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Life in the Barrio

December 30, 2010

As seen through the eyes of a Barrio Logan resident

An Essay
By Steve Galindo III

    Let me say at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that a person from the Barrio is guided by great feelings of pride, and I am proud to say that I live in Barrio Logan. Why? It is the home of Chicano Park, Rivas Taco Shop- where you can find some of the best rolled tacos. The home of the best basketball and handball courts that the city has to offer, it is the home of broken homes, Cholos, Cholas, teen mothers-and their supportive hardworking parents.

    It is the home of new dreams-diamonds in the rough with enough ganas to get on a mike and say LOGAN STAND UP! The home of the best storytellers- just knowing that within every resident lies endless stories of lost loves, struggles for freedom, as well as the struggle to find one’s own identity. That is why I am proud to say that I live in Barrio Logan.

    People have often said that Barrio Logan is the heart of the Mexican community in San Diego; well, if that’s the case than I’d hate to say it but Barrio Logan is having a heart attack.

    Like Marvin Gaye once sang, “Things ain’t what they used to be”… What’s really going on, I’ll tell you. My neighbors are moving out, the Padres, and Starbucks have moved in- they are buying us out — or at least they are trying to which means property values will soon be skyrocketing.

    Now something is terribly wrong when a family can’t afford to live in Barrio Logan (especially if your house is falling apart and your landlord’s last name is Inzunza). With all these investors and big-shots that are trying to come into the neighborhood — next thing you know Barrio Logan is going to be known as the Villas in Logan-with a little accent on top of the “an” in Logan.

    My Mother has received a couple of letters from people wanting to buy her house, and every time she receives one — she asks me if she should sell and move somewhere else I always emphatically say NO! I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s hard to just pick-up and move after so many years in one neighborhood. Don’t believe me- just ask my Grandmother, she has lived in Barrio Logan for 80-years, all of her life. Come to think of it, that has to be some kind of record; she should be on Ripley’s believe it or not for most years living in a tough neighborhood. But I guess it isn’t so tough after all.

Businesses are finally taking a chance on us which is nice to see because trust me when I say that there is nothing new in Barrio Logan…nothing worth mentioning at least. Everything is old, circa 1970 B.C.P. (before Chicano Park); the newest thing in the neighborhood is the shirt that I am wearing. For years we have been sitting back watching businesses open in places like Sherman, and Market St., and City Heights. Hell, City Heights had $500 million, and some Magic. They had financial backing from Magic Johnson in opening up businesses there. We would have liked a little Magic too, but all we were getting were liquor stores…and… liquor stores…and liquor stores…Oh, and a 99 cent store.

    Like I said, nothing worth mentioning, but that is all about to change — or so I thought. Construction was supposed to finally begin on the Mercado Project that was to be located between National Ave. and Main St — off of Cesar Chavez Pkwy. The project would have brought an EL TIGRE Market, a Subway Sandwich shop, and a Factory-2-U outlet store. The project would have created 300 new jobs for the residents of Barrio Logan. We are still waiting.

    Meanwhile, in an effort to make way for the Padres and tidy up Downtown, the homeless are being told to take-a-hike. So what was once Downtown’s problem is now our problem.

    We don’t need more problems. And we sure as hell do not need problems in the form of homeless people. They drink, stink, masturbate in public, have sex in public —and that’s just in the daytime— you should see what they do at night. It’s a serious issue, one that the kids of Barrio Logan do not need to be seeing. It is a huge problem in the community, and yet it seems as though City Officials would rather find housing for these sick individuals than to find housing for people in the district.

    Once I tried calling my Councilman to see if we could have more street lights lit-up- so kids such as my little brother would not have to play in the dark. But once again… there was no answer. Councilman Ben Hueso (or as I like to refer to him as Ben Inzunza De La Vargas) promised to answer those calls.

