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BARRIO LOGAN

 

(Taken by Juan Villegas)

Barrio Logan as it was before the construction of the I-5

Chicano Park QTVRChicano Park QTVR

Perkins Elementary QTVRPerkins Elementary QTVR

 

After the Mexican-American War of 1846 it didnít take long for the Western Expansion to change and form the cities that we know today. In 1850 William Heath Davis was the catalyst for the development of New Town in the vicinity of today's Broadway, Front and the harbor but it failed. By 1954 the San Diego and Gila Railroad was proposed to connect San Diego with one of the possible transcontinental routes being planned after the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. Charles Poole made the first survey in 1850 of a possible route from Yuma to Otay and north along the bay into New Town. It was Alonzo Horton who on May 10, with local merchant Ephraim Morse as auctioneer, Horton acquires 800 acres of the 47,324 acres of pueblo land, which would become New San Diego, for $265 ($.33/acre). Horton returns to San Francisco and opens a land sales office on Montgomery Street and he gave maps, brochures and a spiel to anyone who appeared solvent and would listen to him. He hired runners to help spread the word and Horton collared anyone who showed some interest. Over the next 25 years 80% of the 47, 324 acres of pueblo land was sold to private owners, 1440 acres was saved for a city park (which later on became Balboa Park), and other portions would be reserved for attracting a railroad to San Diego. With that in mind, Mathew Sherman formed a committee ďto solicit gifts of land to induce the Memphis and El Paso railroad to locate its terminus in San Diego. That project did not materialize however. The following year, Sherman, along with Alonzo Horton, E. W. Morse and others, organized the San Diego and Los Angeles railroad, a paper corporation with a land grant from the City Trustees with which they hoped to lure a transcontinental railroad to San Diego. In 1871 Sherman went to Washington to lobby for passage of the legislation chartering the Texas and Pacific to build a rail line from Texas to California. While Sherman was in Washington, Congressman John A. Logan worked out the final details of the bill, which provided Federal government land grants and subsidies."(7)

 

(From Barrio Logan Outline)

The Texas Pacific Land that later became Barrio Logan

 

Incidentally one of the major streets in the subdivision laid out in 1886 on railroad lands was named ďLogan HeightsĒ and gradually the whole area in southeast San Diego was renamed ďLogan Heights ď(this area used to be known as the East End). The Texas and Pacific bill was passed so Tom Scott, president of the railroad, came to California. Officials and business leaders in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego treated him like royalty. The terminus of the Texas and Pacific in San Diego was agreed upon but only in exchange for title lands previously granted by the City Trustees to other railroad corporations, among the lands included in this arrangement were four Pueblo Lots (1158, 1159, 1162, 1163) that covered the area from Commercial Street to the waterfront between 24th and 32nd streets. Unfortunately the Texas and Pacific rail line terminus was never complete due to the stock market crash of 1873, which ruined the company. This was bad for San Diego because itís growth was being fueled by they speculation (or assumption) that there would be a railroad in San Diego. Despite this setback other people still kept speculating, like Frank and Warren Kimball who purchased 26, 632 acres of the old Rancho de la Nacion and called it National City. They laid out a 100-foot Wide path six miles long for a railroad with the assumption of railroad service to an eastward connection in 1885, which created a real estate boom in San Diego. People were buying up lands without even laying eyes on the property and there was a waiting list just to try to buy land in San Diego. "People lived in tents on their lots until they could clear away the brush and cactus. More frequently they sold out at fancy prices before they could settle on the land. Buyers bought from maps without inspecting the purchase, and in turn sold to other speculators sight unseen." (2) The boom came to a sudden end in 1889 when the Santa Fe Railroad passed up San Diego and decided to make Los Angeles the western terminus. The land that was saved for railroad development (Texas and Pacific Railroad land) remained under developed. John D. Spreckels led a corporation to build San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad to Yuma, which was finished in 1919 but was never successful.

