Foto de Isaías Alvarado/ La Opinión.

A Boyle Heights park that played a key role in the 1968 East LA Walkouts is among seven Latino heritage sites that should be considered for federal protection, according to a study released today by the Hispanic Access Foundation.

The study points to Hazard Park as “an important historical site contributing to one of the most significant youth-led Chicano social movements” and “among the few green public spaces in East Los Angeles, on which generations of families have depended for relaxation and recreation.”

Place, Story and Culture: An Inclusive Approach to Protecting Latino Heritage Sites emphasizes the need of protecting sites that embody the architectural, cultural and deep historical roots of the Latino community and are currently in need of preservation. 

The study was done by the Latino Heritage Scholars, a group of young Latino professionals focused on historic preservation brought together by the Foundation. The group aims at ensuring that Latino history is protected, shared, and celebrated as part of the U.S. narrative.

“Latino history is American history,” said Shanna Edberg, the foundation’s Director of Conservation. “Right now, less than eight percent of designated national historic landmarks tell the stories of women, of Latinos, of Native Americans, of African Americans, and other underrepresented groups.” 

The seven sites included in the report were chosen in part because of local support for their designation. In the case of Hazard Park, the Los Angeles-based Sal Castro Foundation has championed its preservation and inclusion in local, state and federal registers. The foundation is named after the local teacher and activist who helped organize the students who participated in the walkouts in 1968. 

Hazard Park was one of the locations where students from nearby Lincoln and Wilson High Schools rallied after walking out of their classrooms in March of 1968. The park was chosen because of its ample grounds and because at the time, the Los Angeles Unified School District had an office across the street from the park.

According to Edberg, Hazard Park’s inclusion “shows how conservation and preservation of historic places intersects with social justice and other issues like education. This is a place where history was made by these students and community members who wanted a better education and fought for it and fought against discrimination.”

Place Story and Culture also points to Hazard Park’s closeness to the Ramona Gardens housing complex and to the fact that for generations that community has depended on its open, green spaces for recreation and relaxation activities.

Hazard Park also played a key role in the postwar development of Mexican American or “Barrio Baseball,” which according to sports scholars Richard A. Santillán and Francisco E. Balderrama “promoted civil and labor rights, reaffirmed cultural values and traditions and forged a national identity for people of Mexican heritage.”

Hazard Park is one of three Southern California sites included in the study, which also calls for the preservation of Chepa’s Park in the Logan Barrio in Santa Ana, and of Friendship Park, along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego.

Other sites recommended by the study are the Castner Range and the Duranguito Barrio, both in El Paso, Texas, and the Gila River system in New Mexico. The only site outside of the U.S. Southwest is Fefa’s Market, an important meeting space for the Dominican community in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Besides proposing the seven sites for preservation, the study released today provides several recommendations that would increase the number of registered Latino Heritage sites. They include updating the criteria for evaluation into the National Register of Historic Places and provide solutions outside of the register to allow local communities “to protect places of significance, directly combating gentrification and other threats brought about from redevelopment.”

Edberg said the next step for the foundation and other interested groups is to lobby Congress and the Biden administration to get these and other places designated. She said that the change from the Trump administration, which opposed preservation, and the national reckoning that resulted from the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, provide a suitable moment to push for designation.

“Latino voices are badly needed, and we need to showcase our history and culture, otherwise it would go unnoticed,” she said.

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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