This month I seem to be on a traveling circuit to places that are familiar to me, but long forgotten. Earlier this month, I was blessed to accompany a group of 29 teens to northern California and visit historic sites I had not seen in ages since I was a young college girl. This week, I found myself in beautiful San Diego, California for a work related training session. It was an area of San Diego that I hadn’t visited in years, and is now very much developed. Not only is there a huge international airport in the area, but the marina by Midway is much more open and cleaner, and the city’s use of older structures and modernizing it to attract more tourism has really become quite a spectacular and “hip” site to visit. Somehow the blend of the old historic sites of former Naval housing quarters, and the upscale tourist attractions, restaurants, homes, and parks goes very well together. Me? I just love the ocean breezes, the clean air, and the rich Mission-style buildings and the history behind the city itself.
Why is this area of California so important to me? Besides the fact that there are so many fun things to do in San Diego, and the close-to-perfect southern California weather the city seems to experience all year round, I’m a huge history buff, and I love learning about the various cultural influences that continue to make its presence felt in the architecture and the traditions among the city dwellers. San Diego is a place where the Spanish-American, Mexican-American, and the Native-American cultures collide. I would touch upon history, but that seems to be a sensitive subject among social justice activists who are reminded of the Spanish conquest of many parts along the coastal regions of the Americas in the earlier part of history. Some events were more brutal than others, and no one should have to endure such memories.
If I’m being honest, what attracts me most to this city is the rich “Mission” spirit that was left behind. True, not everyone is a fan of the Catholic Missionaries that arrived in the earlier parts of the previous millennium… centuries… decades… but there is something to be said about the spirit of what was “intended.” The missions were meant to bring faith and love to those who had no prior knowledge of Christ, and while those intentions were all good, the way it was carried out did not translate over well. In fact, most would argue that the missionaries acted rather ungodly. I’m not condoning the past or trying to explain it. What I am trying to say is that the original spirit behind it was pure and spirituality of those who were true to their calling and their teachings chose to count themselves among the people they wanted to convert. Sadly, we hear of the killings, the rapes, the enslavement, and the brutality inflicted by those who accompanied the missionaries, but we often fail to remember that the religious (monks, nuns, priests, laymen and laywomen missionaries) were sometimes killed “with” the indigenous people of the land because they stood up for the rights of the suffering.
For those who have never visited San Diego before, I would encourage you to visit not just the city proper, but surrounding townships. Visit San Diego’s many missions and churches. Visit tribal lands that still exist, and if possible areas surrounding the city such as San Marcos, Pala, Oceanside, Chula Vista, and the areas bordering Tijuana, Mexico that are simply an hour drive further south. These areas continue to show rich culture of the indigenous and the missions side by side and tell a story. History in the structures you visit may speak for themselves, but talking with those who have passed on history through oral tradition is even better. I won’t go on and on about social justice and the true history of the San Diego County people, but I will stop here and show you the richness of all that is Southern California’s San Diego.
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