Chapter 10: "Si Se Puede!"1Chicana/o Activism in San Diego 1965-2000
5. How did Chicano Park and El Centro Cultural de la Raza come into existence?
Throughout Aztlán, Chicana/o activism was guided by the principle of self-determination. El Plán de Aztlán, envisioned a Chicano nation, an entity to be seemingly achieved via separatism. However, separatism was not a feasible course of action. Instead, protest, the strategy of the powerless, and community control became the operative daily strategies in the community.
In the spring of 1970 the reliance on the strategies concluded in the “taking” of land, which ultimately became the site for a new park—Chicano Park. Through this action, "
the myth of Aztlán metamorphosed to reality" on a piece of land in San Diego’s oldest barrio, Barrio Logan. On April 22, 1970, shortly after discovering bulldozers on the property which was to be converted into a parking lot and headquarters for the California Highway Patrol, the residents of the barrio, as Delgado has noted:"
…gathered at the site to challenge the construction crew. At nearby high schools and colleges, students left class to join demonstrations. "
In order to coordinate the occupation of the land and to negotiate with state officials, community leaders formed the Chicano Park Steering Committee. The community remained united and refused to give up the land under the bridge.
El Centro Cultural de La Raza
In 1970 Chicana/o cultural artists also employed the strategy of community control to create one of the first community-based and focused Chicano cultural centers, El Centro Cultural de La Raza. Salvador Torres, an artist, joined with Alurista, Guillermo Aranda, Erminia Enrique, Victor Ochoa, and Mario Torero Acevedo to found the center in the city’s Balboa Park. Initially created as an artists’ collective, Toltecas an Aztlán, the Centro became the center of indigenous artistic contacts and exchanges, and provided space for cultural exhibits and performances. It also institutionalized a forum for the expression of a counter-hegemonic cultural expression and concepts such as the slogan “One continent, one culture.”
Sí, se puede" is Spanish for "
Yes, it is possible" or, roughly, "
Yes, it can be done."