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Opinion: San Diego Latino Legacy Project Shines a Light on a Rich and Largely Little-Known History


Ortiz, Ph.D., is Professor of Chicano and Chicana Studies at San Diego State University and was inducted into the Stanford Alumni Multicultural Hall of Fame. He lives in the College district.

When Maria Velasquez approached me to participate in the San Diego Latino Legacy Project, I was ready to participate because of its orientation – the history of local Chicanos and other Latinos – but also because it offered an opportunity without precedent and invaluable to illuminate a rich, complex and largely unrecognized history of a community that refused to be victimized and fought for full citizenship.

This project involves academics who have studied different aspects of Latino history in San Diego, and it also encompasses community perspectives and voices. So we not only have the scholarly perspective, but we have the lived experience.

In addition, the project was attractive because it aims to reach a much larger and multigenerational audience than the previous works. Thus, it is likely to greatly expand the understanding of our history.

And so, I became part of the team to produce San Diego Latino Legacy.

The three eras discussed in the first part of the multimedia project are considered as significant eras with regard to the history of Chicanos and other Latinos.

The first era illuminates the incorporation of people of Mexican descent into the United States through conquest and the experiences of settler colonialism. The introduction to this chapter is written by San Diego State University professor Richard Griswold del Castillo, who is a recognized expert on this era and on Chicano history. He begins his discussion with a review of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the war between the United States and Mexico, and identifies developments such as dispossession and political exclusion whose consequences continue to resonate. today.

The second era covers the critical period from 1890 to 1930, including a mass movement across the U.S.-Mexico border from Mexico that expanded the Mexican population in the San Diego area, responses to population change, and the community resistance to discrimination.

Locally, the community of Lemon Grove has become the site of a historic case, Roberto Alvarez v. the Lemon Grove School District Board of Directors. It was one of the first successful cases of segregation in the United States, brought by Mexican immigrant families who have shown resilience in the face of an attempted segregation in schools. The author of the chapter is researcher Jimmy Patino, who is an expert on societal responses to Mexican immigrants and the struggle for immigrant rights.

The third chapter covered in this first version is written by UC San Diego history professor Luis Alvarez, who wrote extensively on the culture of young people and Mexican Americans during World War II. It highlights the contributions of Mexican Americans in the military and their national struggle against second-class citizenship.

In it, he documents the activism of the generation known as the Mexican-American Generation, which is credited with spearheading the emergence of our civil rights movement. For example, their activism included the creation of the El Congreso de Pueblos de Habla Espanol, the Spanish-speaking Congress.

This organization can be considered the first “Latin” organization because it included people of Mexican descent, as well as Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans. They met under the leadership of Luisa Moreno, who lived in San Diego and organized workers in canneries and other industries.

In the second issue of San Diego Latino Legacy, I will introduce you to the rise of the Chicano movement and its activists. Many were the sons and daughters of the Mexican-American generation. In the late 1960s, they claimed the Chicano identity and created a social movement in response to the continued discrimination they encountered in the United States. In San Diego, more than two dozen organizations were founded to address these inequalities, including the Diego County Chicano Federation, the MAAC Project (now called MAAC), and MECHA student groups.

And who can forget the community of Barrio Logan which met in 1970 to put an end to the construction of a motorway patrol post in its neighborhood? It happened when the community had advocated for years for a park, now known as Chicano Park, a landmark, featuring one of the largest wall painting exhibits in the world.

The latest version will bring us to the present. And here you will see our young leadership emerge.

Princeton University sociologist Marta Tienda said we are living in a time that she calls the “Hispanic” moment. I prefer to call it the Latin moment. We are now the largest minority group in the country with the potential to play an important role in the future of San Diego, California and our country. Historical perspective and knowledge of our community are essential to understanding who we are today.

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