Editor’s Note: The arts, political tone, and community in general of Barrio Logan is changing, slowly but surely. Some of the visible changes is the infusion of the new cultural centers, breweries, coffee shops, and an emerging youthful energy that is helping the area to become a different and exciting place to be. Recognizing these changes we would like to introduce Elena Victoria Marques who will write about Barrio Logan through the eyes of a young artist in Barrio Logan.
Truth be told, when I first sat down to write this, I had no idea where to begin.
As I struggled, it occurred to me that this week marked 8 months since the forced disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa in Guerrero Mexico, what better place to begin. It is after all, what launched me, and my art into new levels of dedication and involvement, leading me to writing this column today.
In the wake of the atrocities that took place on September 26, having never been an organizer of actions, art shows or otherwise, we organized 43 artists for 43 students on 12/13/14.
Unable to be silent in a case of such tremendous crime against humanity and education, we created an art show in which 43 artists were given a photo and name of a missing student to represent artistically, to show the magnitude, beyond just a number or a statistic. Not only to bring attention, but to raise money for the journey of these families that had left their crops and low wage jobs with nothing but the clothes on their back to find their children, another visible example of the hideous abuse of indigenous and rural Mexico, with deep roots tracing back to colonization.
An escuela normal is a public teaching college found in rural areas, with an entry requirement of being the child of a farmer or at least very poor. The escuela normales of Mexico have been long abandoned by the government in terms of funding and upkeep, in constant need of school supplies and food. Knowing this it could easily seem as if the government was turning it’s back to the issues of illiteracy, a pseudo-attempt to eradicate education through neglect in the rural and poor areas of Mexico, let alone see them educated AND organized, as was demonstrated on September 26, 2014, and in incidents prior.
So of course, when it came time to choose a location for this art show, we chose Barrio Logan, a place where, historically, the worlds of art and activism have always been strongly connected.
Barrio Logan is a community that is 130 years old and now, finally, in its first year with a planning committee and art association. As a whole, historically, the foundation of Barrio Logan’s struggles are connected to what we are representing in our art shows for Ayotzinapa. It is a community throughout its entire history familiar with the struggles for land, education and environmental justice. In the words of Hector Villegas, well known community member, Chicano Park muralist, and artist, “out of the 5 states that the United States took from Mexico, Chicano Park is the only piece of land that has been liberated by the people for the people, and the spirit of the struggle is alive in barrio logan”.
“Tierra y Libertad”- a familiar cry for justice echoing throughout Ayotzinapa, San Quintin, all of Mexico, is and always has been equally echoed in the history of our own Barrio Logan. This is what made the Barrio the perfect and only place for our first exhibition for Ayotzinapa in December at Original Gentleman’s barber shop and gallery on Logan Ave in the heart of the historic art district, as well as our second on May 2 at Border X Brewery on Logan Avenue.
Barrio Logan has always has been a haven for indigenous culture tradition and pride, one of San Diego’s most marginalized communities reclaimed by the people and through art, art that speaks volumes of history and struggle. The personal journey that began after our first art show, led me to not only hear the stories of surviving students, firsthand, but to working closely with them for justice and answers. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend time with these families not only here in San Diego, but in Berkeley and Las Vegas as well.
During the historic Caravana43 in which several parents of the missing students and survivors of Septemeber 26, came to the states and visited over 45 cities to tell their harrowing story of repression and injustice.
After returning from traveling with these parents and surviving students, it became very clear that one art show was not enough. Their need for money for basic survival was becoming more urgent. So we did a second fundraiser/art show, this time with more anger, with more pain, because so much time had passed and everyday their struggle is becoming more agonizing.
The resistance and strength displayed by these parents are something we should all look to, not only in our own lives, but in the struggle to defend the 130 years of resistance and culture in Barrio Logan, to keep it thriving from the inside out. From Chicano Art Gallery on Logan Ave, to La Bodega, to Roots Factory, and more, all stemming from a next generation of artists and community that want to keep this rich history not only remembered but continuously moving forward.
Art Castanares purchased La Prensa five years ago and brings decades of experience in government and politics in his quest to find out what government officials and others are hiding from the public. Host of Behind the Curtain.