Celebrating San Diego history at Festival of the Bells.

Five church bells hang in the distinctive facade of the historic Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded by Junipero Serra on July 16, 1769.
Five church bells hang in the distinctive facade of the historic Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded by Junipero Serra.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our lives will soon become history. And that the lives of people, no matter how imperfect, create a rich, varied tapestry that reaches centuries back in time, and forward into the future.

Young and old–representatives from several generations–came together this weekend in San Diego to again celebrate the Festival of the Bells. The annual event is held at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first Spanish mission to be built in California. Food, song and dancing accompanied colorful religious rituals such as the Blessing of the Bells and the Blessing of the Animals. Everyone was welcome to enjoy the free festival.

The original San Diego del Alcala was founded in 1769–almost 250 years ago–at the site of the old Spanish presidio, near the edge of San Diego Bay.  The current mission building was erected by Father Serra in 1774, a few miles up the San Diego River where the land was more fertile.

The distinctive facade and bells of this historical landmark are often used as a symbol for our city, and the ringing of the bells are like echoes from a complex, often strife-filled, but fascinating past. The youngest generation, seeing this old world with fresh, optimistic eyes, jumping free and loving life in the festival’s bounce house, will remember today decades in the future as just another small moment in the journey of history. Hopefully that memory is good.

The Festival of the Bells is an annual event which celebrates the establishment and long history of California's first Spanish mission.
The Festival of the Bells is an annual celebration which memorializes the establishment and long history of California’s first Spanish mission.
Young people provide free family entertainment for the public at the 2015 Festival of the Bells.
Young people provide family entertainment free to the public at the 2015 Festival of the Bells.
A large audience had gathered in the mission's spacious courtyard, even as rain threatened on Sunday afternoon.
A large audience had gathered in the mission’s spacious courtyard-like quadrangle, even as rain threatened on Sunday afternoon.
Folks hang out around the central fountain, eating yummy food and taking in sights, smells and sounds during a lively San Diego tradition.
Folks hang out around the central fountain, eating food and taking in sights, smells and sounds during a lively San Diego tradition.
Proceeds from sales of food, crafts and gifts benefited Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which is an active Catholic church.
Proceeds from sales of food, crafts and gifts benefited Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which is an active Catholic church.
Who can resist root beer floats?
Who can resist root beer floats?
Put a friend in the mission jailhouse to raise some money!
Put a friend in the jailhouse to raise some money!
San Diego de Alcalá was the first of 21 Spanish mission in California, established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769.
San Diego de Alcalá was the first of 21 Spanish missions in California, established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769.
Small statues along walkway at front of San Diego de Alcala depict Saints who inspired California mission names. This is Mission Santa Clara de Asis, founded 1777.
Small statues along walkway at front of San Diego de Alcala depict Saints who inspired California mission names. This is for Mission Santa Clara de Asis, founded 1777.
Sign in the mission's garden explains The Campanario. (Click to enlarge.)
Sign in the mission’s garden explains The Campanario. (Click to enlarge.)

The campanario is 46 feet high and holds the Mission bells. The crown-topped bell on the lower right is named Ave Maria Purisima–Immaculate Mary. It weights 805 pounds and was cast in 1802 . . . The bells played an important role in the everyday life of the Mission . . . They were used to announce times for Mass, work, meals and siestas. The bells signaled danger, rang solemnly to honor the dead, and pealed joyously to celebrate feast days, weddings and fiestas.

Of the five church bells, one original bell dates back to 1802.
Of the five church bells, one original bell dates back to 1802.

San Diego is an endlessly interesting place!  You can enjoy photos from many varied walks by following on Facebook or Twitter.

Early photos of San Diego’s big Greek Festival.

Classic images of Greeks and ancient Greece are sprinkled about the festival.
Classic images of Greeks and ancient Greece are sprinkled about the festival venue.

I enjoyed a wonderful long walk this morning. But it seems my poor old brain forgot some important information. Because when I arrived at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church at 3655 Park Boulevard, I learned that San Diego’s big annual Greek Festival wouldn’t begin for over an hour!

