While watching a show on the Travel Channel about San Diego several years ago, a segment covered many different sites to see in the City. One that caught my interest was what was going on in the Barrio Logan Neighborhood. Murals. Murals everywhere under a bridge. The next shot showed some iconic Low Riders and that was the end of that segment. Intrigued I did a search on ‘murals in San Diego’ and found a website that was dedicated to this project. I knew that on my next visit to San Diego, I had to check this place out, it looked fascinating. I am so glad that I did because it is a remarkable place.
It took some doing finding the area and once I did, I admit, I was a little hesitant to get out of the car. I was the only white person around anywhere as I drove down the streets in search of the park itself. I was in the Barrio after all and admittedly, ‘the barrio’ conjured up all sorts of preconceived notions from too many movies and TV. It was still early in the morning and there were the usual array of homeless camped out in various spots under the bridge. Curiosity got the best of me, and because I am not normally deterred by going into areas alone, I parked the car as soon as this image drew my focus.
As I got out of the car I was amazed at the artwork everywhere I looked. Every surface seemed to be covered. Wow…..
In the late 1960’s, during construction of the Coronado Bay Bridge, the city of San Diego promised the community of Barrio Logan that a section of land beneath the bridge would be set aside for a community park. Instead plans were made to build a California Highway Patrol station on the site. In April of 1970, when workers arrived to begin excavating the land, members of the community gathered at the site and formed a human chain to stop the construction.
The colorful park underneath the Coronado Bridge and Interstate 5 interchange is known for its elaborate murals of Mexican-American life. The pillars in Chicano Park are not just supports for a bridge any more. They now represent works of artists over a period of nearly 4 decades. The murals combine with the surrounding land to form a powerful art that communicates not only ancestral history, but the long and often turbulent history of Chicano Park itself. It is the largest collection of Chicano Murals anywhere in the world according to Chicano Park Historical Documentation Project website. Just another reason why it is so important to maintain this beautiful park and the murals contained within it.
The Chicano Park Steering Committee, CPSC, was formed in 1970. It is an organization of volunteers to make sure that the original goals will never be forgotten nor abandoned. The park is listed on the National Register of Historical Places as of 2014. This is an huge win for the Community and all those involved over the years in this project.
Come take a walk with me as I wander around. Is this Aztec Archer magnificent or what?
The telling of their history, hardships and triumphs can be seen in these paintings. As I get older and I visit different cities around the United States, I so wish that I had paid closer attention in History classes. So many things that I have seen over the years would make so much more sense if I knew just what it was I was looking at, and the significance of what I am seeing!
I was pretty awestruck without knowing much of the meaning behind the murals that I saw. However, I could certainly feel the power in these paintings. I could feel the struggles of the people. The pride of the people of the Barrio Logan community lept off the ‘canvas’. I don’t read Spanish so I couldn’t understand what I was reading as some of the murals do include written words. But really, the art says it all, all you have to do is look. They are so powerful. Each one is so thought provoking.
“All The Way To The Bay” is not just a catchy phrase referring to the ambitions, it represents the community’s aspirations and dream that someday such a park will be a vibrant cultural and recreation center for all people to appreciate and enjoy. The goal is that some day it would be possible to walk from the edge of Interstate 5 to the San Diego Bay with out ever leaving the park.
While walking through the park, I saw this man working on one of the murals. I watched him from a distance for awhile, gathering the courage to approach him. Not because I was afraid, but because I felt as though I would be intruding, a feeling that I usually have when I see an artist at work. I asked him if he minded if I took some pictures of him working. He told me in a very quiet voice, ‘No, not at all.’ How fortunate for me 🙂 I just stood and watched for awhile longer, memorized by his art. Again, I couldn’t help but be drawn in to the work. I can’t wait to return to see the finished project.
Despite the sounds of laughter from a few small children playing nearby, the roar of cars on the bridge above, I still felt as though I were in a chapel. I was filled with a feeling of reverence. As far as I was concerned, I was in a chapel, it just happen to be outside!
This truly is a very special place. Remembering when the park was started and the ‘air’ of the times, yes there are images and people depicted that some may not approve of. My personal choice is to not get caught up in the political and/or cultural issues and differences that surround the park. I simply enjoyed and appreciated what each of the artists has done. What it seemed to me was the Community keeping its history alive. Educating others through their art about who they were and are. To me it was a demonstration. A peaceful demonstration rather than a violent one. I can get on board with that!
I urge you to take the time to visit if you are ever in the area – see for yourself. I look forward to my next trip to see what has been added as there were still several pillars that had not yet been painted. Perhaps I will be able to walk All The Way To The Bay.
Information for this blog was found at the following websites