“Si se puede! Si si puede! Viva la Raza!” echoed throughout Santa Ana’s El Salvador Park this weekend with thousands of local residents, their families, and public elected officials gathering to recognize city leaders’ first annual Chicano Heritage Month celebration with a community festival.
Aztec dancers perform during the inaugural Chicano Heritage festival in Santa Ana on Aug. 28, 2022. Credit: Librada Leopo Bermudez
The free event, where community and city resources were available in addition to live entertainment by artists such as Joe Bataan and Little Willie G.
The Artesia Pilar neighborhood historically has been the scene for many social and political movements throughout the years of its existence. It has been home to gang peace treaties, student marches, and a place where families gather.
It’s now the anchor of a movement by city officials to establish August Chicano Heritage Month, which was unveiled during the festivities to the public.
“Good news and bad news,” said local Congressman Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, who also represents Santa Ana, at Sunday’s event.
“The good news is we finally got a congressional resolution declaring August National Chicano Heritage month,” he said.
“Now, the bad news is, it should have happened a long time ago. It’s over time, above time,” said Correa to a cheering crowd.
“But you know, walking around, I heard the stories. A lot of veteranos like military veterans, talk about their father’s fighting in the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Today is very simply about the following: We want our seat at the table where power is doled out. We’re not looking for handouts! We are looking for what we’ve earned as American citizens as part of this nation; that’s it. This resolution states a lot of things that Mexican Americans have accomplished for this great nation.”
The resolution notes Santa Ana as the first city to declare the month of August as Chicano Heritage Month in 2021 and celebrates the city’s Chicano experience.
“Whereas the Chicano community values family relationships, which encourages a sense of comradery and companionship within each household and serves as a means of embracing Mexican lineage and ensuring principal traditions from Chicano culture are instilled in the younger generation;
Whereas systemic prejudices targeting the Chicano population are becoming especially apparent as domestic terrorism attacks surge, as seen in the 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas; and
Whereas the elimination of Chicano discrimination requires the awareness and acknowledgment of the community’s struggle and the culmination of decades-worth of marginalization,” reads the resolution.
With roots in the political activism of the 1960s and 1970s, the word Chicano came out of that era as a way to better represent the Mexican American experience.
Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento was in attendance and also mentioned his ties to the Chicano movement, along with Correa, who both were in MEChA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán; “Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán”
“What many don’t know is that this was the park where Cesar Chavez met with organizers here at the community center. This is where the Black Panther Party started was in Santa Ana. Our chapter was in the Artesia Pilar in the little Texas neighborhood. When the Chicano moratorium took place, students met here at this park. And they stood in solidarity with our community across this country, and they marched their way to Los Angeles,” said councilmember Jonathan Hernandez, who represents the ward El Salvador Park is in.
“I just want to give a shout out to Councilmember Jonathan Hernandez and Councilwoman Nelida Mendoza for spearheading this event and educating us as colleagues on what this all means; this wouldn’t this wouldn’t be possible without their support,” said Councilmember David Penaloza.
The event held many traditional leisure activities in the area, such as handball tournaments or lowrider car shows, while also acknowledging local artists of all mediums: muralists, local djs, and musical artists.
Community members like Richard Muro, a member of Victory Outreach from Santa Ana, organized a safe space for players to play handball. “We were able to partner up with other groups and hold this handball tournament in a safe environment. So it meant a lot for me to be here cause coming out of a different lifestyle and now being able to do something productive within this city, within the community. To God be the glory, this was a great thing.”
For younger generations like Clarice Ordunez, 19, it signified a sense of growing pride. “I wasn’t exactly taught about much of my culture or really any kinds of Chicano or Latino events growing up, but as I continue to get older, I genuinely want to learn more of my roots and really what my culture is all about in all aspects.”
For many, this was a day where “ Sì se pudo.”
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