After visiting Chicano Park for a “patriot picnic” on September 3, Arthur Schaper wrote about the “Varrio Si, Yonkes No” mural in his blog along with his account of being driven out of the park by a large crowd.
“It looks like they are telling ‘Yankees’ to go home,” he wrote.
The word “yonke” looks like “yankee” but is actually spanglish for “junkyard.” San Diego State professor emeritus of Chicano Studies Richard Griswold Del Castillo said the notion that Yankees are being told to stay out “is a misunderstanding, possibly an intentional misunderstanding.”
The rumor has been passed around for years. An article from 2007 quoted people at the time who thought Yankees were being told to stay out. Chicano Park muralist Victor Ochoa spoke for that story about the time a junkie in the neighborhood also misread “yonke” and was offended, thinking the message was for him.
Chicano Park muralist Mario Chacon says he gets nauseated by the recycling of these rumors every few years and is tired of defending the park against them. “Prior to the existence of Chicano Park, the area was a dumping ground for construction refuse from the construction of the freeways, the Coronado Bridge, and other toxic polluters in the area. ‘Yonkes No’ was the battle cry to remove these dumpsites from the community,” he patiently explained.
The word “yonke” can be found in the name of a junkyard in Tijuana. It can also be found in Spanish classifieds in San Diego. One ad reads, “Compro carros para yonke” and has a picture of a tow-truck. Unless someone is offering to buy cars that don’t work for Americans, Chicano Park is not telling Yankees to stay out.