Recommendations from the Hispanic Access Foundation for creating an inclusive approach to protecting Latino heritage
The following story is excerpted from the July 2021 Hispanic Access Foundation report, “Place, Story and Culture: An Inclusive Approach to Protecting Latino Heritage Sites” prepared by Manuel G. Galaviz, Norma Hartell and Ashleyann Perez-Rivera. Learn more and read the full report.
Numerous sites dot our American landscapes and cities that tell a story about our diverse past — places that embody the architectural, cultural and deep historical roots of the Latino community. However, sites that commemorate Latino heritage are disproportionately excluded when it comes to officially designated heritage and conservation sites. We seek to address this “diversity deficit,” proposing a more inclusive designation system as well as a list of Latino heritage sites that currently lack official recognition.
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Less than 8% of designated landmarks specifically represent the stories of Native Americans, African Americans, American Latinos, Asian Americans, women and other underrepresented groups. Even amid efforts to expand designations, a lack of diversity remains.
Latino heritage scholars developed these recommendations with the future of Latino heritage preservation in mind. This does not capture all the sites that are part of the American narrative, but it does give insight into the vast number of sites that deserve protection.
American Latinidad (Latino identity) is composed of many narratives; there is not one dominant story that can completely tell the history and the contributions of Latinos to the United States. Therefore, highlighting sites that represent the diversity within Latino communities was an important factor in developing these recommendations. Our aim is to highlight the significance these sites have on Latino culture and American history and to create a dialogue around these sites that stimulates an interest with scholars, the conservation community, government and the public.
Notable Latino heritage sites worthy of national recognition
Castner Range (El Paso, TX)
In the heart of El Paso, Castner Range provides a solid backdrop to the burgeoning city, which has grown around the range and embraced it as a feature of the landscape. Castner Range not only works as an essential watershed, replenishing the aquifer that supports the life that surrounds it, it has been the ancestral home to the Comanche and Apache people, who continue to conduct ceremonies on the range. Various Indigenous communities see the range as sacred, including the Mescalero Apache, who harvest the agave for ceremonies. The proximity of the range to the military base of Fort Bliss made it a testing ground for artillery shells. In the mid-1920s, the Castner Target Range was extensively used for training of anti-tank weaponry during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Chepa’s Park (Santa Ana, CA)
Located in the Logan Barrio neighborhood of Santa Ana, California’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood, Chepa’s Park is more than a site for recreational activities — it is a testament to the legacy of community leader Josephina “Chepa” Andrade. In the early 1900s, the neighborhood was among the only areas in the city that did not have restrictive racial covenants, known as redlining, and was one of the few neighborhoods where people of Mexican descent could purchase a home. Construction of the Interstate 5 freeway threatened to destroy Logan Barrio. In 1969, Josephine “Chepa” Andrade, along with other community members, founded the park to prevent a proposed freeway on-ramp that would have destroyed her home and neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is home to the second oldest Mexican food restaurant in Orange County, along with a mural honoring Chicano Veterans from World War II and the Vietnam War. The park, once known as Logan Park, was renamed “Chepa’s Park” in March 2008 to honor Andrade’s community and legacy.
Duranguito (El Paso, TX)
The Duranguito neighborhood, named after Durango Street on its western side, is the oldest neighborhood in El Paso, with a storied history, from its beginnings as a religious conversion site of Spanish colonizers to its “zona libre” period during the U.S.-Mexico War to its continued binational, multiethnic community. The neighborhood tells the story of El Paso during its formative and booming years, while showcasing the diversity that has been a part of the city since the beginning. Barrio Duranguito was at the center of many of El Paso’s early ethnic communities, housing Mexican, African American and Chinese residents. Duranguito has a history of railroad construction, the rise and fall of the Red Light districts, and the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. When the railroads reached El Paso in 1881, fueling fast-paced urban growth, Duranguito became home to El Paso’s first City Hall. During the U.S.- Mexico war, Duranguito became a booming binational neighborhood. Following the sentiment of the civil rights movement, Duranguito residents have long been involved in community organizing to preserve their culture and improve the neighborhood.
Fefa’s Market (Providence, RI)
In the mid-1960s, Josefina Rosario opened what became the first Dominican-owned bodega on Broad Street. Rosario, recognized by her nickname “Dona Fefa,” became instrumental in the growth and evolution of the Dominican community in Providence. The bodega and Dona Fefa herself became a hub for Latin American food and gatherings. Efforts to document and recognize the histories of the Latino communities in Rhode Island represent a growing urge to establish a sense of belonging. Fefa’s Market and stories uncovered through the Latino Oral History Project of Rhode Island and many other Latino oral histories indicate a growing need to look at how Latino communities on the East Coast impact the built environment and culture of the region.
