Día de los Muertos altars in Old Town.

Many beautiful Día de los Muertos altars can now be viewed in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. They were built for Mexico’s traditional Día de los Muertos celebration, which begins in a little over a week. The holiday stretches from November 1st to 2nd.

Several of the beautiful altars you are about to see have been installed in historical buildings that operate in the State Park as free museums. These altars pay tribute to people who lived in early San Diego.

Today I and several other visitors enjoyed an educational tour of four particular altars. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide was Aaron, whom I’d seen a few minutes prior to the tour hammering away in Old Town’s Blacksmith Shop!

Our group began in front of the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center, where we learned about the history of Día de los Muertos, its origin, meaning, and the rich symbolism contained in the traditional altars. You can learn all about the Day of the Dead by checking out this Wikipedia page here.

Our group began by looking at a small altar set up on a cart by the Visitor Center’s front door. The touching altar honored and remembered Old Town State Park volunteers who had passed on from this life.

Over 4 million visitors come to this State Park every year, including many school children. Without dedicated volunteers, maintaining the vibrancy of this very special place wouldn’t be possible.

We then proceeded across a corner of Old Town’s grassy plaza to La Casa de Machado y Silvas, which is now the Commercial Restaurant museum. Inside, we learned about this old adobe’s history.

In one room of the historic adobe a large, beautiful altar paid tribute to many notable residents of San Diego in the mid-1800s.

Some photographs in the altar showed relatives of María Antonia and her husband, José Antonio Nicasio Silvas. The newly married couple was gifted this house by María’s father José Manuel Machado, who commanded the military guards at nearby Mission San Diego.

Next came an altar inside La Casa de Machado y Stewart. The images in this altar are of José Manuel Machado and his wife María Serafina Valdez de Machado.

The two raised eleven children. Their daughter, Rosa Machado, married a New Englander named John “Jack” Collins Stewart and thereby inherited this house. Stewart was a shipmate of famous author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who described a visit to the house in Two Years Before the Mast.

It was interesting to see that the ofrendas (offerings) on the floor in front of this altar include playing cards, a pipe and liquor!

Food and objects that brought pleasure in life are meant to entice souls back to our world–at least during Día de los Muertos.

Our group finally headed to the small historic San Diego Union Building, where an altar remembered two figures in the early history of our city’s major newspaper.

The photos are of Edward “Ned” Bushyhead and José Narciso Briseño. Bushyhead was not only a Cherokee miner and lawman, but he was the newspaper’s first publisher. Briseño, a native of Chile, was the printer.

This altar is quite unusual in that it contains a pile of sorts–small typesetting pieces used to assemble words, that were subsequently printed in columns on sheets of paper using a hand press.

The next two altars that I photographed today were not part of the tour.

The following example on a cart can be found in Wallach & Goldman Square, among many shops. I know nothing specific about it…

And finally, probably the most impressive of all the Old Town altars is the one inside the sala (living room) of La Casa de Estudillo.

The sprawling adobe and its beautiful courtyard, built by Presidio comandante José María Estudillo and his son, lieutenant José Antonio Estudillo, became San Diego’s social and religious center during the Mexican and early American periods.

Most Californio families, like the Estudillos, were Roman Catholic…traveling priests performed weddings, baptisms, and memorial services here in the Sala for the people of San Diego.

I encourage those visiting Old Town San Diego State Historic Park this week to sign up for the daily 3 pm Día de los Muertos altar tour. A limited number of people can participate. The guided tour lasts a little less than an hour.

You can sign up at the counter inside the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center!

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Chaldean Family Christmas in Balboa Park.

Today during my walk through Balboa Park I stumbled upon a special holiday event in the Hall of Nations. Families were celebrating a Chaldean Family Christmas with traditional music, dancers in folk dress, tables overflowing with food, lots of smiles and the arrival of Santa Claus!

The Chaldean Family Christmas–From Babylon to Balboa–was brought to life by the Chaldean American Family Foundation, an organization that aids the local Chaldean community.

I took a few photos of the festive event. That above first photograph was framed perfectly, but came out much too blurry. So I ran it through GIMP’s oilify filter. The joyful image really captures the Christmas spirit.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Presidio Hill sculptures moved to History Center.

