Chicano Park Takeover by Felipe Adame, Octavio Gonzales, Victor Ochoa, and Guillermo Rosete

Felipe Adame, Octavio Gonzales, Victor Ochoa, and Guillermo Rosete

Chicano Park Takeover, 1978, Mural, Chicano Park, San Diego; California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections, Donald Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9010, Photo: © James Prigoff

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Encroachment and Occupation

Commentary by

Zechariah 9 is an expression of identity and solidarity in the face of a foreign invasion. It is a meditation on the links between land, people, and divine presence invoked to protect both.

In 1970, a group of citizens occupied land under the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego, California. The land had been designated for a park, but when construction began on a government building on the land instead, members of the surrounding neighbourhood protested by blocking construction until the promise to build a park was kept. A year later, after much negotiation, Chicano Park was created—the name signifying the shared ethnic belonging of those who had protested for its creation.

A number of murals now decorate the space, including this one, which commemorates the ‘takeover’ of the land where the park now sits. The Takeover features scenes from the occupation of the site, including protesters surrounding the bulldozers, others planting and tilling the land, and images of triumph and strength. A later restoration of the mural corrected an error in the painting: the flag raised was the flag of Aztlan, not the flag of Mexico—a shared ethnic belonging rather than a modern national one—and so the latter was painted over the former (former shown here). The flag, like the park itself and this mural, is an expression of the pride of indigenous peoples, and a form of resistance against encroachment on lands and erasure of cultures that pre-existed the bulldozers and the city of San Diego for thousands of years. Another part of the mural depicts the first celebration of Earth Day in the United States in 1970, as a symbolic moment in which the degradation of green and open spaces began to meet resistance.

Zechariah 9 expresses similar fears about erasure and encroachment, and it exhibits a similar pride in belonging and the expression of identity. Faced with violence and incursion from outsiders, the prophet spoke oracles of hope and resistance, judgement and national unity. That same spirit animated the activists who took over the land under the bridge that is now Chicano Park.

 

References

Avalos, David. 2011. ‘“Chicano Park Takeover” A Complete Success, 26 August 2011’, www.laprensa-sandiego.org [accessed 23 September 2020]

Barrera, Mario. 2005. ‘Chicano Park, San Diego’, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, ed by Suzanne Oboler and Deena J. González, 4 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press)