At first, the thought of going to Chicano Park to see the colorful murals seems exciting and easy. It would be a "walk in the park." As I search for information about Chicano Park, I found that simply taking photos of the murals would not be enough. Each mural was carefully designed by its artist(s) to showcase Chicano history and culture. A simple picture would not do it justice. It deserved my undivided attention. So began my research on Chicano Park.
My first visit to the park I brought my nephew. I wanted to show him a unique and special park. I explained the history of the park and how it came to be then I let him admire the artwork on the columns. As I photographed the artwork on the freeway columns and moved my eyes upward, I felt small. The sound of vehicles passing by sounding like a race track. I focused my attention on the state park which was being used by kids and young adults. They were all testing their newest skill, some were successful performing them while others fell on their butts.
I did notice several homeless individuals sitting at the foot of the murals. Their belongings covering the bottom portion of the murals. They were everywhere, especially in less traffic areas. Some would stand and talk to possibly friends or acquaintances who also were homeless. Some would sit by themselves with their belongings talking or even yelling to someone they could only see. Others would stand on the street corner yelling at nobody in particular. If you got close to them they would lower their voices or turn in a different direction.
The second and third time I visited the park I did see many tourists come, stay for a few minutes, snap some photos and leave. Yes, this place can make some people feel uneasy. Although it is advertised as a tourist attraction in the San Diego visitor's guide they do not show the reality of this amazing place. There are several homeless people living in the park. There are also many families living in the community that come to the park to relax and let their kids play. Twice I smelled marijuana which is legal in California however that might scare some people off. I do have to say that I did not feel threatened at any time. In fact, everyone minds their own business. The homeless population is used to people coming and photographing the murals however you can tell it makes them uneasy. I was going to do a video on this amazing place but I opted not to make it because I did notice how uneasy it made people when I picked up my camera. I had to strategically use the the columns to hide a homeless person just sitting in the grass. My nephew and I did take some clips of the park but not enough to make a video. I tired presenting the park in a good light and avoided taking photos of the homeless population as much as possible however evidence of their residency did show in some of my photos.
On my last visit, I had a woman who was hanging out by the handball court asking what I was looking at. I believe she was concern I was photographing her. When she approached me I explained that I was looking for lines or points of interest that would draw people's eye. I then had her stand next to me so that she would see the lines I was looking at. She thought I was taking photos of her and stated, "I don't know why people want to take photos of us, it's not like we are good looking." I believe she was high on something. I proceed to tell her I was just admiring the art and would be out of her way in a few minutes. She smiled and admitted that the artwork was beautiful and started to look for more lines. As I continue my goal to photograph all the murals, I could notice eyes watching me. I was determined to capture as much as I could. This meant asking for permission from the homeless people living next to the walls covering parts of the murals. Again I never felt like I was endangered and people either left me alone or come and talk to me.
Although there are homeless people living in the park, for the most part, the park is "cleanish." On my last visit, I saw a man swiping the park. San Diego is trying to help the homeless population that suddenly boomed in downtown however this may time. The community of Barrio Logan has maintained this park for the community and for tourist to enjoy, but mostly they are doing it because they want their children to cherish a park dedicated to Chicanos. They are always beautifying it and painting it. I do recommend coming to this park to see the artwork during the day with the understanding that it is not your typical park and you will see homeless people. I do plan to return and see the new murals and I hope you will come and visit this amazing place.