I was allowed to walk about the area behind the church where the festival takes place and snap a few photos. Folks were setting up tents and preparing food. All the people I spoke to were very friendly. According to one, this annual festival is about 40 years old! The three day event features Greek food, music and dancing, and draws thousands from around San Diego. It will be open until 10pm tonight, and again tomorrow from 11am to 8pm.

My legs wanted to continue walking, so here are some photos of morning preparations…

Each year a Greek Festival is held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.
Each year a big Greek Festival is held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.
An hour before the event opens, preparations are being made for coming crowds.
An hour before the event opens, preparations are being made for coming crowds.
Flags, decorations and colorful wares are a feast for the senses outside St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.
Flags, decorations and colorful wares are a feast for the senses outside St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.
Orthodox religious icons displayed by one tent include familiar Christian symbols.
Orthodox religious icons displayed by one tent include familiar Christian symbols.
Icons of Mary and infant Jesus appear as if they're gilded in the San Diego morning sunshine.
Icons of Mary and infant Jesus appear as if they’re gilded in the San Diego morning sunshine.
Looking up at the church from the parking lot behind it, where the festival is held each year.
Looking up at the church from the parking lot behind it, where the festival is held each year.
Lots of people will be following the arrow to Greek coffee and pastries.
Lots of people will be following the arrow to Greek coffee and pastries.
One fun area contains tables, umbrellas and eventually yummy food. Unfortunately, I was much too early!
One fun area contains tables, umbrellas and eventually yummy food. Unfortunately, I was much too early!
Pita bread is stacked up waiting at one end of this Greek Deli tent.
Pita bread is stacked up waiting at one end of this Greek Deli tent.
An ancient scene seems to have sprung from the pages of the Iliad. Are those Greek warriors stirring up some Nescafé?
An ancient scene seems to have sprung from the pages of the Iliad. Are those Greek warriors stirring up some Nescafé?

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The Salvation Army celebrates service in San Diego.

The Salvation Army marching band parades around County of San Diego Waterfront Park.
The Salvation Army marching band parades around County of San Diego Waterfront Park.

Almost everyone recognizes their red shield. Most have walked past their holiday season bell ringers. Many have been helped by their programs and services. The Salvation Army, an important part of our community, is 150 years old.

The local branch of the worldwide organization celebrated that history today in the County of San Diego Waterfront Park. I walked there this morning to see what was going on.

What does the Salvation Army do? In San Diego, their Sierra Del Mar Division provides transitional living for homeless mothers and children. They help the unemployed homeless return to a normal, stable, working life. They have disaster response programs, providing emergency food and help. They provide seniors with nutritional assistance. They help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. They operate the expansive Ray and Joan Kroc Community Corps Center, which features education, recreation and family support programs. They do a whole lot of good. While The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, everybody is welcome. None are turned away.

As I approached the park, I was surprised and pleased to see a dignified parade coming down the sidewalk…

150 years of community service is being celebrated by The Salvation Army.
150 years of community service is being celebrated by The Salvation Army.
Drums, banners, uniforms and kids stepping proudly down the San Diego sidewalk.
Drums, banners, uniforms and kids stepping proudly down the San Diego sidewalk.
The modest parade ends at the waterfront park, where music, fun and fellowship begin.
The modest parade ends in the waterfront park, where music, fun and fellowship begin.
A speech kicks off the event. The Salvation Army helps the homeless, the poor, the suffering around the world.
A speech kicks off the event. The Salvation Army helps the homeless, the poor, the suffering around the world.
Coffee is served from rear of an emergency disaster services vehicle.
Coffee is served from rear of an emergency disaster services vehicle.
This friendly lady provided some info about the popular Christian charitable organization.
This friendly lady provided some info about the popular Christian charitable organization.
A gathering in the park celebrates 150 years of doing the most good.
A gathering in the park celebrates 150 years of doing the most good.

