Lalo Alcaraz. Image from SDSU video

By Luis Monteagudo Jr. 

While the San Diego Convention Center is the center of the pop-culture universe this week, a thriving arts and culture scene is developing just a few miles away in Barrio Logan.

San Diego’s Chicano artists grabbed a piece of the spotlight this week at Comic-Con, attention that some thought was long overdue.

“But at least we’re moving forward,” said cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

Alcaraz was one of several Chicano artists and supporters who talked about the growing Latin art scene in San Diego.

Born and raised in Lemon Grove, Alcaraz has gained fame with his nationalluy syndicated cartoon strip, “La Cucaracha,” which appears daily in the San Diego Union-Tribune. And this past year, he was a writer and producer of “Bordertown,” an animated series on the Fox network that was cancelled after its first season.

He said Latino artists are gaining popularity and influence, but at a slow pace.

“The successes are few and far between,” he said.

Alcaraz and others cited the success of arts businesses in Barrio Logan as reasons for optimism.

“A lot of things are happening our community,” said Cesar Castaneda, who runs a Chicano art gallery on Logan Avenue. “There’s a lot of great promise.”

David Veloz started the Roots Factory in Barrio Logan in 2010 as a place to promote Latino art and is involved in the monthly Barrio Art Crawl.

Guillermo Valenzuela is a seventh generation San Diegan who grew up in South Bay and has seen the changes.

“The barrio is the most electric place,” Valenzuela said. “And artists control the whole thing.”

Challenges lie ahead, however. Some fear gentrification and Mario Torero, one of the original Chicano Park muralists, cited the threat posed by the construction of a football stadium in the East Village, near Barrio Logan.

“As long as Chicano Park is there, they will never be able to gentrify that neighborhood,” Valenzuela said.

Chris Martino created the CM Curatorial arts gallery in Barrio Logan and looks forward to expanding the local arts scene by also bringing in artists and exhibits from Tijuana.

“I really think the Barrio is the epicenter of creativity in California,” said Martino.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.

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