Friendship Park (San Diego, CA)
Located at the most southwestern edge of the United States and the most northwestern corner of Latin America, Friendship Park is a site of transborder cultural connectivity between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. Families and friends who are not able to cross borders depend on Friendship Park to meet and maintain social ties. Park facilities — including restrooms, cement picnic benches, beach viewing areas and parking lots — coexist with fences, cameras and Border Patrol agents. Friendship Park has witnessed the growth of U.S. border fences, which do not stop unauthorized migrations, but only deflect them to regions with fewer security barriers. Yet, this border security enforcement is uninviting and can feel threatening, especially to visitors of Mexican and Central American ancestry. The construction of more border barriers not only threatens the local ecology but also reduces the public use of these lands. It is therefore necessary to protect the park for future generations to enjoy the beach landscape without fear of being profiled or harassed.
Gila River (New Mexico)
The Gila River system stretches over 600 miles from its headwaters in southwestern New Mexico across southern Arizona before joining the Colorado River, which ultimately spills into the Gulf of California. For hundreds of years, Indigenous inhabitants, Hispanic settlers, mountain men, fur traders and farmers have relied on the life-giving waters of the Gila River system and the environment that it supports. The Gila River system is also home to bobcats, cougars, mule deer, pronghorn, rattlesnakes, Sonoran king snakes, turkeys, bald eagles, spotted owls, brown trout, rainbow trout, catfish and bass, to name a few species. In 1988, the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf was reintroduced into the area, and as of 2006, they had established four packs within the Gila region. Due to hunting pressure, elk and bighorn sheep were both pushed to extinction locally; however, in 1954 and 1958 respectively, both animals were reintroduced to the area and today continue to thrive. The Gila River also provides for a variety of outdoor activities, serving as a significant economic resource for New Mexico.
Hazard Park (Los Angeles, CA)
The 1968 East Los Angeles Blowouts are among the most significant youth-led educational justice social movements in United States history. Organized by Chicano high school students from East Los Angeles, the Blowouts were massive student walkouts to protest the abject educational conditions Mexican Americans had to endure at the time. Charging that the Los Angeles School Board disproportionately discriminated against schools and students from East Los Angeles because of their Mexican origin, the Chicano youth walked out of their classrooms as an act of protest between March 1-8, 1968. Among the locations where they ultimately rallied was Hazard Park in East Los Angeles. Besides being an important site in the Blowouts, Hazard Park is among the few green public spaces in East Los Angeles. For multiple generations, families have depended on the park for recreational activities and relaxation. Both the educational and social histories of overcoming racial discrimination and advancing civil rights contribute to the historical and cultural integrity of the park.
Recommendations for inclusively protecting Latino heritage sites
To be listed or even considered for nomination to the National Register, a site must meet the parameters of its Criteria for Evaluation — but these criteria present onerous challenges that contribute to the lack of nominations and designations of Latino historic sites. Issues of age and condition of sites, migration and displacement of the Latino diaspora, gentrification, and lack of community involvement can all disproportionately affect historic preservation efforts in minoritized communities. These six recommendations aim to improve the process.
1. Update the Criteria for Evaluation used to determine inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
2. Provide institutional support in the form of community liaisons at the state level to facilitate and sustain community relationships with minoritized communities through the nomination process.
3. Develop a permanent committee or advisory group that sustains efforts to integrate justice, equity, diversity and inclusion frameworks into historic preservation nominations and designations.
4. Provide solutions outside of the National Register process that promote and enable communities to protect places of significance, directly combating gentrification and other threats brought about from redevelopment.
5. Develop a professional pipeline in historic preservation for individuals from minoritized communities to obtain career opportunities that lead to decision-making roles.
6. Develop a theme study that specifically focuses on the U.S. Northeast and the Latino diaspora’s histories in the region.
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In its current form, the model of historic preservation fails to address heritage conservation needs for Latino places. Legal protections outlined by the National Park Service’s programs disregard how past policies disenfranchised communities, causing distrust of government processes. Likewise, protections offered are less accessible to Latino communities and hampered by inconsistent nomination processes among states and the institutional “red tape” that accompanies them. As a model, historic preservation needs to be a holistic effort that provides diverse mechanisms for protection.
Read the full Hispanic Access Foundation report, “Place, Story and Culture: An Inclusive Approach to Protecting Latino Heritage Sites,” at https://hispanicaccess.org/news-resources/news-releases/item/1394-new-report-highlights-seven-latino-heritage-sites-in-need-of-protection.