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House of Iran is for human rights, religious freedom.

House of Iran at Balboa Park's International Cottages and a proclamation supporting human liberty.
House of Iran at Balboa Park’s International Cottages and a proclamation supporting human liberty.

When I go for a pleasant stroll I’m often lazy. I’ll note interesting things from afar, but fail to walk up for a closer look.

Recently I took a good close look at a large plaque located conspicuously near the House of Iran in Balboa Park. The House of Iran is one of the couple dozen cottages built for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. The furnishings in the colorful little buildings exemplify life in their respective countries. Many members of each “house” trace their ancestry to the old country.

The shining plaque lies in a bed of flowers. I approached it and paused to read. It’s dedicated to the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.

According to the plaque Cyrus the Great (585-529 BC) was an enlightened Iranian emperor. Unlike many rulers of old, he upheld human dignity throughout his vast empire and treated his subjects humanely. He opposed slavery and supported the freedom of religion.

This ancient declaration of human rights was inscribed in cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which is now on display in the British Museum.

Plaque with translation of the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.
Plaque with translation of the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.

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Priest sprinkles startled pets with holy water!

Many animals were blessed in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Many animals were blessed today in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The animals were blessed today in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Dozens of beloved pets received a sprinkling of holy water at the annual Benediction of the Beasts, a long-time local tradition.

Monsignor Mark Campbell, Catholic priest of Our Mother of Confidence Parish in University City, administered the blessings. The traditional church ritual, which dates back to ancient times, invokes St. Anthony of the Desert, the Patron Saint of Animals. In the very early years of San Diego, livestock were blessed for an abundant harvest.

I watched for livestock but, alas, didn’t see any.

After today’s blessings, the fun event included a mid-afternoon costume and animal trick contest, which I missed. The male human ritual of watching football could not be violated.

Front row dogs wait patiently for the ceremony to begin.
Front row dogs wait patiently for the religious ceremony to begin.
Monsignor Mark Campbell reads from Genesis and praises faithful pets.
Monsignor Mark Campbell reads from Genesis and praises faithful pets.
Holy water is cast by the Catholic priest upon animals to bestow health and blessings.
Holy water is cast by the Catholic priest upon animals to bestow health and blessings.
Animals lined up for blessings included dogs, cats and rabbits.
Animals lined up for blessings included dogs, cats and rabbits.
These two guys seemed to enjoy the proceedings.
These two guys seemed to enjoy the proceedings.
Bunny rabbits need blessings as much as any other creature.
Cute, furry bunny rabbits need blessings as much as any other creature.
Here comes Chopper, the motorcycle-riding dog, a local celebrity.
Here comes Chopper, the motorcycle-riding dog, a big time celebrity.

Chopper, the canine motorcyclist, is quite the sensation in San Diego. I must’ve seen him on local television news a dozen times. He’s even made a cameo appearance on TMZ!

Chopper rides his motorcycle up to the priest for a sprinkling of holy water.
Chopper rides his motorcycle up to the priest for a sprinkling of holy water.
This dog was a bit spooked and didn't know what to make of things.
This dog was a bit spooked and didn’t know what to make of this craziness.
A cat is fascinated by the shiny aspergillum waving about.
A cat is fascinated by the shiny aspergillum waving about.
One dog seems bored while the other appears suspicious!
One dog seems bored while the other appears suspicious!
A long line of pet owners waited in Old Town during the Benediction of the Beasts.
A long line of pet owners waited in Old Town during the Benediction of the Beasts.

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20 Ways To Help the Homeless in San Diego.

Homeless by trolley tracks between San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park.
Homeless by trolley tracks between San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park.

Living downtown, every day I see many people on the streets of San Diego who are homeless. When I take my “cool pics” I often consciously or unconsciously aim my camera lens away from less pleasant images. But the reality is, there are many urban neighbors who are in a desperate life situation. Whatever their story is, they need our help and compassion.

