Pike Park, nestled amid the Uptown building boom surrounded by the American Airlines Center, Katy Trail, and Harry Hines Boulevard, holds a special place in Mexican-American history.
And Janis Bergman-Carton, along with some elders of the Mexican-American community in Dallas, is working to preserve its legacy.
Bergman-Carton, an associate professor of art history at SMU, became involved with Pike Park when members of the Dallas Mexican American Historical League approached her about sponsoring an exhibition.
MAHL is a grassroots organization that came together in 2008 as a group of 30 people age 50 and up began to realize that the elders of their community were not going to be around much longer.
“The history of Mexican-Americans in Dallas had never been written, and their children knew none of it,” Bergman-Carton said. “Pike Park, I’ve come to learn and truly appreciate, is the last thing of what used to be a very vibrant Mexican community in Dallas that is now Uptown.”
Moved by the community elders and their passion and instinct for the area’s history, Bergman-Carton began preserving old photographs and assigning her SMU students to work on the project.
Nicolas Gonzalez, an art history student at SMU, is creating a large mural for Pike Park, formerly known as Little Mexico. Local children are also contributing to the mural.
“I got them to be a part of the process in creating the mural,” Gonzalez said. “So from the very beginning, I wanted their physical hand printed onto the canvas.”
With help from Gonzalez, the community children are drawing pictures of stories they hear from the elders.
“That’s going to be the under-painting and the foundation, just like the history of the park, where traces of the history is still there,” Bergman-Carton said. “But most of it is still in need to be brought to the surface.”
Living in Dallas for 28 years, Gonzalez didn’t know much about his Mexican-American roots until he started working on the project.
“I’m really blessed to learn about the history of Little Mexico and Pike Park, and I kind of wish I knew about it a long time ago,” he said. “Now that I’m actually finding out about it, I feel sad that there’s a possibility it might disappear soon.”