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Peralta Hacienda Historical Park: Building Community

By Heidi Renee Mason

Located in Oakland, California, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is a six acre park and historical house in the heart of the Fruitvale community. It opened in 1996 as an art and educational hub, as well as a center for historical discovery. The goal was to promote and create open space in an area of Oakland with the lowest per capita open space- but the highest percentage of children. It was also an effort to preserve and share the history of Rancho San Antonio, a 45,000 acre tract of land granted to Luis Peralta in 1820.

Park founder Claudia Albano explains, "I don't want it to be one of those places, where you come to the park and it is people in costume showing you what it was like in 1870. I think that it's deeper than that. It's really about who that neighborhood was, is, and can be. It's about the experience of being a human being ourselves and of change."

Visitors arriving at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park are likely to feel that they have traveled back in time. The jewel of the park is an Italianate frame house built in 1870 by Antonio Peralta. The home was built after Peralta's adobe homes were damaged by earthquakes- and you can still see the original footprints of the large and small adobe homes. The Peralta House has been restored to its original condition and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors to the park can also explore outdoor historical exhibits, historically-themed play structures, a native garden, and the Peralta Creek nature area.

Peralta Hacienda Historical Park has sought to become a multicultural center that brings people from diverse communities together. Itzel Diaz, the park's Marketing Director, says, "I love seeing people from different cultures and ethnicities hanging out at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park. There was a time in which a Palestinian mom and a Hispanic mom were talking to each other while their kids played soccer, I approached them to give them a flyer about our summer camp, and I realized that both of them spoke very little English. Even though English was not their first language, they were making every effort to have a conversation. This is an isolated example, but I feel it describes the potential parks have when it comes to building a community."

Diaz is excited about the park's Community Tour Leader Program. This is a program which teaches youth how to become docents at the Peralta House and Community Museum. This year, there will be collaboration between Friends Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, the Unity Council, and the Lao Family. These organizations are hoping to encourage youths ages 14-21 to participate in the program. The program will run on May 9, May 16, and May 23 from 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Diaz says,"This program is very special to me because it gives youth and community members the opportunity to develop new skills and learn the stories of the multicultural community of Oakland's Fruitvale."

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