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The Legacy of Chicano Urbanism in East Los Angeles

Fifty years after the Chicano Moratorium, James Rojas reflects on the future of Latino Urbanism.
November 22, 2020, 11am PST | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Public Art

James Rojas marks the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, a protest against the conscription of young Chicanos to serve in the Vietnam war, with a reflection on the meaning of Latino Urbanism, specifically in East Los Angeles. 

Since the protest, which ended in violent disbandment by Los Angeles County sheriffs, Chicano urbanists have reshaped the visual landscape of East Los Angeles. "The charred aftermath of the Chicano Moratorium marked the physical end of Anglo-dominated modernism in East L.A.," writes Rojas. 

Departing from the status quo in placemaking, Chicano visionaries, including artists, architects, and citizens, invented and implemented their own unique urban design interventions, says Rojas: 

East Los Angeles became the visual manifestation of Aztlan, the mythical region where the Aztecs are said to have originated from. Aztlan was scrawled on many walls alongside gang graffiti. Murals educated and celebrated the power and struggle of the community and were painted on the blank walls of the private and public buildings. ASCO, a group of Chicano artists based in East L.A., used ephemeral interventions, such as a dinner party in a traffic island, performative murals, and sidewalk parades down Whittier Boulevard to create identity through the use of public space.

Looking at East Los Angeles today, the architectural influence of the Latin American architectural movement is clear. Born in the 1960s as the brainchild of a group of Chicano planners and architects, East Los Angeles' El Marcadito was designed "as a community event space based on the design of a market in Guadalajara, Mexico," and stands as a popular reminder of the success and influence of Latino Urbanism.

Given the vibrant relationship of Chicano residents with the built environment, Rojas ends the piece with a pertinent question: "Will Anglo culture assimilate into Latino culture? Or will Anglo landscape incorporate Latino urbanism?"

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Published on Monday, November 16, 2020 in Common Edge
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