I’ve been walking throughout downtown for about 14 years now, and it has been a ritual of mine to reward street performers with a bit of money as I wander about. A fair number of these performers are homeless, or very needy. It just seems like a positive thing to do. When I talk a bit and get to know those who are homeless better, I realize that most are not so different than me, or anyone else. Life at times presents us all with extraordinary, seemingly impossible difficulties. A helping hand is appreciated.

If you’ve thought of providing a helping hand to the homeless, or those at risk for homelessness, here’s a list of organizations in San Diego that could use your assistance. Check each website for opportunities to volunteer or provide a donation. Forgive me if I’ve overlooked anyone. If you can think of additions to this list, leave a comment!

UPDATE!

Several years after I published my list, I noticed that a couple of these organizations had vanished. But I’ve decided to leave those links up anyway. In the hope they come back!

Person lies face down on grass in San Diego's Embarcadero Marina Park North.
Someone lies face down on the grass in Embarcadero Marina Park North.

Alpha Project provides the homeless with affordable housing, substance abuse treatment, basic and emergency services, transportation assistance, mental health counseling, employment training and placement, emergency shelter and more.

Urban Angels‘ mission is to nourish and provide food for the homeless of San Diego. They run the kitchen at Connections Housing, a new, state-of-the-art homeless facility.

San Diego Rescue Mission provides shelter, food, education, work training, rehabilitation and long-term care programs for the homeless.

StandUP for Kids provides assistance to homeless and at-risk youth throughout San Diego County.

Veterans Village
provides homeless veterans with a safe place to live, care for Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, help in overcoming addiction, and employment assistance.

The Salvation Army serves the homeless, low income individuals, and those facing difficult life challenges. Volunteers serve the homeless downtown with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Father Joe’s Villages is the largest one-stop center in the region offering housing and services for the homeless. They help families with children, single women, and single men including chronically homeless individuals, veterans and people living with addiction and/or mental illness.

Make Change Count meters around downtown San Diego raise money to help the homeless.
Make Change Count meters in downtown San Diego raise money to help the homeless.

Purchase art created by homeless people in San Diego. The price you pay goes entirely to the homeless artist!

Monarch School‘s mission is to educate students impacted by homelessness and to help them develop hope for the future with the necessary skills and experiences for personal success.

San Diego Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in San Diego County.

1st Saturdays are ordinary San Diegans who collect money, clothes, bedding, and other items that help those in need, to be distributed the first Saturday of every month.

Just Call Us Volunteers collaborates with other non-profits to serve free healthy meals in San Diego and teach cooking using fresh and nutritious ingredients.

Catholic Charities provides a safe, supportive, sober environment and opportunities for those with few or no resources to gather, begin, and continue self-help efforts.

PATH is a family of agencies working together to end homelessness for individuals, families, and communities throughout Southern California.

Downtown San Diego Partnership is a leading partner towards the campaign to end homelessness in downtown San Diego.

Family Health Centers of San Diego is dedicated to providing healthcare services to medically underserved persons, including homeless children and adults.

YWCA has programs that support victims of domestic violence and homeless women in their journey from homelessness to stable housing.

United Way of San Diego County focuses on education, financial self-sufficiency, health and homeless prevention.

Regional Task Force on the Homeless conducts a physical count of the homeless in San Diego. They can always use more volunteers for the annual census. Information gathered during WeAllCount helps determine which services and programs can do the most good.

Wheels of Change provides employment for homeless people who are staying in shelters. Those who’d like to participate earn wages for work cleaning up communities–picking up trash, pulling weeds, etc. The program would appreciate your help.

Small work of art I bought from a friendly gentleman in a very difficult life situation.
Small work of art I bought from a friendly gentleman walking down the street. He was in a difficult life situation.

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Old Town San Diego and Día de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos special event at Bazaar del Mundo is filled with color.
Día de los Muertos displays at Bazaar del Mundo are filled with life and color.

