On Sept. 3, hundreds of community members came out to defend the murals at Chicano Park in San Diego from white supremacists and fascists.
In the atmosphere of unmuffled racism unleashed by the Trump campaign and presidency, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups felt emboldened by the Trump presidency to come out of the shadows and express their racist views. One such group decided to come to Chicano Park and launch a campaign to remove the famous murals.
When people in the Chicano/a community heard rumors that neo-Nazis were coming to attack and disrespect their park and its murals, they felt a heightened sense of urgency because of the events in Charlottesville.
In essence the community was not having it and was fed up with racist attacks against Mexicans and all people of color.
The response was great. Some 300-500 people showed up to defend the park. People drove in from out of town to lend their support. There were Chicanos, whites, Blacks, Natives, socialists, anarchists and many others who came out in mass to defend the park and its murals.
Legacy of the Chicano Park murals
What were murals that were under such attack and scrutiny? It appears white supremacist and neo-Nazis don’t like Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra because they are communist. They also tried to equate to the Nazi swastika an ancient Native American symbol which the Nazis stole to represent their fascist regime in Germany.
But what is wrong with communism and why can’t we determine for ourselves who we choose as our heroes? The Chicano community has every right to sympathize with communism and socialism if the community feels it meets the needs of the community. Who are outsiders to say what Chicanos/as can or can’t believe in? This is the essence of self-determination and what Chicanos/as have been fighting for since those murals were painted back in 1973.
Fidel Castro and Che Guevara
Who was Fidel and why does he deserve a place in Chicano Park? Without getting into a very long history lesson, we should know that Fidel was a revolutionary leader who led the overthrow of the Cuban government in order to bring about change for the people. Because he beat overwhelming odds in defeating the dictatorship of Fulgencio Bautista who was backed by the United States, Fidel is a hero. He was and is an inspiration to the people who felt they could never win a battle against a more powerful force. But he proved that wrong, he was a shining example of how organization, determination, faith and perseverance can beat all odds.
One of the people who helped Fidel defeat the Bautista dictatorship was Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Che was an Argentinian by birth, but left his country after studying to become a medical doctor to travel Latin America. He met Fidel in Mexico where the Cuban was making plans to re-enter his country with a small group of revolutionaries in order to take power. After their successful overthrow of the dictatorship and implementation of the new government, Che decided to go to Bolivia in order to help build another revolutionary army to overthrow the Bolivian government. Unfortunately, he was unaware the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States was sending support to the Bolivian government in order to stop another revolution in Latin America. Che was assassinated by Bolivian forces with the assistance of CIA operatives stationed in the country.
To the Chicano Movement in the 1960s, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were heroes in the fight against U.S. imperialism and capitalism. These two systems continue to oppress Chicanas/os today. And it is for that reason that the community defends the legacy, imagery and murals painted in Chicano Park. Because even if people do not know the history that is represented in some of the figures and icons that are in Chicano Park they know that no rightwing racist or Neo-Nazis is going to be allowed to come into the park and destroy or deface the murals that they fought for.
The defense of Chicano Park is an amazing example of how the people can come together to defend what is theirs. Now we must continue to organize ourselves and study the legacy of Fidel, Che and many others who fought to make a better world. If we learn anything from these great heroes, we should learn that they analyzed the conditions they were under in order to make strategic decisions that would lead to victory in the face of great odds.
¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!