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Lounging in the Surf
Paintings on Pillars
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Google Places and Platypie

“Drive-Over” Country: Under the Overpass

February 13, 2013

Back in the 70’s, my tastes in photography inclined towards abandoned buildings, tagged subway cars and construction sites. That was good, because as a result of the ’68 riots, the nation’s capitol remained pretty run-down and empty for years... especially along Pennsylvania Avenue.  We used to enjoy climbing down into the Washington DC subway tunnels while they were under construction, getting into the empty, crumbling Willard Hotel (near the White House), walking through the abandoned Iranian Embassy and taking street shots around the city late at night.

Push that Tri-X film!

We will always be Bruce Davidson wannabes, hardwired forever to cityscapes and urban people.

San Diego: Logan Heights, a Cleaved Barrio

While in San Diego, we considered going to the Hotel del Coronado Island Resort for a fruity blended cocktail overlooking the bay, but opted instead to go beneath the overpass and highway to the seven acre Chicano Park under the bridge.

San Diego: Logan Heights, a Cleaved Barrio

There, the overpass's piers, abutments, wing-walls, concrete pillars and beams are saturated with colorful and exciting murals depicting the history of Logan Heights, the Mexican immigrant barrio that before WW2 filled the area all the way to the bay. Where once residents lived, played and swam in the bay, there is now the bridge, the interchange, junk yards and a huge walled and wired US Naval base.

San Diego: Logan Heights, a Cleaved Barrio

Faces in the Park

Entering the park, you are greeted by towering, blazing murals depicting Aztec and Chicano culture, civil rights protests, stories of illegal immigration and the life of undocumented workers, saints, virgins, conquistadors, guns, birds, murder, flowers,  death, an Aztec Temple and a few Greek Gods thrown in just in case. Located in what is left of the heart of the community, the park has a playground for small children, clean rest rooms, well maintained walkways, public seating and picnic tables.


We spent hours walking under the twisting roadways, reading, photographing and talking to the local people who had come to enjoy the setting. Sully performed well, charming everyone into chatting with us.

More than ever I came away wondering, WTF! Why do so many people in our country feel entitled to build walls within themselves and all around to keep other humans away.. Read the murals in Chicano Park and be saddened, but educated. As one text reads. “No Human Being is Illegal.”

El Paso, a City of Murals

San Diego was not our only “Under The Highway Experience.” 

El Paso, a City of MuralsOur first encounter with bridge support mural art was under the “Spaghetti Bowl” (the huge interchange where I-10 & US 54 come together in El Paso Texas). The setting in San Diego was lush and verdant while the land under the highway in El Paso was bare and windy. 

The painting’s themes were familiar: Chicano history and protest, Pre Columbian and Christian religious motifs, mariachis, astronauts, unborn babies, doves, the ever present Virgin of Guadalupe, JFK, MLK, community leaders and a few naked women thrown in for good measure. The murals serve purposes educational, political, religious, artistic and at times were quite disturbing.

Visiting them is not only evocative of the murals of José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaros Siquieros, but it is like walking through the pages of a graphic novel.

Normally I don’t go out on a limb, but if you ever think you are even close to El Paso do not hesitate to go see these murals!

Treme, New Orleans: Under Route 10

Where once stood one of the wealthiest African-American neighborhoods in New Orleans, Interstate-10 now looms overhead and 18-wheelers rumble by day and night.

Treme, New Orleans: Under Route 10

Murals on the pillars beneath the highway portray life in Treme before the neighborhood’s condemnation, as well as important milestones in the Civil Rights Movement. There are paintings of women and babies, singers, second-line club members, skeletons, voodoo faces and best of all some cooks preparing great looking stews.

The outside pillars are painted like the oak trees that once lined Claiborne Avenue.

Locals do hang out under the bridge which provides a shady swath between bars, liquor stores, empty lots and buildings still collapsed from Katrina.

 I would love to see all of this underpass art in real life - so sorry I did not know about the one in Treme when we were last in NOLA. All look so over the top gorgeous - thanks to you both!


Awesome site, really enjoying the outstanding photography and the whole adventurous vibe of it all.

Sending you an email with some top secret boondocking spots in Burbank. :)


Cool beans! I am a real graffiti buff, although I have not frequented many highway underpasses. Also, years of going to Miami endeared me to Hispanic culture. I really do miss the quick hops to visit vaima during the winter seasons. We always went somewhere where there was art. Vaima was that way, and she had always had a love affair with Spanish language and culture. She actually spoke Spanish, you know. She truly enlightened me.


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