Día de los Muertos, also called Day of the Dead, is a popular holiday in Mexico and in many other cultures around the world. It’s a celebration that honors the memories and spirits of loved ones who have passed away. It closely follows Halloween, a holiday that is similar but actually quite different. Día de los Muertos, rich with images of skeletons and decorated skulls, is neither scary nor morbid; it is joyous!

This weekend, Old Town hosted its annual Day of the Dead special event. Altars, costumes and other sights that are common during the holiday could be found throughout the park and surrounding area. I took lots of photos!

Día de los Muertos altar at Bazaar del Mundo in Old Town, San Diego.
Día de los Muertos altar at Bazaar del Mundo in a corner of Old Town, San Diego.
Kids decorate sugar skulls, a fun tradition of Day of the Dead.
Kids decorate sugar skulls, a fun and tasty tradition of Day of the Dead.
Ethnic and folk crafts and ornaments are abundant at Bazaar del Mundo.
Ethnic and folk crafts are abundant at Bazaar del Mundo.
Young lady has face painted to celebrate Día de los Muertos.
Young lady has face painted to celebrate Día de los Muertos.
Image of woman skeleton in old-fashioned purple hat and dress.
A traditional Catrina. A female skeleton in old-fashioned hat and dress.
Altar at Fiesta de Reyes features Virgin Mary and photos of departed loved ones.
Altar at Fiesta de Reyes features Virgin Mary and photos of departed loved ones.
Fantastic sign above pumpkin shows lively, dancing skeletons.
Fantastic sign above pumpkin shows lively, dancing skeletons.
Lady in San Diego's Old Town arranges bright frilly flowers in the sun.
Lady working in San Diego’s Old Town arranges bright frilly flowers in the sun.
Folk dancers on and off stage at Fiesta de Reyes during Día de los Muertos.
Folk dancers on and off stage at Fiesta de Reyes during Día de los Muertos.
This scarecrow and skeleton seem happy together!
This scarecrow and skeleton seem happy together on this perfect Autumn day!
Bench at Fiesta de Reyes painted with sombrero-wearing, flower-bearing skeletons.
Bench at Fiesta de Reyes painted with sombrero-wearing, flower-bearing skeletons.
Small image in crude wooden frame in a larger altar.
Small crowned image in crude wooden frame in a larger altar.
Radiant image of Virgin Mary on wood above altar candles.
Prayers are directed toward radiant image of Virgin Mary above altar candles.
Altars often contain food liked by the deceased, to entice their spirits.
Altars often contain food liked by the deceased, to entice their spirits back.
Mariachi skeletons strum guitars at entrance to Fiesta de Reyes.
Mariachi skeletons strum guitars at entrance to Fiesta de Reyes.
This big flower and heart-covered skull faces Old Town's central square.
This big flower and heart-covered calavera faces Old Town’s central square.
Larger-than-life Day of the Dead mannequin wears a beautiful red dress.
Larger-than-life Day of the Dead mannequin wears a beautiful red dress.
Dead couple sits in lobby of Old Town's historic Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Dead couple sits in lobby of Old Town’s historic Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Bartender offers drink to skeleton cowboy at the Cosmopolitan Hotel's bar!
Bartender offers drink to skeleton cowboy at the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s bar!
The bony fellow at the bar was called Calaca McAlvarez!
The bony fellow at the bar was called Calaca McAlvarez!
Stylish but dead bystander is resting near one of the many Old Town shops.
Stylish bystander is resting near one of the many Old Town shops.
Musician entertains at Old Town's Day of the Dead festivities.
Musician entertains on pipes at Old Town’s Day of the Dead festivities.
Día de los Muertos display with a strong Mexican flavor.
Día de los Muertos display with a strong Mexican flavor.
Photographs remember loved ones who have passed into the spirit world after death.
Photographs remember loved ones who have passed into the spirit world after death.
Snow White has been transformed into lavish Day of the Dead artwork.
Snow White has been transformed into lavish Day of the Dead artwork.
This guy is sitting on a wagon near popular entrance to Old Town State Historic Park.
This guy is sitting on a wagon near popular entrance to Old Town State Historic Park.
Sculptor recreates face of living tourist posing for a unique souvenir.
Sculptor recreates face of living tourist posing for a unique souvenir.
Prints on display for the big crowds attending Old Town's Day of the Dead.
Prints on display for the big crowds attending Old Town’s Day of the Dead.
This elegant couple was spotted among the many historic buildings in Old Town.
This elegant couple was spotted among the many historic buildings in Old Town.
This well-dressed family all had their faces painted to resemble skulls!
This well-dressed family all had their faces painted to resemble skulls!
Author A. B. Curtiss was signing her acclaimed books at Día de los Muertos.
Author A. B. Curtiss was signing her acclaimed books at Día de los Muertos.

