Building the San Diego Community Christmas Center!

The holidays must be near in San Diego, with Balboa Park’s December Nights right around the corner. Because look what I saw today!

San Diego Community Christmas Center volunteers were at work in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion erecting their annual Nativity Display and Gingerbread House!

I was told Santa and his reindeer will be showing up soon, too! (With a little help from City of San Diego Parks and Recreation.)

It was a bit odd to see life-size Biblical figures wrapped up in plastic. A shepherd was lying down nearby, after having “surgery” on his hand. It had been broken last year when some member of the public tore away his staff. Whatever your beliefs might be, that’s pretty sad.

The San Diego Community Christmas Center is a non-profit committee that maintains an over half century old tradition. According to their website, the Chamber of Commerce first initiated the project after World War II. Horton Plaza was first to display the Biblical figures. The next home for the Nativity Scene was the Civic Center on Pacific Highway. Finally, in 1953, the location was moved to its present home in the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

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You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

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!

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often, so you might want to bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and check back from time to time.

You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

Stories, woven and Unwoven at the Timken.

An exhibition of fine tempera paintings created by San Diego artist Marianela de la Hoz is now on view at the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Destejidas – Unwoven showcases the carefully crafted work of the Mexican born painter, who was an artist in residence at the Timken earlier this year. Visitors to the museum had the ability to watch her complete the piece Penelope’s Hands.

Marianela de la Hoz incorporates surprising symbols in her very personal artwork. Figures taken from literature, mythology, fairy tales, world history and religion are often inserted into more contemporary scenes. The many disparate elements can be jolting. They reveal the inner character of her subjects. The strange combinations might make us consider our own lives.

Human experiences in this complex world are cleverly combined with well known stories that were first told long ago. Our own secret stories are unwoven, then rewoven.

Destejidas – Unwoven can be enjoyed at the Timken Museum of Art through September 4, 2022.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad World, 2015.
Lilith, the Other Letter of God, 2019.
Mary Magdalene, 2019.
The Hands of Penelope, 2022.

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!

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!

Mosaic at God’s Extended Hand building.

There’s an elaborate, quite beautiful tile mosaic mural outside the old God’s Extended Hand building in San Diego’s East Village. You can see it at the corner of 16th Street and Island Avenue.

The colorful mural is overflowing with compassionate messages and religious imagery, including Christ as a shepherd carrying a lamb.

The God’s Extended Hand ministry endured for 96 years, feeding the homeless and hungry, until it closed down a few months ago. Father Joe’s Villages will be redeveloping the site, creating more affordable housing and support for the homeless downtown. I don’t know whether these mosaics will be preserved.

I walked past part of the artwork this morning and took these photos. I only photographed the wall along 16th Street. Some people camped on the sidewalk were by the other wall on Island Avenue.

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!

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!

An unusual Old Master mural in Normal Heights!

An unusual mural was painted in Normal Heights this year. It can be viewed on Adams Avenue, in a nook where this Prince mural used to be, and across from this Kobe Bryant mural. It was painted by local street artists Hasler and Shark, who also created the nearby Kobe Bryant artwork.

I say this mural is unusual, because street art is usually more like graffiti or contemporary artwork–abstract, extremely bold, and with a typically rebellious vibe. One doesn’t expect to see the recreation of a traditional Old Master painting.

The image that dominates this mural is of Italian artist Caravaggio‘s religious painting Saint Jerome Writing, 1605–1606. Words spray painted in the background are the Caravaggio quote: “All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but bagatelles and childish trifles unless they are made and painted from life, and there can be nothing better than to follow nature.”

Caravaggio usually painted realistic human forms, with dramatic lighting that emphasized emotion. His very popular work would influence other famous Old Masters like Peter Paul Rubens, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt.

I wonder what Caravaggio would think if he visited San Diego today and looked around. Probably that he’d been transported to an alien world!

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Two amazing Buddhist temples in City Heights.

Last Sunday, during my walk in City Heights, I admired the exteriors of two amazing buildings near the corner of 52nd Street and Rex Avenue, one block south of University Avenue.

As far as I understand it, both beautiful buildings are Buddhist temples, and together they are called Wat Sovannkiry, Cambodian Buddhist Society San Diego. The head monk of Wat Sovannkiry is Reverend Father Khian Prom Attaguto of Cambodia, Abbot of Wat Suwan Khiri, San Diego.

I’ve tried to ascertain more information concerning Wat Sovannkiry, but there is almost nothing online, and not all of what I read, including names and spelling, is consistent. I didn’t venture into either temple building because I didn’t want to intrude. But I did take photographs of the highly ornate exteriors.

Hidden San Diego has an article about Cambodian and Laotian temple Wat Sovannkiri which you can read here.

My first photographs are of the truly amazing building on the east side of 52nd Street…

The following photographs, also taken from the sidewalk, are of the second building, which is located just west of 52nd Street on Rex Avenue…

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!

Photos of historic St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in National City is one of the historic churches I paused to look at during my most recent walk around South Bay.

I was taken by how uniquely handsome this church appears. To my eyes, its unusual fusion of Gothic Revival and Tudor architecture is simultaneously elegant and welcoming.

According to Wikipedia: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church …was built in 1887. It was designed by Chula Vista architect William Herman…inspired by a picture of a small church in the south of England…An Episcopal Society for National City was formed on January 30, 1882; the secretary was Frank Kimball, founder of National City.

In the late 19th century ambitious builder Frank Kimball hoped to make National City the western terminus of a transcontinental railroad. If you’d like to learn much more about his efforts and National City’s early history, you can check out a more detailed old blog post here.

I walked around the church and took some photos that you might enjoy…

The above sign near the church’s entrance reads:

National City Historic Site

St. MATTHEWS EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Built on land originally set aside for a church by the Kimball brothers, but the gift of Elizur Steele. First services held July 3, 1887. Timbers were brought around the Horn. Construction is of California Redwood.

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!

Photos outside the old Nestor Methodist Church.

This weekend I passed by a couple of old churches in San Diego’s South Bay.

I was walking along Coronado Avenue, just west of Interstate 5, when I saw a white church with an old-fashioned steeple up a low hill. My feet turned toward it for a closer look.

What I discovered was the Nestor United Methodist Church, built in 1896. A friendly gentleman who I believe might belong to the church showed me the building’s brick cornerstone, which I photographed.

Nestor is a community that lies between Imperial Beach and Otay Mesa West. I tried to do a little internet searching to find out more about this historic church, and came upon this South Bay Historical Society Bulletin from 2016, which states:

1896 – Nestor United Methodist Church at Coronado and Hollister was built on land donated by Captain John Folks. The first Methodist organization in the South Bay area was the Tia Juana Valley Methodist Sunday School in Oneonta, beginning in 1888.

Services were conducted in the upstairs room of the Oneonta School. The cornerstone of the present structure at 1120 22nd Street was laid on July 23, 1896. The National City and Otay Railway ran special trains to the ceremony from San Diego.

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!