Bridge over Chicano Park's language barrier

"A misunderstanding, possibly an intentional misunderstanding.”

Mural under the Coronado bridge, a dumping ground during freeway and bridge construction days.
  • Mural under the Coronado bridge, a dumping ground during freeway and bridge construction days.
  • Wikipedia image

After visiting Chicano Park for a “patriot picnic” on September 3, Arthur Schaper wrote about the “Varrio Si, Yonkes No” mural in his blog along with his account of being driven out of the park by a large crowd.

“It looks like they are telling ‘Yankees’ to go home,” he wrote.  

The word “yonke” looks like “yankee” but is actually spanglish for “junkyard.”  San Diego State professor emeritus of Chicano Studies Richard Griswold Del Castillo said the notion that Yankees are being told to stay out “is a misunderstanding, possibly an intentional misunderstanding.”

The rumor has been passed around for years.  An article from 2007 quoted people at the time who thought Yankees were being told to stay out.  Chicano Park muralist Victor Ochoa spoke for that story about the time a junkie in the neighborhood also misread “yonke” and was offended, thinking the message was for him.

Chicano Park muralist Mario Chacon says he gets nauseated by the recycling of these rumors every few years and is tired of defending the park against them. “Prior to the existence of Chicano Park, the area was a dumping ground for construction refuse from the construction of the freeways, the Coronado Bridge, and other toxic polluters in the area. ‘Yonkes No’ was the battle cry to remove these dumpsites from the community,” he patiently explained.

The word “yonke” can be found in the name of a junkyard in Tijuana.  It can also be found in Spanish classifieds in San Diego.  One ad reads, “Compro carros para yonke” and has a picture of a tow-truck.  Unless someone is offering to buy cars that don’t work for Americans, Chicano Park is not telling Yankees to stay out.  

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I have been to several gatherings at Chicano Park and have never had any problem. The Mexican people are friendly and welcoming people. The local residents have worked hard to keep gangbangers, dirtbags and druggies out of the park. Arthur Schaper went looking for trouble and he found it. If one looks one can find trouble in any park in any section of town.

Alex, are there other public venues in San Diego which feature racist artwork?

Just a couple of general comments, first Chicano park is an excellent example of taking something wasted and making into not only a park but an icon. Look at most freeway intersections and what is under them waste land, Chicano Park was a needed open space in a neglected space. Second the "Mexican People" are Americans just like the "White Folks", deserving of space to live their heritage and struggle just as every other ethnicity does in this "Melting Pot" that is the United States of America. Just because of the general outlook of race, immigration, jobs, etc is as messed up as it is currently, does not mean we get to rewrite history and forget the struggles of the past, be they Hispanic Rights, Civil Rights, Slavery, or the Boston Tea Party. Common grounds to our society is many "Settlers, and Immigrants" came to the US of A to flee some horrible situations weather it was religious persecution, famine or economic issues. We are more the same than different. I love seeing the murals and activity at Chicano Park as I pass by and will make it a point in 2018 to visit more often. BBQ

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