Josephine Talamantez: Preserving the History of Barrio Logan

Josephine Talamantez plans to share the stories of the community through the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center. Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

By establishing a museum and cultural center in Barrio Logan, Josephine Talamantez is seeking to provide a space where the stories of those who helped shape San Diego though their hard work and the history of the community can be told.

Talamantez, founder of the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center, thought of the idea over 35 years ago but turning that concept into reality has brought several challenges.

She is currently working to acquire a building that is located next to Chicano Park on National Avenue, and although it’s been more than two years since the building became available, she remains hopeful.

With a smile Talamantez shared that the museum board is prepared to begin fundraising for necessary renovations as soon as the building is given to them.

The Chicano Park Museum will focus on art, history and science, whereas the Cultural Center will focus on cultural activities.

“Our community stories need to be told,” Talamantez said. “It’s been a long process, it’s been empty going on two and a half years now, but I have faith as does my board.”

Talamantez plans to make the museum accessible, have interpretive information regarding the murals and have a model of what Logan Heights looked like before the construction of Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge cut through the community, which then became known as Barrio Logan.

She said that before the construction of the I-5, the community went from more than 20,000 residents down to less than 5,000 in less than 15 years.

“I’m interested in showing this city that without our labor, without or contributions, the city would not have grown to the beautiful city that it is,” Talamantez said. “It is through the Raza that we have impacted the social, cultural, economic, and political development of San Diego. And I want that documented.”

Recently, several groups have threatened the murals and have planned protests based off the idea that Chicano Park, a park surrounded by hand painted murals located under the Coronado Bridge, is a symbol of anti-American values, however Talamantez believes having a museum in place will help educate people on how that is not true.

“The museum will be an extremely important venue because it can also act as a visitors and welcoming center,” Talamantez said.

However, threats to the park are not new, Chicano Park over the years has faced multiple city construction and planning propositions that threatened its existence, but because of the efforts of community members and people like Talamantez the park remains.

She said that for her, the park is her heart and soul and the community helped shape her life.

“It represents beyond my generation, it represents the older generation that didn’t have the (ability) to speak up,” Talamantez said.

Born and raised it what was known as Logan Heights, now Barrio Logan, Talamantez was strongly encouraged by her mother to pursue a higher education.

Talamantez attended San Diego City College then transferred to UC San Diego and graduated with a bachelor of arts. She later attended California State University, Sacramento and earned a masters in public history.

Her passion and dedication to defending the neighborhood of Barrio Logan arose during her time as a student at San Diego City College where she became involved in the Chicano student movement.

At the age of 18 Talamantez joined other community activists in saving Chicano Park when the City of San Diego planned to build a highway patrol station in its place.

Talamantez participated in a demonstration to block bulldozers and after 12 days, the community of Barrio Logan convinced the city to back down.

In 1997, Talamantez introduced the idea of placing Chicano Park and the Chicano Park Monumental Murals on the National Register to the Chicano Park Steering Committee, as a result of the city announcing retrofitting plans for Coronado Bridge, which would damage the murals.

On Jan. 23, 2013, Chicano Park and the murals were officially placed on the National Register and on December 2016 it became a National landmark.

Talamantez is one of the founding members of the Chicano Park Steering Committee, she is a member of the Barrio Logan Planning Group, the Barrio Logan Association/Maintenance Assessment District, and was an advisor in the creation of the Latino Context Statement for the California Office of Historic Preservation.

She said there are still fights to be fought for the community like establishing a new community plan, which dates to 1978, dealing with gentrification, and preserving the history.

“My hope for the future is that the park will remain and the museum will remain to tell the story,” Talamantez said.

Editors note: A previous version of this story said Talamantez was chained to a tree as part of a demonstration but she was only a part of the demonstration and did not chain herself to a tree.

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