The park on the middle of Arturo Rodriguez’s neighborhood, the place his household has been for 5 generations, known as La Raza. He mentioned it means “the individuals” — which suggests empowerment, satisfaction and unity.
“Viva La Raza,” he mentioned, repeating the chorus of the Chicano motion within the 1960s and ’70s.
However the official title of the plot of land on Navajo Avenue and 38th Avenue is Columbus Park, which Rodriguez mentioned represents the historical past of colonialism and violence towards Indigenous individuals in the US. And it’s a painful moniker.
“Our native brothers and sisters are nonetheless immediately combating for his or her land, combating each situation on this planet to carry on to their tradition,” he mentioned in an interview with The Denver Put up. “A small, one-block park has such a big lesson.”
As protests towards the remedy of Black People convey American racism into sharp focus, Indigenous and Latinx communities are evaluating their very own experiences with the police and racism. And in Denver, La Raza Park is on the middle of that story, Rodriguez mentioned. From civil disobedience and neighborhood organizing to police riots, the Chicano motion has deep roots within the park, and the most recent renaming efforts are a part of reclaiming the house for Denver’s Latinx neighborhood.
After Black Lives Matter protests downtown, the Parks and Recreation Division even eliminated all indicators that say “Columbus Park” to stop vandalization. And Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, representing the district the place the park is situated, has began the formal course of with town to vary the title to La Raza Park.
In 2013, Sandoval had labored for Councilwoman Judy Montero within the effort to rename Lincoln Park to La Alma-Lincoln Park and she or he campaigned on the promise that she would do the identical for La Raza.
In April, she began trying into the method, and by early June, as coronavirus restrictions began to loosen, she gauged neighborhood help by social media. That coincided with Black Lives Matter protests and the push to rename the Stapleton neighborhood, named for the previous Denver mayor and Ku Klux Klan member. (The brand new title chosen by residents final week is “Central Park.”) Sandoval’s on-line letter took off, gathering greater than 2,000 signatures.
Then, on June 26, Sandoval despatched her formal request to start the renaming course of to Pleased Haynes, the manager director of parks and recreation. On that day, town took down the Columbus Park indicators.
On the finish of July, her workplace arrange tables underneath the kiosk within the middle of the park with petitions. Sandoval wanted 300 signatures to start the renaming course of. By the top of the weekend, she had greater than 700.
“I noticed tons of individuals from the neighborhood, and none of us have gathered due to COVID,” she mentioned. “As individuals wore their masks and social distanced, it was a possibility for individuals to test in and see one another. It felt nice to have such neighborhood help.”
Parks and Recreation will confirm the signatures, and Sandoval hopes the workplace can do it in time to current the proposal on the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s September assembly. If it will get authorised there, the proposal will go to the Metropolis Council for a remaining vote.
Rodriguez has been part of three renaming petitions over the previous 50 years, in addition to different neighborhood organizing efforts in Sunnyside. In 1970, he helped set up a “splash-in” on the pool to demand Parks and Recreation rename the park, rent youth from the neighborhood, and lead the revitalization of services that had fallen into disrepair. He mentioned one of many younger organizers got here up with the title La Raza earlier than the splash-in.
A decade later, in the summertime of 1981, Rodriguez was at La Raza Park with Corky Gonzales and different leaders within the Chicano rights motion when a riot broke out. Police kicked them out of the park for not having a allow, and as residents moved to the road and began throwing rocks, officers tear-gassed them. The following 12 months, town crammed within the park’s pool.
Now, in 2020, Rodriguez hopes the dynamics have modified for the most recent renaming effort, because the nation faces a reckoning with racism in America, together with colonialism and the genocide of indigenous People, he mentioned.
However altering the title received’t tackle different issues that his neighborhood wants. Rodriguez desires to see the historical past documented and displayed for individuals to study concerning the park’s position within the Chicano rights motion. He additionally desires bogs and a recreation middle, and to vary the park’s designation to a neighborhood park, so individuals don’t get harassed by law enforcement officials for holding household gatherings or fiestas.
His imaginative and prescient extends previous the title itself, La Raza, to think about sources, actions and cultural occasions for La Raza, the individuals. And that is what it was like within the 1970s, he mentioned, when he led youth applications and cultural occasions within the park.
“It was greater than a park,” he mentioned. “It turned a cultural middle. It turned a secure haven for individuals.”
As Rodriguez passes the torch to the subsequent technology of leaders combating for La Raza Park, his recommendation is to be persistent. Even when it takes 50 years, change is a stupendous sight to behold.
Sandoval mentioned renaming the park is bringing collectively generations of residents and honoring the work of those that got here earlier than. From the kids she sees enjoying there day-after-day to the 100-year-old man who got here to signal her petition, La Raza Park is for her neighborhood.
“All of the work that we’re doing proper now, like individuals whose shoulders I stand on, it’s for the subsequent generations of individuals, the subsequent generations in Denver,” Sandoval mentioned. “It’s who we’re, the place we got here from, and the way we’re constructing a greater future.”
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