Students Document Chicano History


Students Document Chicano History

A group of USD students, under the guidance of Professor Alberto Pulido, PhD, have volunteered to be a part of the Chicano Park-University of San Diego Documentation Project, which launched in January.


Pulido developed the project with a group of both USD and Chicano community members, including Chris Nayve, Director of Community Service Learning and Creative Collaborations  . The idea was to tell the history of Chicano Park through the lives of individuals who were a part of a cultural struggle for self-determination and dignity. The group was able to develop a partnership between the Department of Ethnic Studies, the Office of Community Service Learning, Creative Collaborations and the Chicano Park Steering committee. This partnership reinforces this year’s Chicano Park Celebration. The theme of the event is: “Education and Knowledge: Our Key to a Better Future.”


Pulido, known to his students as “Dr. Pollo,” is currently instructing Ethic Studies 343: Chicano/Latino Studies. Students in this course have been trained in oral history methodology within the Chicana and Chicano experience as well as the “power of place” in the history of ethnic communities. Utilizing these perspectives, students have been directed to recognize and document the complex identities of the Chicana and Chicano experiences as captured through the history of Chicano Park.


“I am playing a role in conserving the history of a park and of a people whose presence is an integral part of San Diego,” Janette Rodriguez ‘13 said.


Chicano Park was established on April 22, 1970. It represents a visible and concrete marker of political awareness and mobilization in the quest for self-determination by community members. Its development was guided by the historical vision of the Chicano people in Aztlan to reclaim a “piece of land” that they could call their own. Out of this historic vision emerged a series of creative expressions that breathed life into the development and evolution of Chicana and Chicano cultural expressions that have given shape and purpose to Chicano Park. The objective of this project is to capture and tell the story of some of these community cultural expressions along with the people who brought them to life.


“This project has given me the opportunity to get to know a Chicano artist, Victor Ochoa, who has dedicated his life to raising awareness about Chicano issues, and serves as an example to the community,” Eirene Rocha ’13 said.


The students were each assigned a mentor from the community, with whom they have been working closely for four months. They have created a public and political biography of each of these community members’ lives. The community mentors were chosen from the membership of the Chicano Park Steering Committee. They represent active agents of history who play key roles in the establishment, historical development and evolution of Chicano Park.


“The mentors we are working with from Chicano Park were, and still are, vital champions of the Chicano Movement, and I am honored and humbled to be working alongside them,” Bianca Bruno ‘13 said.


Pulido partnered with Nayve and Cara McMahon from the Office of Community Service Learning. McMahon has been assigned to work full-time with the class and serve as a liaison between students and the Chicano Park Steering Committee, utilizing a community service learning approach to the course. The funding for this project came from the newly established Center for Inclusion and Diversity, directed by Carlton Floyd, PhD and Mayte Perez Franco, PhD.


Through the collection of oral histories, students have documented the history of Chicano Park, Chicano/a history, and five unique aspects of Chicano/a cultural expression that emerged as a result of the establishment of Chicano Park. The five cultural expressions captured by this year’s project are:


  1. Chicano Art as seen in the public and political biography of Victor Ochoa.
  2. Chicano Music as seen through the life of Ramon Chunky Sanchez.
  3. Community Organizing as seen through the life of Tommie Camarillo.
  4. Danzantes (indigenous dance) as seen in the life of Rosa Olga Navarro.
  5. Chicano Car Culture (low riders) as lived and experienced by Rigo Reyes.


“Our mentors are telling us their stories and their involvement in Chicano Park,” Guadalupe Abreo ’11 said. “They want to let others know about this struggle and effort so that when they are gone they know they can trust the next generation to continue this cultural and historical tradition.”


All five mentors have been active with Chicano Park since its inception and are community in the Chicano Movement—in its quest for social justice and self-determination for Chicanos in San Diego and beyond.


“I now realize that Chicano Park, in a way, is a tangible embodiment of the decades of struggle, hard work, dedication, and perseverance exemplified by members of the community,” Anayensi Jacobo ‘11 said.


By Alberto Lopez Pulido, PhD

Anne Slagill ’11 contributed to this article


Contact Information

James T. Harris III, DEd
Office of the President

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