Lolos y Paleteros
Chicano Park is a unique and special place, not only to local residents but especially to those who have been a part of its history and who have witnessed change over the years in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan in San Diego, California. Lolos (lowriders) and paleteros (ice cream pushcart street vendors) is a title that comes from the culture and essence of Chicano Park, and my photographs focus specifically on the Chicano Park Day celebration that takes place on Saturday in late April each year. Over almost the past ten years, I have photographed the cultural events, people, and happenings during the yearly celebration. I have seen Aztec dancers, listened to music, admired art, and more than anything, spent time getting to know people who consider the park their sacred space, or spiritual "home."
These photographs speak to cultural identity and what it means to be Mexican American in today's complex and ever-changing world. Lowriders and car clubs are key elements of Chicano identity and expression. Likewise, paleteros have a deep connection with Mexican American culture and reality and have been a mainstay in the community, while bringing back memories of childhood and nostalgia and the ringing of the ice cream bell. The photos highlight a people group that is resilient, proud, and also rooted in a neighborhood and space that not only reflects the past and history, but a space that represents change and forward motion toward the future while facing head-on the almost imminent and unfortunate gentrification of the barrio. Much like Mexican Americans sometimes have a sense of struggle and ambiguity concerning cultural identity (as witnessed in Gina Valdes' poem Where you from?), my photos show only glimpses into moments of this reality and do not try to answer any big questions about life and culture. This ambiguous reality comes out in my artistic take on the subject matter: I tend to shoot reflections, include out-of-focus elements, and love to highlight contrasting colors. To me, this makes the viewer want to know more about the identity of who is in the photos and what makes their story unique. So join me as we take a ride in a lowrider, get a cool limón fruit popsicle from the ice cream man, and enjoy the cultural richness of Lolos y Paleteros and the beautiful space that is Chicano Park. ¡Órale!