Two remarkable and historically important sculptures were moved recently from Presidio Hill to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.

When I visited the History Center today I was surprised to see the two large Arthur Putnam works, because I’d observed them several times in the past during walks through Presidio Park.

An explanation on the gallery wall explains that The Indian (1904) and The Padre (1908) were moved to protect them from the outdoor elements and vandalism. I learned they will be gallery centerpieces as this section of the San Diego History Center receives additional material. Critical context will be provided for these bronze statues.

If you’d like to see photos of the two sculptures when they stood on Presidio Hill, check out past blog posts here and here.

The first link will take you on a walk from Old Town up to the Serra Museum–a walk I made years ago when Cool San Diego Sights was just getting started.

The second link concerns an Arthur Putnam exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art. You’ll learn that he was internationally renowned, particularly for his sculptures depicting animals. And he also had an interesting San Diego connection!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Big gathering of Azteca dancers in Chicano Park!

A group of about a hundred Danza Azteca-Chichimeca dancers filled Chicano Park today with life and color and tradition and joy!

To the rhythmic beat of drums, strummed lutes and rattled gourds, families danced within and around Chicano Park’s central gazebo, or Kiosko.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Mexican Concheros ceremony and dance, other than it’s a fusion of pre-Hispanic and Christian symbols and rituals. You can learn more here.

Additional elements in today’s dance I believe come from San Diego’s local Native American Kumeyaay culture–including the blessing of participants with white sage smoke, which purifies minds and hearts. Please write a comment if I need correction.

I do know that the energy of the performers and the spirit that emanated from their dance was uplifting. Even as I kept a respectful distance, the infectious beat made me want to dance, too! Perhaps because a human heartbeat is a thing we all have in common.

I hope these photos do justice to what those watching and listening experienced.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Gravestones at Pioneer Park in Mission Hills.

Pioneer Park is a city park in Mission Hills that’s popular with neighborhood families and children. It features a playground, green grass, many shady trees . . . and well over a thousand unseen graves. If you don’t wander into the southeast corner of the park, you might never know it’s also a cemetery.

Pioneer Park was originally Calvary Cemetery. The Catholic cemetery was established in the 1870s, then converted a century later into a Mission Hills community park. According to this article: “All the 800-odd memorial markers were taken away in the 1970s except for a line of tombstones left on the park’s edge. Left as a memorial, they’re still there…” Sadly, the gravestones that had been removed were callously dumped by those then living into a ravine at distant Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Many of San Diego’s earliest residents remain buried under the grass at Pioneer Park. Even after the passage of many years, surviving gravestones show historically important names like Cave Johnson Couts and Father Antonio Ubach. But all of the names are gradually fading away. Time does that.

Six nearby plaques list the names of those who are interred in the park, and it is said there might be many more.

On any given day, life goes on cheerfully above the grass. And beneath it lie the remains of those who once lived, dreamed, toiled and loved exactly like you and me.

Here are some photographs, to provoke thought, and to help preserve a little history…

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More colorful art near National Avenue!

During my walk through Barrio Logan last Saturday, I enjoyed looking at many colorful works of art on or near National Avenue.

These photos are of artwork I hadn’t seen previously.

The first three photos, including the one above, were taken of a beautiful new mural decorating a wall and fence on National Avenue, right next to Chicano Park.

Juan Diego opening his cloak, revealing that flowers had miraculously produced the Virgin of Guadalupe’s image, is a religious account cherished by many Catholic believers, particularly those in Mexico.

Next, I saw a number of vivid paintings in the windows of the Attitude Brewing Co. I believe all were signed by artist Paco Racru. They appear to be for sale.

Here are two of the paintings. Reflections from the street are mixed in…

The very colorful mural and graffiti you see in the next two photos can be found at the Travelodge on Beardsley Street.

This eye-catching street art is signed @icygrapestudios, which is the handle of artist Brock Landers.

And finally, laugh at something funny! Is that a raccoon on a bicycle? Whatever it is, it’s on the front of the Thorn Brewing Co. building.

And it’s by William Salas (@inkpaint)!

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Mother Teresa mural expresses unconditional love.