Please check out her website!

Cool, astonishing sights popped up wherever I turned!
Cool, astonishing sights popped up wherever I turned!

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California’s first Spanish mission, in San Diego.

Facade of old Mission San Diego seen from parking lot.
Facade of old Mission San Diego seen from parking lot below.

A month or so ago I finally visited the famous Mission San Diego de Alcala. I’ve lived in San Diego for many years, and have driven past this important historical landmark many times, but I’d never stepped inside. Writing this blog compels me to check out new sights!

Built in 1774 by the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra, Mission San Diego de Alcala was first of 21 Spanish missions in California. It was constructed several miles inland of the Pacific Ocean near the San Diego River. (The very first mission was actually built in 1769 at the old Presidio, but later relocated to this more fertile location, where presidio soldiers were less likely to come. The soldiers often abused the native people who lived near the presidio.)

In 1775, just one year after it was built, the mission was burned to the ground by the native Kumeyaay people. Father Junipero Serra returned the next year to rebuild the church and mission buildings.

Over the years the San Diego Mission became very prosperous, with vineyards, orchards and thousands of cattle in its possession. Hundreds of baptized Native American Kumeyaay, whom the friars named Dieguenos, performed almost all of the labor.

History is rich here. The mission was claimed by Mexico in 1821, then used by the United States Cavalry after the US-Mexican War. As the original mission buildings have aged and decayed, they have been rebuilt and restored. Today the unique facade is one of the most iconic sights in San Diego. Unfortunately, the mission is located in a slightly out-of-the-way place that relatively few tourists visit.

In case you can’t stop by, I took a few photos!

El Camino Real bell near California's first mission.
El Camino Real bell just outside California’s first mission.

These bells on posts mark the primitive road, the King’s Highway, that connected the Spanish missions in California.

La Playa Trail ran along San Diego River from the bay.
La Playa Trail ran along parts of San Diego Bay and the San Diego River.

Without realizing it, you might have read about the La Playa Trail in Two Years Before the Mast. Richard Henry Dana, Jr. would ride horseback down the trail to Old Town. With his friend, he also rode farther east to the old mission to enjoy a meal. The west end, La Playa, located just inside San Diego Bay, is the place where Dana worked for several months in 1835 drying cattle hides.

Sculpture of friar with cross in front of mission bells.
Sculpture of Padre Serra with cross in front of the campanario, containing the mission bells.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala holds Catholic Mass.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala holds regular Catholic Mass.

The historic church has remained active for many centuries.

Corridor in front of mission has plaques and statues of saints.
Corridor in front of mission has plaques and statues of saints.

Small statues of saints in the small nooks along the wall represent the nine missions that Father Junipero Serra founded.

Petra de Mallorca, Spain linked to Father Junipero Serra.
Petra de Mallorca, Spain linked to Father Junipero Serra.
Padres' living quarters with adobe walls and wooden beams.
Padres’ living quarters with adobe walls and wooden beams.

Now we’re inside one of the various mission buildings. The self-guided tour proceeds clockwise around the central square.

Beautiful radiant altar inside the quiet church sanctuary.
Beautiful radiant altar inside the quiet church sanctuary.

