Navel is what is used to refer to Barrio Logan that is located in the southeast of San Diego. Mexican-Americans started to settle in the area from 1890s, and the migration increased due to the Mexican Revolution and the poor economy in Mexico. The community had extended up to the waterfront and had even their own local beach. However, when the U.S navy and defence industries came to the area, the residents lost their houses, businesses and waterfront.
The Mexican-American citizens that were in Logan Heights had faced many negative changes in their community after the Second World War; thus, they had given up and lost hope. However, in 1967, the people started to be empowered, and they started to demand for a park below the bridge pylons. After two years, their demands were met in June, and the state of California accepted to lease them 1.8 acre-parcel of state land for the construction of the park. The lease was to last for twenty years. In November 9, 1969, a new state law was passed which allowed the leased parcel of land and other unused land next to the highway to be used by the community for recreation. James A. Moe, the state public works director, agreed to save the state twenty years of maintenance costs by accepting to supervise the land and be responsible for maintenance.
On April 1970, the residents started a demonstration at 7 am at the site where the park was to be constructed. This is because the commander of the highway patrol, Captain V. J. Herz, had ordered the construction of the California Highway Patrol Station on the site. This came with a lot of resistance from residents, students and even artists. Mario Soliv, a resident at Logan Heights, informed the other residents of how the parcel of land that was to be for the construction of the park was being used for the construction of the patrol station and thus the beginning of the demonstration. Artist Salvador Torres supported the demonstration because he had a vision that painters and sculptors will turn the pylons into a thing of beauty using the Mexican-American culture. After days of negotiation with the government, an agreement was met and on May 23, the agreement that was in the form of a bill was signed by Governor Reagan thus making it a law. Chicano park Day is a celebration that began in 1971 and is a symbol of community organisation fighting to save a culture and a neighbourhood. Los Artistas de los Barnos, El congress de Artista Chicanos en Aztlan and Los Toltecas en Aztlarz were the artist groups that carried out the paintings of the murals on the pylons.
El Teatro Campesino was a theatrical group that was founded in 1965 by Luis Valdez as a cultural arm of the United Farm workers. It held events, which were inspired by the audience they performed to and mainly based on their lives and day-to-day experiences. The theatre is located in San Juan Bautista, but this was not the case as its earlier performances were held in the fields of Delano, California, stayed on flatbed trucks and in union halls.
Within a year, they held tours geared towards raising funds for the farm workers who were striking. Although its initial purpose was to entertain farm workers, its subject matter and focus had changed and was expanded to focus aspects of the Chicano culture as racism, education, the Vietnam War and their indigenous roots which were aspects beyond the farm fields. They moved their headquarters to San Juan Bautista in 1971, years after they had received an Obie award for “demonstrating the politics of survival” an award that they got in 1972. The year 1973 saw the famous British director, Peter Brooks, working with El Teatro Campesino in conjunction with his Paris based company, The International Centre of Theatre Research, performing to the communities of farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley in an eight-week experimental workshop.
El Teatro Campensiano toured eight European countries in 1973, which started with an appearance at the Popular Comic Theatre Festival in Nancy, France. It had toured Mexico and the United States throughout the year not forgetting tours through Europe. In 1977, through the Rockefeller Foundation grant, Luis Valdes the artistic director of El Teatro Campesino wrote and directed the “zoot suit” which was the first ever play by a Latino to be presented on Broadway and also got a nomination for “best musical picture” Golden Globe Awards. They join the Los Angeles Theatre centre in 1986 and premier Luis Valdez comedy “I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges” and in 1987, Luis Valdez also wrote and directed “La Bamba” for Columbia Picture. These were among other important theatrical productions like “La Pastorela: A shepherd Tale” in 1991 and “Cisco Kid” in 1993-1994 all written and directed by Luis Valdez.
El Teatro Campesino has had great contributions to Chicano arts. For instance, they went back in 2006 to their roots to try to promote social change using the arts. They also played a monumental role in making the Chicano arts popular through their performances and tours, and they gained respect not only locally but also internationally. They created new works as they explored the dynamic, multicultural face of the Americans and used the ETC classical way in doing so.
Delgado, K. “A Turning Point.” The Journal of San Diego History 44 (1998).
Villa, R., H. Barrio-Logos: Space and place in Urban Chicano Literature and Culture. U of Texas Press, 2009.