Chicano Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of Chicano murals, turns 52

Chicano Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of Chicano murals, turns 52

As the sounds of hip hop and soul music vibrate through Chicano Park in San Diego, friends Robert Jones and Ramon Farias practice breakdancing together for the first time in years. The pair were a part of a breakdancing group in high school. “We hope to keep this up and see each other more often, too,” Farias says. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

As the sounds of hip hop and soul music vibrate through Chicano Park in San Diego, friends Robert Jones and Ramon Farias practice breakdancing together for the first time in years. The pair were a part of a breakdancing group in high school. “We hope to keep this up and see each other more often, too,” Farias says. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

SAN DIEGO – In the Logan Heights neighborhood of this border city, generations have worked to preserve Chicano Park, a haven of Mexican American art and culture that boasts the highest concentration of Chicano outdoor murals in the world.

Sitting one recent day on a grassy expanse in the park, Caroline Camargo spread her art across the lawn to enjoy the beloved park her father, Arturo Camargo, helped protect in April 1970 when he and his neighbors in Barrio Logan formed a human chain to prevent bulldozing for a new California Highway Patrol substation.

“My dad was a rebel and I’m just his offspring. So I just take on his job now,” Camargo said.

For 12 days, residents of Barrio Logan – San Diego’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood – occupied the park. They formed the Chicano Park Steering Committee, which negotiated with the city and state to protect the land, establishing a park for future generations and eventually recognizing the space as a national historic landmark. Today the park sprawls beneath highway ramps on the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

The statue of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata stands tall in San Diego’s historic Chicano Park. The statue was created by artist Arturo Ruano Singh to honor a hero in the Mexican Revolution of 1910. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Left: San Diego activist and professional artist Mario Torero has painted many murals around Chicano Park. The muralist, who grew up in the area and raised social awareness for the park in the 1970s, has taken it upon himself to help with the park’s artistic upkeep. Center: Although some may look to a park for a quiet stroll, Chicano Park is located under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. Photo taken April 20, 2022. Right: This skull sculpture at the Chicano Park fountain is by artist Raul Jaquez, who has created many sculptures and murals for Barrio Logan. (Photos by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Camargo often spends time in the park, which celebrates Chicano activism and Mexican culture through murals depicting stories and icons of Mexican American history. Other residents celebrate the colorful space by utilizing the playground or using the artistic spaces under murals to honor loved ones who have died.

Because generations of Logan Heights families have worked hard to protect the park, California members of Congress in recent years have tried to preserve the park through federal legislation.

Although COVID-19 has affected in-person celebration of the park’s anniversary, events have been held online.

After protecting Chicano Park in the 1970s, Arturo Camargo promoted the murals that today make the space special. After seeing graffiti coat the artwork in her neighborhood, Caroline Camargo, Arturo’s daughter, helped restore this mural. “I am an advocate for Chicano Park,” she says. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Barrio Logan resident Caroline Camargo proudly showcases her art in the sun for the rest of the park to see. “I was born and raised here. I’ve been here my whole life,” Camargo says. Proud to call Chicano Park her own, Camargo volunteers to help the park wherever it’s needed. “People come all the time and try to whitewash our walls, but you can’t do that,” she says. “This is our heritage, this is who we are. So everything I do, I do for the kids and for the next generation.” (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Although his breakdancing group dispersed after high school, Robert Jones remains keen on staying active and practicing his moves. He hopes that practicing in the public space of Chicano Park will inspire others to participate in the sport as well. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

With many jumps, kicks and headspins, Ramon Farias uses a spot in Chicano Park to practice his breakdancing skills. “I think a lot of people have used this space to dance in the past. Before the pandemic, there used to be groups of people practicing, and kids of all ages, and now it seems like the area is losing that,” Farias says. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Adam Klistoff uses his lunch break to work on his skateboarding skills at Chicano Park. Klistoff says he hadn’t skated in 10 years but because Chicano Park is so close, he is using lunch breaks to resume one of his favorite hobbies. “The sun isn’t hitting us, the wind is breezing over, it’s just a good day,” Klistoff says. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Lauren Lively

News Visual Journalist, Los Angeles

Lauren Lively expects to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. She is working for the L.A. news bureau.

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