were planted. After twelve days, San Diego's assistant city manager Meno Wilhelms announced that an agreement with the state had been reached. The city finally agreed to search for another location for the parking lot, as long the residents called off their occupation. Two months later, after much debate between the city and the state, the land was allotted for Chicano Park.
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