‘Josephine ‘Chepa’ Andrade Day’ in Santa Ana honored late activist’s legacy

Michael Andrade leans on a sign etched with the likeness of grandmother, Josephine "Chepa" Andrade, at Chepa's Park.
Michael Andrade leans on a granite sign etched with the likeness of his grandmother, Josephine “Chepa” Andrade, at Chepa’s Park in Santa Ana. Santa Ana proclaimed Dec. 16 to be Josephine “Chepa” Andrade Day in honor of the late Logan neighborhood activist. She fought to protect the integrity of the historic Mexican neighborhood from redevelopment and helped found a park, which now bears her name.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Santa Ana residents long proclaimed Josephine “Chepa” Andrade as “La Reina de la Logan,” or “The Queen of Logan Barrio,” for her legendary activism.

A voice for one of the oldest Mexican American communities in Orange County, Chepa fought to preserve Logan’s integrity from creeping industrialism, freeway and thoroughfare expansions over the years. She also advocated for quality of life improvements, including a park that posthumously bears her name.

Such a Logan legacy led Santa Ana City Council to bestow another honorific by proclaiming Dec. 16, 2021 as “Josephine ‘Chepa’ Andrade Day” on what would have been the activist’s 95th birthday.

“It’s a very heartwarming feeling to understand that my grandmother — born and raised in this little neighborhood that she lived in — touched so many lives,” said Michael Andrade, Chepa’s grandson. “She made people understand that good, humble people lived in Logan.”

Santa Ana Councilman Johnathan Ryan Hernandez presented the proclamation to Chepa’s immediate family members, including Andrade and his father Joe Jr., during a Dec. 7 council meeting.

“Chepa was, and will always be an inspiration to her family, to her community,” said Hernandez during the presentation. “Her legacy will forever live on in Santa Ana.”

Sam Romero, another longtime community activist originally from Logan, spoke at length at the council meeting about Chepa’s history of advocacy. He recounted one of the barrio’s more decisive moments in 1969. The city had purchased three plots of land in the neighborhood, a pretext for a planned routing of Civic Center Drive right through Logan.

The barrio had lost homes before when the 5 Freeway and Santa Ana Boulevard claimed them.

Instead of allowing the community to be split in half by Civic Center Drive, Chepa rallied residents to City Hall.

“She was able to convince everyone to show up here,” said Romero. “We saved what we could of Logan.”

Rain falls on Chepa's Park in Santa Ana.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A few years later, Logan residents returned to City Hall to oppose a land use plan that aimed to transform the greater neighborhood into an industrial park. The community notched another victory when the city granted residential rezoning to preserve homes.

As for those three plots of city-owned land that set the Civic Center Drive fight in motion?

Chepa pushed for them to be turned into the future site of Logan Park. After she passed away in 2006 from a heart attack, the city renamed it “Chepa’s Park” the following year.

“She always said she didn’t want anything named after her,” Andrade said. “But the people that she reached are the ones that really want to push who she was as a person and an activist.”

Before Chepa’s birthday became a city proclamation, Andrade remembers her longtime Logan Street home festively decorated during the holidays, where it also became the site of many tamaladas over the years.

“My family would make so many tamales, we’d have some frozen for months afterward,” he said. “People would come over to my grandmother’s house and she would give tamales away.”

A plaque honors late Logan neighborhood activist Josephine "Chepa" Andrade at Chepa's Park in Santa Ana.
A plaque honors the late Logan neighborhood activist, Josephine “Chepa” Andrade at Chepa’s Park in Santa Ana.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Chepa helped raise him while his parents worked hard to make a living and instilled the values of selflessness. Andrade witnessed Chepa’s unceasing activism in her later years.

“As I got older, I would push her in her wheelchair to take her to City Hall,” Andrade said. “She would meet the mayor and voice her opinion on things that weren’t being changed.”

He recalls his grandmother’s compassion in action from the kitchen to City Hall. When not fighting to preserve Logan from the drumbeats of redevelopment, she made everything from menudo to burritos wrapped in foil for those less fortunate, often distributing meals from Logan Park.

For Andrade, his grandmother’s legacy continues beyond her proclaimed day in the city. The Andrade family continues Chepa’s tradition of advocacy in Logan. The lessons also start at home with a new generation.

“I have children of my own,” he said. “I educate them on how lucky they are to have a great-grandmother that was the voice of the community.”

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