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

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Published on Nov 13, 2011

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.
(By: Tarecq Amer: Ph.D. Candidate, Geography Graduate Group, University of California, Davis)

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