Every 30 seconds, a Latinx person turns 18. That means that, in the five minutes that it takes you to read this article, 10 Latinx youth will turn 18, 2,880 in the next 24 hours, and over a million in the next 365 days—each one potentially becoming eligible to vote.
SAN DIEGO — Below crisscrossing freeway overpasses and the whooshing of speeding cars is one of the largest collections of outdoor murals in the United States.
Frida Kahlo’s distinct features are rendered huge on a concrete pylon. Majestic Aztec warriors prepare for battle. On a recent afternoon, a woman stopped to photograph Cesar Chavez and other Latino leaders painted on the side of a highway off-ramp.
This is Chicano Park, the heart of San Diego’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood, known as Barrio Logan. The park, which will mark its 52nd anniversary on Friday, remains a symbol of Latinos’ struggle for recognition and power in this border city as well as the rest of California.
“In most of our lives, this is probably the only time that we’ve ever had a voice — a say in something we wanted,” Jose Gomez, one of the leaders in the creation of the park, said in “Chicano Park,” a 1988 documentary. “You know, it’s not much of a park, but it’s our park.”
In the early 1960s, a heavily Latino neighborhood in southeastern San Diego known as Logan Heights was bifurcated by the construction of Interstate 5. Just a few years later, the newly built Coronado Bridge carved another path through the community and dislocated even more families.
Though Mexican Americans had long been accustomed to not being included in decisions made by government officials, many began to feel more empowered during the civil rights movement. So residents of the neighborhood they called Barrio Logan demanded a park to make up for what had been lost.
In 1969, officials agreed to designate green space underneath bridge pylons that now pierced the community. But in April 1970, bulldozers arrived to raze the land to construct a California Highway Patrol station, not a park.
This led to a takeover of the three-acre parcel, with protesters forming a human chain around the bulldozers to halt further construction. The group occupied the park for 12 days, as demonstrators flooded in from nearby homes and Chicano studies classes while other activists traveled from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to support the movement.
Fed up with years of disregard from the city, protesters planted cactuses, flowers and trees to create a garden on their own.
“What have you given us? A social system that makes us beggars and police who make us afraid?” a demonstrator who identified himself only as a San Diego State University student told city officials on April 23, 1970, according to a history compiled by S.D.S.U. researchers. “We’ve got the land and we are going to work it. We are going to get that park. We no longer talk about asking. We have the park.”
On May 1, city leaders agreed to build a park on the land in Barrio Logan. Thus, Chicano Park was born.
Kera Lovell, a history professor at the University of Utah, told me there were at least four dozen such park takeovers in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s. The most well-known is Berkeley’s People’s Park, which was founded the year before Chicano Park.
These acts of protest most likely became popular as Americans grappled with the issues of land rights and imperialism during the Vietnam War and an era of urban renewal.
“It just calls into question who owns the space and what is power,” Lovell told me. “I don’t know if they were ever meant to last.”
But Chicano Park has.
Four years after the park takeover in 1970, Latino artists began to cover the concrete surfaces in the park with paintings that told the stories of their people. Today more than 80 murals are splashed along several blocks, depicting an array of images, including lowrider culture and deaths at the border.
In 2017, Chicano Park was named a National Historic Landmark. It’s currently being considered for designation by the National Park Service.
“The pillars are pretty awful. They’re gray and stark — but they see them as these canvases that they’re going to paint about their life in this world in which they’re being displaced,” Lovell told me. “In my work, I say Chicano Park is a success as far as not just survival, but thriving.”
SNITIS and Rethink Trade Announce Filing of New USMCA ‘Rapid Response Mechanism’ Labor Case to Fight for Mexican Workers at Reynosa Panasonic Plants Denied Legitimate Union Representation
Panasonic, Local Authorities and a Corrupt Union Are Colluding to Impose an Illegal Collective Bargaining Agreement on Workers in Violation of USMCA Labor Rules
Washington, D.C. – The Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and Rethink Trade today filed a United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) labor complaint targeting Panasonic Automotive Systems de Mexico S.A. de C.V. Tensions have escalated at Panasonic’s auto parts factory in Reynosa over the past several weeks leading to an April 21-22 union election, as the corporation fired workers who support independent union SNITIS and tried to impose an unapproved collective bargaining agreement (CBA) made with a contested union. Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions have won recent RRM cases against General Motors and Tridonex.
In October 2021, workers rejected an existing labor contract at Panasonic’s Reynosa facilities during the USMCA-required relegitimization process. Tensions have escalated since the firm began colluding with a Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) union and local authorities to try force a new CBA on workers that they have not approved, which was negotiated by the CTM union that does not lawfully represent them. CTM is a national labor federation associated with a conservative political party that is notorious for protecting the interests of employers rather than workers.
“This complaint raises serious allegations about the actions of the employer, the CTM union, and the local labor authority that should be investigated immediately,” said Ben Davis, United Steelworkers’ Director of International Affairs.
After workers voted down the preexisting CBA last fall, Mexican independent union SNITIS filed for a certificate to represent the Panasonic employees and negotiate a new contract. More than 600 Panasonic workers signed in support of SNITIS. The CTM union, Sindicato Industrial Autónomo de Operarios en General de Maquiladoras de la República Mexicana (SIAMARM), also petitioned to represent the workers. With two unions disputing the right of representation, Mexican federal authorities called for a union election to be held on April 21 and 22, 2022.
“Fighting against the CTM means facing a titan, but there is no small adversary and independent Mexican unions grow stronger day-by-day due to workers’ rejection of corrupt unions because of their betrayal, embezzlements, robbery and exploitation,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, labor leader and member of the Mexican Congress. “Neither SNITIS nor other minority unions will rest until justice is achieved. The government of Tamaulipas cannot keep unlawfully undermining freedom of association and union democracy and we commend the U.S. government for helping us to keep in check corporations that benefit from labor rights violations in Mexico.”
In violation of its obligations under Mexico’s 2019-reformed Federal Labor Law, Panasonic has allowed SIAMARM’s staff to go into the plants and impose its delegates who have tried to bribe workers in exchange of their votes. Panasonic also started to withhold union dues for SIAMARM from its employees’ paychecks. It also circulated a new CBA signed with the CTM union, filing it with the local Conciliation and Arbitration Board and colluding with the CTM union to demand that workers sign a document endorsing this illegitimate contract.
“Bold action from the U.S. government using the Rapid Response Mechanism led to two independent unions winning elections at GM Silao and Tridonex. We are confident that the Biden administration will act accordingly in this case and work with the Mexican government to address this troubling state of affairs at Panasonic,” said Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Rethink Trade. “Since November 2021, the authority to register collective contracts lies exclusively with Mexican federal institutions. The fact that the Tamaulipas government acceded to register this fraudulent contract shows the lengths local elites are willing to go to obstruct workers’ ability to unionize independently and demand better wages and working conditions.”
Rethink Trade is a program of the American Economic Liberties Project.
Arthur Stamoulis Bob Cash
Citizens Trade Campaign Texas Fair Trade Coalition
(202) 494-8826 (512) 912-6630