Art created in 1976 and 1977 at the Mechicano Art Center in Highland Park by (from left) Carlos Almaraz, Guillermo Bejarano and Judithe Hernández | Photos from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, image courtesy of Highland Park Heritage Trust

Chicano history in Highland Park gains official recognition

2021 Arts & Culture August Editions More News

By T.A. Hendrickson

The Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to grant Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) status to two locations in Highland Park where Chicano art and culture flourished in the 1970s.

Centro de Arte Público was in this building on Fig. at Ave. 56 | Photo: Jesus Sanchez/The Eastsider
The Mechicano Art Center, as it looked in the 1970s, was located on Figueroa Street at Avenue 54. | Photo by Oscar Castillo/

The buildings that housed the Mechicano Art Center (5337-5341 N. Figueroa St.) and the Centro de Arte Público (5605-5607 N. Figueroa St.) were key venues in Los Angeles during the Chicano Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, serving as home base to artists whose work has come to define the era, including Carlos Almaraz, Barbara Carrasco, Dolores Guerrero Cruz, Robert Delgado, Judithe Hernández, Leo Limon, Gilbert “Magú” Lujan, Frank Romero and George Yepes.

Those artists and others associated with Mechicano and Centro de Arte Público are “cultural heroes,” said Councilmember Gil Cedillo of Council District 1, where the buildings are located.

Cedillo has been a supporter of recognition for the buildings since September 2020, when applications were filed for HCM status on behalf of the Highland Park Heritage Trust. As the vote in the City Council neared, Cedillo urged his colleagues to vote for the measure “so that generations of Angelenos to come will appreciate their history.”

Jamie Tijerina, president of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, noted that nationally, fewer than 10% of historic landmarks are associated with communities of color.

“Important places that are historically connected with the struggle for Latino civil rights in the United State, the Chicano Movement, are at risk of being lost,” said Tijerina, adding that  HCM status for the Highland Park buildings is “not only critical for the preservation of Chicano history in Northeast Los Angeles and the Eastside, but [is] also a step toward achieving equity in this space.”

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