 

(Left pic from San Diego Historical Society Archives and right pic taken by Juan Villegas)

28th and National as it was in 1910 and this is how it is now

 

Logan Heights began it's transformation into a predominantly Mexican-American Community between 1910 and 1920 because many immigrants fled Mexico due to the revolution and the poor Mexican Economy. Due to WWI there were many jobs and the Navy started to make to move into San Diego. On January 27, 1917 the U.S. Navy opens the most powerful radio station in the Western Hemisphere at Chollas Heights and in 1919 they decided to make San Diego Bay home base for the Pacific Fleet. Because San Diego was so close to the bay it was gradually becoming a Navy Town. On September 3, 1919 the city of San Diego deeded the land on which the present Naval Station is now located to the U.S. government for the purpose of building a docking and fleet repair base. By 1922 the Base had 84 WWI destroyers and the primary mission of the Destroyer Base was the upkeep and preservation of the decommissioned destroyers. In the 1930 the Base acquired water front land and gradually took over the bay. During the 1920's close to half a million Mexicans entered the U.S. on permanent visas and thousands more entered without (under the Treaty of Guadalupe they were free to go in and out as they wished) before the borders were reinforced and restrictive regulations created. More then 30 percent of Mexican born U.S. residents lived in California by 1930. In the 1920's Mexican-Americans (Chicanos) constituted for up to two-thirds of the work force in many industries, mainly because they worked in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Chicano communities known as barrios and colonias were created and fostered expansion of small businesses like grocery and dry goods stores, restaurants, barber shops, and tailor shops. Barrio Logan (Logan Heights) became such a place where there was no need to go out of the neighborhood because everything you needed was right there. The rent was cheap, they lived close to their jobs and it wasn't necessary to know much English. The Great Depression reversed the Mexican American population. During the 1920ís immigration was at nearly 500,000 and by the 1930ís it fell to 32,700 and that same point in time nearly 500,000 persons of Mexican descent moved to Mexico or in some cases were deported due to recent shortage of jobs. In 1938 there was a pier and community beach along the bay front, which wouldnít last very long. By 1940 Logan Heights contained 15 percent of San Diego's Spanish Speaking population and it was one of the largest Mexican-American communities on the West Coast. When WWII began, the Navy and defense industries moved in along the bay and Barrio Logan lost their pier and community beach. To residents of Barrio Logan this was viewed as the first step that would result in the dismantling of their community because this was the beginning of the mixed zoning laws, which would forever change Barrio Logan. Since then the area has experienced tremendous development due to the capital investment in the military and industrial complexes. In 1941 the Destroyer base experienced great growth and on October 19, 1943 the designation of the U.S. Destroyer Base was officially changed to the U.S. naval Repair Base and it became a part of the U.S. Naval Base, San Diego. From 1943 to 1945 the Base received and trained 43,000 for repair duties. On September 15, 1946, the U.S. Naval Repair Base was redesignated (reassigned as) the United States Naval Station, San Diego, California. Due to the war effort there was a labor shortage in the 40ís (unlike the 30ís labor surplus) and this had an impact on agriculture and transportation. In the 30ís many Mexicanís were returned to Mexico and now the U.S. turned to Mexico for help out of which came the Bracero Program in 1942 and lasted till 1964, in 1959 it reached it peak with 450,000 workers. Since this was a seasonal agricultural labor force they had to move around a lot so they had to find stable jobs in order to settle down and raise their families. In 1945 NASSCO (originally known as National Iron Co.) was moved to the water front (In 1944) and began building ships. Unlike the Navy, NASSCO employed civilians among then were many Chicanos that resided in the area. During the 1940ís and 50ís Barrio Logan remained Californiaís second largest Mexican American community which had about 20,000 residents which would soon change.

 


(Taken by Juan Villegas)

These are the tracks where the San Diego and Arizona Railroad used to pass by and they are only a block away from Perkins Elementary school

 

 

