The Legacy of Chicano Urbanism in East Los Angeles

Fifty years after the Chicano Moratorium, James Rojas reflects on the future of Latino Urbanism.

2 minute read

November 22, 2020, 11:00 AM PST

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Public Art

jondoeforty1 / Flickr

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?"

Monday, November 16, 2020 in Common Edge

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Amtrak Acela Express train passing through Harrison station in Newark, New Jersey

‘Train Daddy’ Andy Byford to Oversee Amtrak’s High-Speed Rail Efforts

Byford, who formerly ran NYC Transit and Transport for London, could bring renewed vigor to the agency’s plans to expand regional rail in the United States.

March 28, 2023 - StreetsBlog NYC

Buses in downtown Seattle on the dedicated 3rd Avenue bus lanes

Seattle Bus Lane Cameras Capture Over 100,000 Violations

An automated traffic enforcement pilot program caught drivers illegally using transit lanes more than 110,000 times in less than a year.

March 28, 2023 - Axios

View of Statue of Liberty with New York City skyline in background

Immigration Grows, Population Drops in Many U.S. Counties

International immigration to the country’s most populous areas tripled even as major metropolitan areas continued to lose population.

2 hours ago - The New York Times

Detroit Sports Arena

$616 Million in Development Incentives Approved for District Detroit

The “Transformational Brownfield” incentives approved by the Detroit City Council for the $1.5 billion District Detroit still require approval by the state.

3 hours ago - Detroit Free Press

A red sign reads, “Welcome to New Canaan.”

Affordable Housing Development Rejected for Lack of Third Staircase in Connecticut

The New Canaan Planning Commission rejected a development proposal, including 31 below-market-rate apartments, for lack of a third staircase, among other reasons, at a time when advocates are pushing to relax two-staircase requirements.

4 hours ago - Stamford Advocate

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.