A beautiful mural depicting Mother Teresa expresses the potency of unconditional love.

Roman Catholic nun and missionary Saint Teresa of Calcutta stands in a field of grain and flowers holding a small orphaned child. White doves raise a banner containing the words: “Saint Mother Teresa never judged people, she took more time to love them.”

Indeed, Mother Teresa and her sisters devoted themselves to loving and aiding the poorest of the poor, providing comfort for those suffering with leprosy, AIDS and other awful diseases, caring for those who lived in hopeless situations of homelessness and extreme hunger.

She loved those whom others would not love.

Would any of us do that?

This gentle but extremely powerful mural was painted in San Diego, California, in the Memorial neighborhood of Logan Heights. You can find it in an alley off 30th Street, north of Franklin Avenue.

The mural was painted recently by the artists of Arte Atolondrada. To visit their website, click here!

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Hidden historical marker near Mission San Diego.

There’s an important historical marker near Mission San Diego de Alcalá that very few people know about or see. It’s located on private property along San Diego Mission Road, just inside the grounds of a condo complex. You can find it a short distance east of the mission, on some grass behind a fence, very close to the San Diego River.

I was able to take zoom photos of the “hidden” marker and its bronze plaque from the sidewalk.

The words read:

Padre Luis Jayme, Pastor of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, was martyred near this site November 5, 1775. Father Jayme had asked that the Mission be moved to its present site from Presidio Hill in order to better grow foods for the Mission.

In this area the Mission padres produced grapes, olives and other farm products for the Indian and Spanish communities.

Also near this site a small structure housed the guard from the Royal Presidio, which served as escort and guard for the Mission padres.

The historical marker was placed where Father Jayme’s body was found. He was killed by a large force of native people, said to be Yuman Indians from distant villages, in an uprising in 1775, about a year after the nearby mission was built. The mission was pillaged and set on fire. Survivors of the attack fled to the Presidio, six miles away down the river.

Over the centuries Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first Spanish mission in California, has been rebuilt several times. The remains of Father Luis Jayme are entombed under the floor next to the altar in the present church.

Looking west down San Diego Mission Road. The mission is located on the hillside beyond those trees..

The nearby San Diego River, where it is crossed by San Diego Mission Road…

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A look at Our Lady of Angels in Sherman Heights.

Whenever I drive along California State Route 94, just east of downtown San Diego, I can’t help noticing a yellow church with a tall, old-fashioned steeple rising south of the highway. So I finally decided to take a walk through Sherman Heights to have a better look.

According to this, the Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church originated in 1905. A plaque by the front entrance reads: Church of Our Lady of Angels 1906. I suppose that’s the year of the building’s dedication. I tried to do a little online research, but I can’t find much about the building’s history.

As you can see, the church has a quaint but very distinctive appearance. It is said to be one of San Diego’s best examples of Gothic Revival architecture. (To me, seen from its front, the church appears like an angular yellow rocket!)

Our Lady of Angels stands in the historic old neighborhood of Sherman Heights, which today is filled with numerous picturesque Victorian houses, many of which exist in a state of semi-decay. Our Lady of Angels was San Diego’s second Catholic parish.

I didn’t venture beyond the angelic front doors of the church. The colorful building appeared to be closed the day I walked around it.

Enjoy some photos!

UPDATE!

Here are two better photos of the beautiful doors taken during a later walk…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Photos of Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession.

Catholics from across a large area of Southern California gathered today on B Street by San Diego City College for a special event. The many parishes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego took part in the annual Procession to Honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the late morning I watched as the faithful gathered just east of Park Boulevard. The annual procession would head west to Civic Center Plaza, where a ceremony would take place.

I took some photos as people busily prepared each parish float, attaching religious banners, flowers, flags, and a special spot where a young lady would pose as a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Then the procession began down B Street, into the heart of downtown.

I saw colorful Aztec dancers, and black-garbed priests, and the Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, and smiling queens, and joyous mariachis and baile folklórico dancers.

Members of Catholic churches across San Diego County and beyond walked behind the parish floats, singing and rejoicing and holding banners, celebrating the miracle appearance of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, all those years ago outside Mexico City.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!