In the 1950ís Barrio Logan was turning into an industrial area instead of residential, due to the change in city zoning laws, which made Logan a mixed zone. This happened because downtown San Diegoís are expanded and the city and state wanted to takes steps towards modernization. Anglo owned junkyards were immediately setup next to schools and homes, gradually dismantling Barrio Logan. The city hoped that the residents would also gradually move out in order to completely develop the area as an industrial one. It didnít happen that way because many residents couldnít afford to live somewhere else. The destruction continued and residents didnít know what to do. In 1962 The National Farm Workers Union was founded by Cesar Chavez. At the time he was just trying to organize the farm workers into a union due to the unfair treatment, bad working conditions and low wages that many farm workers families suffered. He left his job and his wife became a fruit picker to feed their children. Within six months he only gathered 300 workers and with this they had their first meeting in Fresno and approved their flag and La Causa (The Cause) was born! With Chavez the workers began to demand their rights, which were better working conditions and fair pay. The grape growers didnít listen to the Unionís demands so the next step was to strike and the workers left the fields for picket lines. Illegal workers were hired, strikebreakerís and thugs were brought in, Union members jailed, and they still continued. Public officials, religious leaders and ordinary citizens from across the U.S. came to California to march in support of the farm workers. This was what began Cesarís long career as a Union Leader and as an icon to many Chicanos and later on he would inspire them to fight for what they believed in. Even though this happened many miles away it shaped the minds and cultural identity of many Logan Chicanos. Barrio Logan underwent many changes, primarily the destruction of many houses and small business in order to construct Interstate 5in 1963, which divided the community and the construction of the Coronado Bay Bridge that helped decline the population from 20,000 to 5,000 residents within the next 10 years. Residents were not given any notice before their houses were demolished in order to construct the I-5 and the Bay Bridge. Even though many of their civil right were being violated, Barrio Logan residents didnít know they had the right to protest or petition the city council. They werenít a part of the decisions that the city made and therefore they were not being represented. The ďUnited States was in the midst of massive social change that would find itís way in to Barrio Logan.Ē (4) Leaders of the Chicano community became inspired by the Black civil rights movement and by the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) led by Cesar Chavez. Which sparked a new political awareness in Chicanos that led to the formation of organizations of all types including MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), which was a student movement that helped the Chicano youth create a political movement of their own. They had their first National Conference in Denver, Colorado, more then 1,500 youths attended, including several of the young artist that would become some of the original muralists of Chicano Park. The Conference served to empower the youths to create political and social planning at the grass roots level in their communities and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan was created (The Spiritual Plan of Aztlan), all of which helped to affirm their Chicano culture. Many young people were returning to the barrio after leaving for college or the military and they came back with a sense of activism, which spread around the neighborhood.

 

(From the Journal of San Diego History)

Barrio Logan residents protesting So that

the city would give them their park

 

They began in 1967 by petitioning the city for a park under the bridge, which was approved in 1969 but nothing was done and the land remained a vacant lot. Much to the residentís surprise, they awoke on the morning of April 22, 1970, to find that the state brought bulldozers in order to begin the construction of a California Highway Patrol Substation. In the San Diego Area. This made the residents mad and they reacted they only way they knew how. By 7am they had demonstrators gathering around the site to challenge the construction crew. They created human chains around the bulldozers and many residents came out to protest. After 12 days of occupation the Assistant City Manager Meno Wilhelms announced that the city and state officials had agreed to negotiate with protestors. On June 31, 1970, the city authorized a contract for $21, 814.96 for the development of he 1.8-acre plot of land that is now known as Chicano Park. Even though some problems arised in the creation of the park they were resolved and in March 23, 1973 Chicano artist began to work on their murals. In March of 1980, Chicano Park was officially designated a San Diego Historical site. The Park how ever meant a lot more to the Chicano residents of the area, because it was the first time they had stood up and fought for their rights and they won. Every April there is a celebration in Chicano Park to commemorate the take over. In 1981 the San Diego Trolley began service south to the border, stopping at Barrio Logan and it was built on the rail line of the defunct San Diego and Arizona Railroad. Even though residents won a great victory, that didnít change the mixed zoning laws that allowed industries, junkyards, scrap yards and other businesses to ruin their neighborhood. In1990 the population of Barrio Logan was at 13,488 and 44% of the residents lived below the poverty line. Crime, drugs, and unemployment were among the top problems that plagued the community. Then in 1993 it was discovered by a Communities at risk report published by the Environmental Health Coalition that Barrio Logan was a toxic disposal site. Toxic pollution, and intense odors that emanate from the sewage pumping station owned by Kelco Corporation that is adjacent to Perkins Elementary school in Logan. Since then the Environmental Health Coalition has taken steps to help Barrio Logan to relocate some the chemical intensive industries. In April 2000 Chicano Park celebrated its 30th anniversary and till this day is a symbol of pride to all the Residents of Barrio Logan.††

 

 

(Taken by Juan Villegas)

In the early 90ís the retrofitting of the bridge was going to destroy the murals in Chicano Park but the residents fought and won. Many residents are proud of their Chicano Identity and have chosen people to look up to , like Cesar Chavez and Che Guevara

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