US Interior Department Designates Chicano Park a National Historic Landmark

The park in San Diego’s Barrio Logan is known for its vast collection of colorful murals and artwork dedicated to the cultural heritage of Mexican-American residents who live in the community

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior announced Wednesday that San Diego’s iconic Chicano Park has earned designation as a National Historic Landmark.

The park – located in Barrio Logan, beneath the Coronado Bay Bridge, about 4.5 miles southeast of downtown San Diego – is one of 24 new National Historic Landmarks designated by the Interior Department’s Sally Jewell. According to the department, the places chosen for the honor depict a broad range of America’s rich, complex history.

San Diegans know the park for its vast collection of colorful murals dedicated to the cultural heritage of the predominantly Mexican-American community that makes up Barrio Logan. Much of the artwork represents the struggle of the Chicano movement.

“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,” the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a press release Wednesday.

On April 20, 1970, San Diego residents occupied Chicano Park in a successful effort to prevent the construction of a California Highway Patrol substation on the land where the City of San Diego had promised to build a park for the community.

In 1970, late San Diego Chicano activist and musician Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, wrote a song about the park – “Chicano Park Samba” – in which he sang about the culture, spirit and struggle of Chicanos in their fight for the creation of Chicano Park. The song became an anthem for the park and Barrio Logan. Sanchez died in San Diego in late October 2016 but his song and ties to Chicano Park will forever be remembered by the community.

Each year, the park hosts Chicano Park Day, a free community celebration. This year, that 47th annual party will be held on April 22.  The theme for the 2017 celebration will be dedicated to Sanchez, known as the heart of the barrio.

Though a colorful space often used for community festivals, darkness and chaos swept over Chicano Park on Oct. 15, 2016. On that day, DUI suspect Richard Anthony Sepolio lost control of his truck and drove off the Coronado Bay-Bridge, flying 60 feet and landing on a crowd below that had gathered at Chicano Park to enjoy a motorcycle festival with live music, food and art. Four people were killed and many others were injured in the tragedy at the park.

In addition to Chicano Park landing the Department of the Interior’s National Historic Landmark designation on Wednesday, these 23 other places across the nation also earned the honor:

• Medgar and Myrlie Evers House in Jackson, Mississippi
• Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site) in Kansas City, Kansas
• Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City
• Greenhills Historic District in Greenhills, Ohio
• Casa José Antonio Navarro in San Antonio, Texas
• Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles, California
• Keim Homestead in Oley, Pennsylvania
• Schifferstadt in Frederick, Maryland
• New York State Barge Canal
• Kimball Village Site (13PM4) in Plymouth county, Iowa
• Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel (McDonnell Hall) in San Jose, California
• Painted Desert Community Complex in Apache County, Arizona
• W. A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing, Pennsylvania
• Davis-Ferris Organ, built for a New York City Episcopal church in 1846-1847
• Pauli Murray Family Home in Durham, North Carolina
• Eldean Bridge in Miami County, Ohio
• West Union Bridge in Parke County, Indiana
• Omaha Union Station in Omaha, Nebraska
• George Read II House, in New Castle, Delaware
• Biesterfeldt Site in Ransom County, North Dakota
• Walrus Islands Archeological District near Togiak, Alaska
• 48GO305, commonly referenced in archeological literature as “Hell Gap Paleoindian Site,” located in Goshen County, Wyoming
• Kent State Shootings Site in Kent, Ohio

“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 in a press release. “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.”

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