SAN DIEGO, California — The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that the site of 1970 Latino protests in San Diego, known as “Chicano Park,” had received designation as a National Historic Landmark, along with 23 other U.S. sites.
The southern California park has its roots in a protest occupation that opposed the construction of a California Highway Patrol substation there, according to the website chicanoparksandiego.com. The National Park Service (NPS) states that the park is “closely associated with the local Chicano Civil Rights Movement in San Diego.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior stated, “Representative of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Chicano Park has become a cultural and recreational gathering place for the Chicano community and is the location of the Chicano Park Monumental Murals, an exceptional assemblage of master mural artwork painted on the freeway bridge supports.”
Murals include depictions of Cesar Chavez, Che Guevara and Pancho Villa, among others, according to the National Register of Historic Places registration form for Chicano Park. The form reads, in part:
These murals and their iconography depict images of Mexican pre-Columbian gods, myths and legendary icons, botanical elements, animal imagery, the Mexican colonial experience, revolutionary struggles, cultural and spiritual reaffirmation through the arts, Chicano achievements, identity and bicultural duality as symbolized in the search for the “indigenous self,” Mexican and Chicano cultural heroes and heroines such as La Adelita, Cesar Chavez, Father Miguel Hidalgo, Che Guevara, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, and scenes based on contemporary Chicano civil rights history.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas of San Diego pushed a bill last year that was passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate never took up the bill, according to local Fox5 News. Vargas reintroduced the bill just last week.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement of the 24 new National Landmarks this week, stating:
These 24 new designations depict different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance,” said Secretary Jewell. “Their designation ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past as we preserve and protect the historic value of these properties and the more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide.
The National Historic Landmarks Program provides “states and local communities technical assistance, recognition and funding to help preserve our nation’s shared history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities,” according to the Department of the Interior.
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