By Raymond R. Beltrán
City of San Diego Park and Recreation worker, Ruben Moreno, has been maintaining the landscape of Chicano Park for ten years now. As he whacks the weeds and rakes up the blades of grass sprawled throughout the Azteca-style sidewalk, he divulges, with pride, that not only will Saturday be one of the more successful Chicano Park Day celebrations, but that after a decade of caring for the grounds, it will be his last.
After the celebration, he will spend three full days recouping the cleanliness present now, two days before, and most of it he says will be due to people throwing cans all over the ground. Although, having been around for almost a third of the life of this historic Chicano landmark, he knows what to expect and is awaiting the thousands of people who gather to pay tribute to the Chicano community for taking a stand to build this park twenty-four years ago, while standing in awe of the park’s muralized pillars, the legs of the Coronado Bridge.
“I pity the guys taking over in June when I leave,” says Moreno humorously about the work it takes to care for the grounds. Although, the next person to slip into his position will have a handful of new amenities to look after when Moreno’s retired, and patrons of Chicano Park Day 2004, this Saturday, won’t be able to ignore them either.
As the city has been a thorn in the side of the CPSC (Chicano Park Steering Committee), headed by Chairwoman Tomasa “Tommie” Camarillo, victories have been won in working side by side with members of CalTrans, Ismael “Pye” Salazar in particular, according to Camarillo. A Tea Grant in the amount of $540,000 had been granted CalTrans for improvements and the construction of brand new amenities at Chicano Park two years back.
A list of requests was made on behalf of the CPSC, some items of which were deleted, most of which have remained and were constructed with opposition from the City of San Diego. In arriving at Chicano Park from the north entrance, under the bridge and on César E. Chávez Parkway, there will be a marquee, designed by Teresa Alvarez, with the CPSC logo and the words, “La Tierra Mia” encircling the image. In the northeast corner of the park, under the bridge and along Newton Avenue, rocks have been embedded into the ground, spelling out the word “Aztlán,” something the city accused was “separatist” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An altar has also been erected under the mural of the indigenous Virgen de Guadalupe, and what are by far the most attractive amenities of the park are the two new three-foot placards, designed by Sal Barajas and Jose A. Ramirez, designating each of the seventy-plus murals, which have made the park an outside, living museum of Chicano history.
In all of the Steering Committee’s projects and victories this past year, the City of San Diego has only proved themselves as speed bumps in the progress of beautifying one of the world’s most prominent parks. But, the most striking victory has yet to be introduced to the public and will be presented on Chicano Park Day 2004 itself … the erecting of an eight-foot statue of Morelos, México native and Mexican Revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata. The statue has been designed by Arturo Singh, and where it will be standing, beginning tomorrow, now sits the base of the monument with holes drilled into the top, just waiting.
Chicano Park Day is being sponsored by the Chicano Park Steering Committee, the Brown Berets de Aztlán, Amigos Car Club, Unión del Barrio, Keep On Crossin’, El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán Central de San Diego and the Save Our Centro Coalition.
A Chicano Park Day all star line up will rock the crowd with music performances by San Diego’s revolutionary mezcla, Acteal, and groups like Phatso, Ollín, dance groups like Ballet Foklorico Yaqui, Grupo Folklorico Juvenil Chicano, Grupo Folklorico Chicano and poetas de Red CalacArts Collective, Sara Rebeca Durán Garibay, Mariajulia Arisiaga Urías, along with prominent Minnesota poet and community organizer Emmanuel Ortiz, presenting their new book ¿Under What Bandera? Anti-War Ofrendas de Minnesota y Califas. Prominent writer and organizer, Corky Gonzalez, will be attending the Chicano Park Day 2004 Celebration.
There will be a flag raising ceremony in memory of “Fallen Chicano Park Comrades,” Sue A. Talamentez, who is noted as an advocate for education in Barrio Logan and “an intelligent, thought provoking, inquisitive person with a great sense of humor,” Tony “Big T” Marquez, who will be remembered as an unsung hero and “faithful bodyguard” to Corky Gonzalez, Chris Sua, who struggled alongside the Save Our Centro Coalition, a member of the Brown Berets and who saved a young boys life while keeping the peace at a previous Chicano Park Day event, and Yolanda Perez Fajardo, member of the Chicano/Mexicano Prison Project, Danza Toltecas en Aztlán. She will be remembered for dressing children up as clowns for Chicano Park Day and for her humor while defending the struggle for self-determination in the barrios. And lastly, former CPSC member Alex Gonzalez will also be honored for his commitment to guiding Mexicanos who could not have otherwise found access to social service agencies.
Chicano Park Day 2004: Tierra Y Libertad will take place on Saturday, April 24, 2004 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at world renowned Chicano Park, under the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan.