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Latino heritage sites, including a park, river and bodega, need preservation, group urges

Locations marking Latino heritage "are disproportionately excluded" from officially designated conservation and heritage site lists, the Hispanic Access Foundation said.
A deportee in Mexico speaks through the U.S.-Mexico border fence to loved ones on the American side on Sept. 25, 2016 in Tijuana.
From Mexico, a man speaks to relatives in the U.S. through the border fence in Tijuana that is part of Friendship Park, a binational park that is on a list of Latino heritage sites in need of conservation, according to the Hispanic Access Foundation.John Moore / Getty Images file

Latino preservationists listed a Dominican-owned bodega in Providence, Rhode Island, an east Los Angeles park that served as the gathering place for historic Chicano student walkouts, and five other locations as Latino heritage sites in urgent need of conservation.

Latino Heritage Scholars, part of an initiative of the nonprofit Hispanic Access Foundation, says the seven sites it has picked embody the contributions of Latinos to the nation’s identity and narrative.

Many of the sites it picked are threatened because of their deterioration or by gentrification, the group said in a report released Wednesday.

“Even though for generations Latinos have continued to prove they are essential to the United States, sites that commemorate Latino heritage are disproportionately excluded when it comes to officially designated heritage and conservation sites,” Manuel Galaviz, the report’s co-author and an anthropologist at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

Galaviz, who worked on earning National Historical Landmark status for Chicano Park in California, said the sites can be federally protected through the Antiquities Act. 

The group hopes its list will help show how essential the sites are to “telling a more complete story of the contributions of diverse communities to this nation,” anthropologist Norma Hartell, the report's co-author, said.

She worked to list Chope’s Town Cafe and Bar in La Mesa, New Mexico, on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The sites named as in need of preservation are:

  • Castner Range, El Paso, Texas — Ancestral lands of Comanche and Apache, the 7,081-acre landscape on the east side of the Franklin Mountains became a testing ground for artillery shells and was used for weapons training by the Army in several wars. The Latino preservationists say it continues to be considered sacred by Native and Indigenous communities, and includes historical and cultural artifacts and geological and environmental resources.
  • Chepa’s Park, Santa Ana, California — Located in the Logan Barrio, in Santa Ana — California’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood — the park is named for Josephina “Chepa” Andrade, who led the opposition to freeway construction through the neighborhood that is now facing gentrification.
  • Duranguito, El Paso, Texas — The neighborhood on the south side of downtown El Paso is the oldest in the city and played a role in the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It is at the center of a fight over its future as developers try to raze it for an arena.
  • Fefa’s Market, Providence, Rhode Island — The establishment is the first Dominican-owned bodega on Broad Street in Providence; it was opened in the mid-1960s by Josefina Rosario, known as Doña Fefa. She helped the growing number of families from the Dominican Republic who moved to Rhode Island and made it one of the largest Dominican communities in the United States.
  • Friendship Park, California-Mexico border — The binational park sits partly in Southern California and partly in Tijuana, Mexico. Former first lady Patricia Nixon inaugurated the park, saying, “May there never be a fence between these two great nations so that people can extend a hand in friendship.”
  • Gila River, New Mexico and Arizona — The Gila River system stretches 600 miles from New Mexico to Arizona and includes the Gila Wilderness area in New Mexico. The river system was a resource for the Mogollon civilization for more than 1,000 years, as well as for the Chiricahua band of Apaches and later Spanish colonists. It provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife.

Hazard Park in Los Angeles.L.A. Dept. of Recreation and Parks
  • Hazard Park, East Los Angeles — The park was a gathering place for Chicano high school students who organized the East Los Angeles Blowouts, the massive 1968 student school walkouts protesting educational inequities and conditions. It also has served as a gathering spot for families and a baseball field for Mexican American teams who couldn’t play in other fields. It is one of the few green public spaces in east Los Angeles.

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