Resisting, Reclaiming, and Asserting Democracy: The Case of Chicano Park

By Tarecq Amer.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The creation of “place” and the determination of its purpose is a highly politicized act, intractably tied to our understanding of citizenship and use of space. Place is meant to signify the spaces, common to the lives of people, that are enlivened by emotions, memories, and myths. Whether buildings, neighborhoods, cities, or landscapes, places are emotive actors that give us some sense of attachment to larger projects. The process through which place is conceived can be used to make material claims on land, thus dispossessing others; to advance political agendas; and even to deny certain peoples the rights of expression and gathering.
Placemaking can also be liberating, if its process comes from an entirely different position and is inclusive of different parties. Communities of color in the United States can use, and indeed have used, these processes to challenge the boundaries of hegemonic acceptability, creating new cultures, asserting existent (or imagined) cultures, or challenging dominant cultures. Space and form are often the medium through which these definitional contests get played.
In this paper, I will use the case of Chicano Park in San Diego to explore the ways in which placemaking, art, and the use of space are tightly bound to notions of citizenship. The mural art that has come to define the Park itself is, in its essence, a means to visually express the histories and political realities pertinent to disenfranchised communities, as well as being a mechanism to transform concepts of ownership, residence, and political consciousness in this predominately Latino neighborhood. In so doing, Chicano Park has become a focal point in this community’s struggle to lay claim to both space and identity.

Keywords: Chicano Park, Murals, Place-making, Democratic space, Spatial resistance, Transformed urban landscapes

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.1-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.597MB).

Tarecq Amer

Ph.D. Candidate, Geography Graduate Group, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA

Tarecq Amer is a Geography Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the intersection of space, law, and race, and the violence that is generated at this nexus. In addition to exploring the violent side of transnationalism, Tarecq is currently investigating the genealogy of spatially-focused anti-crime laws within the United States and their origins in Jim Crow laws of the 18th and 19th century Southern United States. In addition to his scholarship, Tarecq has worked as a labor researcher, a community organizer, and teacher.