7 Latino Heritage Sites Need Preservation, Group Says

Bodega, parks, and ancestral lands are among locations in need of protection.

The US-Mexico border wall fence at Friendship Park in San Diego
The U.S.-Mexico border wall fence at Friendship Park in San Diego. Charles Ommanney / Getty Images

There's a bodega in Rhode Island, a park in California's oldest Mexican-American neighborhood, and a watershed in Texas that has been the ancestral home to the Comanche and Apache people.

These are among the seven Latino heritage sites that are in need of preservation, according to a new report released by a group of young Latino preservationists.

The sites were chosen by the Latino Heritage Scholars, an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation. They say the locations they've chosen embody architectural, cultural, and historical roots of the Latino community.

The sites were chosen with input from community leaders, preservation experts, among other professionals. Many of the locations are threatened by gentrification or weathering.

“Even though for generations Latinos have continued to prove they are essential to the United States, sites that commemorate Latino heritage are disproportionately excluded when it comes to officially designated heritage and conservation sites,” said co-author Manuel Galaviz, an anthropologist at the University of Texas Austin, in a statement.

“We sought to uncover the shared history and diverse narratives through extensive research and community outreach. However, it is not enough to simply bring these stories out from the shadows."

Galaviz, who worked on earning National Historical Landmark status for Chicano Park in California, suggests that these sites can be federally protected through the National Registry of Historic Sites, Traditional Cultural Properties, and National Parks and Monuments through the Antiquities Act.

“Our hope is that in highlighting these locations, we can raise awareness about why we need to preserve these locations and how essential they are to telling a more complete story of the contributions of diverse communities to this nation,” said co-author Norma Hartell, who helped list Chope’s Town Cafe and Bar in New Mexico on the National Registry of Historic Places.

“We want to help Latinos feel pride in their histories, culture and communities.”

Conservation and Nature

"This whole effort was done as part of our conservation program. It’s done in the context of environmental protection and restoration," Shanna Edberg, director of conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation, tells Treehugger.

"One of our hopes for these protections is that it will increase Latinos’ ability to get outdoors and enjoy nature."

In 2020, the foundation released a report called "The Nature Gap" that looked at the unequal distribution of nature in the U.S.

"We found that people of color are 3.5 times more likely to live in a census tract that is nature deprived," Edberg says. "That's an area that is being developed and green space is being lost more than the state average."

That's why sites like those on this list are so critical, she says.

"Having nearby nature is so important and Latinos disproportionately don’t have access to it."

These are the seven sites that the report says are in need of preservation.

Castner Range (El Paso, Texas)

Sprawling at 7,081 acres, Castner Range is the ancestral land of the Comanche and Apache people, and some communities continue to see the land as sacred, according to the report's authors. It was used as a testing ground for artillery shells and anti-tank weaponry training for three wars. It functions as a watershed for the surrounding land.

Chepa’s Park (Santa Ana, California)

Chepa's Park is named after community leader Josephina "Chepa" Andrade. It's located in Logan Barrio, California’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood, Andrade helped save the neighborhood from a proposed freeway on-ramp extension. She created the park instead for everyone in her community, which is now facing gentrification.

Duranguito (El Paso, Texas)

This neighborhood in downtown El Paso is the oldest in the city. It has played a key role during many periods in history. During the U.S.-Mexico War, the city had a "zona libre" or free trade zone, allowing profits to both sides. Because of its location close to the border, it's a binational, multiethnic community. Preservationists are fighting a bid to create an entertainment complex where much of the city stands.

Fefa’s Market (Providence, Rhode Island)

Josefina Rosario opened what became the first Dominican-owned bodega on Broad Street in Providence, Rhode Island, in the mid-1960s. Rosario was known by her nickname "Dona Fefa." she and her market became integral to Latin American goods and gatherings and helped spur the growth of the Dominican community in Providence.

Friendship Park (San Diego)

Friendship Park is the San Diego side of this binational park that has border wall barriers dividing the nations. Family and friends can only visit at certain times, meeting at the wall. The border wall threatens local ecology and the use of the lands, the authors point out. When the then-First Lady dedicated the park in 1971, she said, “May there never be a fence between these two great nations so that people can extend a hand in friendship,”

Gila River
Gila River flowing through New Mexico. Wilsilver77 / Getty Images

Gila River (New Mexico and Arizona)

The Gila River system winds and stretches more than 600 miles from New Mexico across Southern Arizona. The river system has been a critical resource for many human inhabitants including Hispanic settlers, fur traders, and farmers. It's also important for wildlife including endangered, threatened, and endemic species.

Hazard Park (Los Angeles)

This East Los Angeles park was where Chicano high school students gathered in 1968 for the East Los Angeles Blowouts, youth-led walkouts protesting unequal educational conditions. Generations of families come to the park for recreation and relaxation including baseball, when Mexican-American teams had nowhere else to play. It's also among the few green public spaces in East L.A.

View Article Sources
  1. "Place, Story & Culture." Hispanic Access Foundation.

  2. Rowland-Shea, Jenny, et al. "The Nature Gap." Hispanic Access Foundation, 2020.