    Now you guys are probably reading this thinking — hey man, if you don’t like things, than change them. Well to be honest with you, I have thought about running for City Council and representing District 8. I have. But there was only one problem, I don’t own a suit, and frankly I don’t think that people would vote for a guy that wears a SD baseball cap and wears a really big watch with fake diamonds on it. But, who knows the people of District 8 like fake things. Ralph Inzunza, Juan Vargas, Ben Hueso, yup- all fake. In fact, for almost thirty years the people of District 8 have voted in a fake or crooked politician.

    1978- Jess Haro convicted of fraud.

    1986- Uvaldo Martinez plead guilty to misusing a City Credit Card

    2005- Ralph Inzunza convicted on Federal Corruption charges

    We sure know how to pick them, don’t we?

    Why is that? Why do the people of District 8 feel that every politician should look and sound the same? Are they that smitten by a Mexican in a suit that they would vote for him without knowing a thing about him, or his background? I believe so. All I have to say is thank God for the younger generation. Hopefully they will be less confused about politics. They have already made history by organizing, and being a part of some of the biggest marches that this city has ever seen. At least in a couple of years those people that were once called Illegal will have rights!

Racist Reality

Racism alive and well in San Diego: Chicano mural sprayed painted with ‘Viva La Migra.’

    Why do people automatically assume that I am a Cholo when I tell them that I live in Barrio Logan? I was speaking to this Mexican girl who resides in La Jolla (of all places) and when I told her that I lived in Barrio Logan she was shocked and responded with “Really? You don’t act Mexican.” Needless to say, I was taken back. I responded with “What do you mean I don’t act Mexican?” I could now see a little fear in her eyes as she hesitantly responded with “You don’t act like a Gangster.” Do not judge me by where I live, by my haircut, or for the earring and clothing that I choose to wear. Besides, if the stereotype were true I would not be here today, I’d be just another statistic on the nightly news. Now that I got my PSA out of the way, let me get some other things off my chest.

    What’s up with all these new reality shows lately, and could we please get at least one Mexican on these shows? I’m thinking of coming up with my own reality show called Survive the Barrio. In the show producers would stick a group of tourist in Chicano Park for an evening and see how long they last. Sure, these people love to go to the park in the daytime and take pictures with the natives and of the murals during the day. But when night falls you better believe that these people are long gone. It’s like they get all paranoid and think that someone like me is going to come up and rob them, or steal their car. They have their cell phones in hand with the cops on speed-dial.

    It bothers me because the people of my neighborhood are not hateful people. We invite everyone to come and enjoy the sights and sounds of our park, and what do we get for our kindness? Hate. Hate in the form of People defacing the murals by writing things such as Viva La Migra, and Abajo Mexico.

    Those acts of hate are not surprising to me, because let’s face it, San Diego is a racist town. That’s a little harsh, maybe Latinos are just misunderstood here. I mean Lalo Alcaraz didn’t receive Kudos from Union Tribune readers when his comic strip La Cucaracha came out. They called him racist. We live in a city where eight teenagers in Caramel Valley attack a group of elderly Mexican nursery workers (in a case that was clearly motivated by race), and not one of them is given the maximum sentence. I’ll tell you right now that if seven of my friends and I attacked someone of the opposite race we would all be serving life sentences in San Quentin. Controversial Propositions such as 21, 187, and Prop 227 all passed in this city. The most recent Prop 21 (which increased penalties for crimes committed by youth. It passed overwhelmingly by people who felt that most of the crimes would be committed by young Blacks, and Mexicans).

    I’ve been discriminated against on many occasions, but I try not to let it get me down anymore because in a couple of years, racist people are going to wake up, and it’s going to be like a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. There are going to brown people everywhere. People like me, and Sammy Sosa, and Lucky Two Tears Morales.

A resident of Barrio Logan for 26 years, Steve Galindo III is currently the Boxing contributor to La Prensa San Diego. He can be reached at stevegalindo3@gmail.com

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