Mujeres Muralistas: Chicano Park Female artists

SanDiego

By Rita Sanchez
La Prensa San Diego

Editor’s Note: In this article Rita Sanchez proudly recognizes the women who have contributed to the Parque and its murals. She features women who have designed, supervised and painted murals since 1973, as well as women who participated in the creation of the Parque. With media attention devoted mainly to the men working on the repainting, her article is a needed reminder of the significant role of Chicano Park women.

Previous La Prensa articles on the restoration of the murals in Chicano Park show the amazing result of a historical moment in San Diego, the survival of a people’s park since 1970 and the mural masterworks that resulted. If some observers do not understand the unique story of the park, the La Prensa articles serve to educate the public on this ‘historical preservation [to] improve the quality of life of a city.” In the National Register of Historic Places, Chicano Park, one writer says, it is “a landmark recognized for it’s . . . value representative of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in California.” Other writers refer to the park as a sacred space.

For many the park is sacred space because it is filled with personal memories. My son, Pablo Acevedo, was born on Chicano Park Day, the exact date April 22, 1980 of the park’s tenth anniversary. Driving home from the hospital, we stopped by the park and took photos with the murals as backdrop. And so the art in the Park welcomed my son into the world and the photos are now part of a historical archive.

The Park is also about women.

Two years before, in 1978 I had announced the coming birth of my daughter, Lucia Acevedo. Her father, Mario Torero, a Chicano Park artist, photographed me with child holding a rose. As a result, I became a model, of sorts, for the Virgin of Guadalupe image that he painted on one of the pillars. So for nearly forty years, a female icon, La Virgin de Las Americas has watched over the park. Perhaps all these years she has been acting as a protectress for women’s voice and actions.

Whether as artists or contributors to the spirit of the movement, women have given much to Chicano Park and its history. One La Prensa article (July 8 2011) by Gail Perez identified some of these women.

One was Norma Montoya who painted with Charles “Gato” Felix; the others were the women of the RCAF. The story goes, after one of the women, Rosalina Balaciosos attended the International Women’s Conference in Mexico City, she passed on her enthusiasm; the women felt empowered and began painting on their own without waiting for the men.

“Tantamount to treason,” one of the men, Jose Montoya, recalled. Hundreds of women had worked for change during the Chicano Movement, expressing their actions in various ways. Women participated in the takeover of the park or their efforts also found expression in various other ways.

Today their voices resonate in the park as a result of their actions. One woman has given her life to maintaining the murals, Tomasa “Tommie” Camarillo, who chairs the Chicano Park Steering Committee and who participated in the 1970 park takeover. Another woman, Laura Rodríguez, has come to be known as honorary grandmother of Chicano Park because of what she has contributed.

The Chicano Park film tells her story.

In the spring of 1970, Laura Rodríguez, a mother and longtime San Diego resident, was going to the grocery store in Logan Heights when she saw a group of people gathered to prevent the construction of a Highway Patrol substation and demand the creation of a park instead. In the film, she recalls…

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