Chillin’ in the Park

One thing I admire about Southern California is its multitude of beautiful parks. Add their history on top of that, and I’m just about over the moon.

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“Gangsters get  lonely too”

This past weekend I finally made the trip down to San Diego with a group of friends to spend an afternoon at Chicano Park in honor of its founding day. It was definitely the largest birthday party at a park that I’ve ever gone to and incredibly fun.

In the heart of Barrio Logan, Chicano Park celebrated its 47th year since its takeover as a people’s land with hundreds of families and vendors in attendance. A great majority of those attendees came in customized, shiny lowriders that were lined up all along Logan Avenue as part of a huge car show. Looking at so many decked out cars seriously made me want to go back home in style by the end of the day. Several car clubs were represented- Pharos, Viejitos, Pachuco , Tribal Clique, – with some members bringing in vehicles as far from Texas.

Bobby Ruiz, a Tribal Clique member, had his 1959 Chevy Fleetline on display, fully restored with a dual chrome body and all original white tires. This was his fourth year at the park with his car club.

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Bobby’s bomba making me wish it was mine

“It’s a real beautiful day for familia and car culture.” said Ruiz. “Everyone repping all this Chicano pride around us only exemplifies that this here is chosen lifestyle, not a trend”

The classic event this year was also spent with some sadness.

Amidst the trumpet flares from the mariachis, costumed  folklorico dancers, and food trucks were warm memories of Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, a community leader and educator from Barrio Logan who passed away in October. Saturday’s 47th Chicano Park Day was dedicated to him and his accomplishments.

Sanchez had deep roots in Chicano Park. In the late ’70s, the Chicano activist wrote a song about it entitled “Chicano Park Samba” in which he sings about the culture and struggle of Chicanos in their fight for the creation of the park.

At the time, when community members learned about new plans to turn the land under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge into a parking lot for the California Highway Patrol, protesters came and locked arms to form a human chain and didn’t leave for 12 days. The community asked for a park instead, and they got one.

It was truly heartwarming to be surrounded by multiple shades of brown coming together to remember an important day in Chicano history.

Chicano Park was declared a National Historic Landmark this past January.

Tommie Camarillo, chairperson of the park, eloquently drew a picture with words in a speech stating, “It means that all this will still be here long after we’re gone; Our grandchildren, their grandchildren.. they’ll get to come here and see this.”

I can’t wait for that day.

Here’s a video capturing the unforgettable day in its full glory, filmed by car collector Johnny Torres.

Follow his Instagram page at @boulevard_nights

All images author’s own unless otherwise noted 

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