The church inside is beautiful and invites reflection.

Garden courtyard by sanctuary contains sunlit statues.
Garden courtyard by sanctuary contains sunlit statues.
Flowers and peaceful walkways lead to holy figures.
Flowers and peaceful walkways lead to holy figures.

Many birds were about and almost no weekend visitors.

Rear view of the Mission San Diego bell tower.
Rear view of the Mission San Diego bell tower, or campanario.
Small tile-roofed shine with Christ on the cross.
Small tile-roofed shine with Christ on the cross.
Modern abstract mural lines wall above wood bench.
Modern abstract mural lines wall above wood bench.

This and the following photo were taken in a space between the garden and a small one-room museum.

Sculpted Pieta with Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Sculpted Pieta with Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Inside the small mission chapel.
Inside the small mission chapel.

This small chapel can be found at one corner of the central square.

Fountain at center of San Diego mission's central square.
Fountain at center of San Diego mission’s central square.
Moving sculpture of Christ after the crucifixion.
Moving sculpture of Christ after the crucifixion.
Native American Kumeyaay hut built of willow branches.
Native American Kumeyaay hut built of willow branches.

The local Kumeyaay provided the labor that enriched the mission. This hut near an excavation site is an example of where they lived while the friars enjoyed greater comforts.

Mission's old foundation investigated by archaeologists.
Mission’s old foundation investigated by archaeologists.
The distinctive facade of California's first Spanish mission.
The distinctive facade of California’s first Spanish mission.

In San Diego, those who hunger for colorful sights and local history should remember to swing by California’s very first Spanish mission in–you guessed it–Mission Valley!

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True believers line up to seek converts.

Child asks passersby if they are ready for death.
Child asks passersby if they are ready for death.

Balboa Park is a great place to see lots of street performers. It’s also a fine place to spot true believers. Lining El Prado on any given weekend, people who avidly believe in all sorts of religions, philosophies and political ideas hope to make converts of passersby. You can check out their posters and pamphlets, ask a question, or just walk on by. Being in southern California, it’s mostly laid back and good-natured.

I walked down El Prado yesterday and got a few pics:

Proselytizing in Balboa Park and argumentation.
Proselytizing in Balboa Park occasionally includes heated debate.
Muslims use Jesus to engage possible converts.
Muslims use Jesus to engage possible converts.
Atheists on El Prado make their case to tourists.
Atheists on El Prado make their case to passing tourists.
Scientologists with mysterious stress-detecting machines.
Scientologists with mysterious stress-detecting machines.
Hare Krishna advocates sit chanting their mantra.
Hare Krishna advocates sit chanting their mantra.

San Diego’s Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Sculpture and cannon at entrance to Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Sculpture and cannon at entrance to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Just east of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park one can find the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, an attraction created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The location itself seems a bit arbitrary, as the Mormon Battalion manned Fort Stockton up on the hill by the old, abandoned Presidio when they arrived in San Diego in 1847.

Young lady missionaries guide visitors through a series of rooms and outdoor areas which are designed to tell a sympathetic version of the Mormon Battalion’s difficult 2000 mile march from Iowa. The ulterior motive is to promote their beliefs, and there are frequent religious references, but there is no hard sell and the tour guides are warm and friendly. One can absorb a little bit of history while experiencing a good-humored, Disney-like presentation.

Missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
A friendly missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
Girl in pioneer dress begins tour with talking, moving portraits.
Girl in a pioneer dress begins the tour with talking, moving portraits.

Much of the tour is spent watching professionally produced dramatic videos. Several real historical artifacts can be found near the tour’s end.

Taking pictures of visitors with a large old camera.
Taking pictures of visitors with a large antique camera.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.

A lot of families and kids were smiling and enjoying the tour. Many appeared to be members of the LDS Church.

Visitors near end of tour pan for iron pyrite--fool's gold.
Young visitors near end of the tour pan for glittery iron pyrite.
Covered wagon in front of Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Covered wagon in front of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.