Antonio Garra Day in Old Town San Diego.

This afternoon I attended Antonio Garra Day in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The event, which comes on the anniversary of Garra’s death, was organized by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. I listened to several speakers, including authors and historians, talk about Garra and historical events in the mid-1800s, and I watched different Kumeyaay groups perform Bird Songs and Dances.

Antonio Garra was a leader of the Cupeño people in Southern California who sought to organize tribes of our region to resist unfair taxation. Even though Native Americans were not citizens of the United States, a tax was levied upon their animals, property and agriculture. This taxation without representation was considered by many fair-minded people to be illegal and unjust.

Garra was educated at Mission San Luis Rey and could speak English, Spanish and Latin. He was an influential leader who opposed the ill-treatment of indigenous people. According to Wikipedia: “In 1851, because of several issues of conflict, Antonio Garra, a Cupeño from Warner’s Ranch, tried to organize a coalition of various Southern California Indian tribes to drive out all of the European Americans. His Garra Revolt failed, and settlers executed Garra. The Cupeño had attacked Warner and his ranch, burning some buildings.”

Garra was blamed for the murder of four people at Colonel Warner’s Rancho on November 22, 1850, and he was sentenced to be executed. On January 12, 1852, he was brought to the El Campo Santo cemetery in Old Town and told to kneel down beside a ready grave in front of a firing squad. He last words were: “Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for all my offenses and expect yours in return.”

Antonio Garra Day arose because of a Wanted poster that has long been displayed in the First San Diego Courthouse museum. The poster does not provide the full story of the Garra Uprising and the suffering of indigenous people. Today, a plaque beneath the poster provides more historical context.

Between performances of Bird Songs, which honored Native American ancestors, elders and Garra, I listened to the words of Patricia Nelson. She is a descendant of Antonio Garra. As a youth she was incensed by the cruel treatment of her people. Today, she works to honor and proudly remember those people, their culture, their lives and humanity.

Antonio Garra Day has grown over the past 4 or 5 years, and next year it will be a much larger event, filling the plaza of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, with many Kumeyaay participants from all around our region.

A display of Kumeyaay artifacts at the event, by the Wa$xayam Pomki Museum on the Rincon Reservation.
A display of Kumeyaay artifacts at the event, by the Wa$xayam Pomki Museum on the Rincon Reservation.

Garra and his people assisted weary immigrants who had crossed the desert. He also gave aid and comfort to General Kearney and his troops during the Mexican-American war.
Garra and his people assisted weary immigrants who had crossed the desert. He also gave aid and comfort to General Kearney and his troops during the Mexican-American war.
Bird Singers sing of the world's creation and the first people.
Bird Singers tell of the world’s creation and the first people.
A crowd observes Antonio Garra Day at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
A crowd observes Antonio Garra Day at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Wanted posters in the First San Diego Courthouse museum include one concerning Antonio Garra.
Wanted posters in the First San Diego Courthouse museum include one concerning Antonio Garra.
The grave of Antonio Garra in Old Town San Diego's El Campo Santo cemetery.
The grave of Antonio Garra in Old Town San Diego’s El Campo Santo cemetery.

A horse came to Old Town for the event. Its rider represented Juan Verdugo, who participated in the Garra Uprising and was executed. He is also buried at El Campo Santo cemetery.
A horse came to Old Town for the event. Its rider (not visible) represented Juan Verdugo, who participated in the Garra Uprising and was executed. He is also buried at El Campo Santo cemetery.
Patricia Nelson, a descendant of Antonio Garra, talks about her memories, generations of her people, and their lives.
Patricia Nelson, a descendant of Antonio Garra, talks about her memories, many generations of her people, and their lives.
Bird Song and Dance honor a people who lived in our region many thousands of years before the arrival in 1769 of Spanish missionaries and soldiers.
Bird Song and Dance honor a people who lived in our region many thousands of years before the arrival in 1769 of Spanish missionaries and soldiers.

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!

Strangers come together to sing joyfully.

This afternoon, residents of San Diego and tourists from places around the world came together to sing joyfully.

Rising from the audience, perfect strangers gathered on the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and sang Christmas carols.

Their voices touched the hearts of many who listened.

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!

A new flag is raised for San Diego’s 250th Anniversary!

Kumeyaay bird songs are performed on stage during the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.
Kumeyaay traditional Bird Songs are performed during the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.

This evening a very special event was held in San Diego.

A crowd gathered near the top of Presidio Hill, in the parking lot just below the Serra Museum, to take part in the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.

The historic event was staged in the same spot overlooking San Diego Bay where a Spanish mission and presidio were built in 1769. It is where San Diego began 250 years ago.

The first part of the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony featured cultural entertainment representing our remarkably diverse city. Several colorful dances were followed by speeches by politicians, dignitaries and diplomats, plus several leaders of the Native American Kumeyaay people–those who have lived in this region many thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The audience experienced a Kumeyaay blessing and traditional Bird Songs. With sincere words past injustices and the suffering of the Kumeyaay were acknowledged, and optimism was expressed that our city’s future will be inclusive and bright.

For as long as I can remember, three flagpoles have stood at this place where the Spanish built their first outpost in California. Three banners have flown representing the history of San Diego: the flags of Spain, Mexico and the United States.

A fourth flagpole was recently installed. Today, at the close of the ceremony, a flag incorporating the different tribes of the Kumeyaay Nation was blessed with white sage smoke–to purify minds and hearts-and raised proudly, acknowledging and honoring San Diego’s first people.

I took some photographs of this important historical event.

Early arrivals for San Diego's big 250th Anniversary event claim a seat and await some cultural entertainment.
Early arrivals for San Diego’s big 250th Anniversary event claim a seat and await some cultural entertainment.
A variety of tents could be visited for food, drink and information about San Diego and its history.
A variety of tents could be visited for food, drink and information about San Diego and its history.
Kumeyaay tools and crafts are on display at one table.
Kumeyaay tools and crafts are on display at one table.
Map shows the different Kumeyaay villages of our region. The village of Cosoy was located near the base of Presidio Hill, where Old Town is located today.
Map shows the different Kumeyaay villages of our region. The village of Cosoy was located near the base of Presidio Hill, where Old Town is located today.
Prior to the ceremony, I walked a bit through Presidio Park. I took a photograph of VIPs arriving by Old Town Trolley at the Serra Museum.
Prior to the ceremony, I walked a bit through Presidio Park. I took a photograph of VIPs arriving by Old Town Trolley at the Serra Museum.
Performers lounge on grass behind the stage before the program begins.
Performers lounge on grass behind the stage before the program begins.
Someone takes a seat in the VIP section as Lion Dancers begin the multicultural entertainment.
Someone takes a seat in the VIP section as Lion Dancers begin the multicultural entertainment.

The ballet folklorico dancing that followed was enthusiastic, colorful and loudly applauded.
The ballet folklorico dancing that followed was enthusiastic, joyous and loudly applauded.

Dancers representing San Diego's Portuguese community take the stage.
Dancers representing San Diego’s Portuguese community take the stage.

A dance followed that represented San Diego's Vietnamese community.
A dance followed that represented San Diego’s Vietnamese community.

The VIPs take their seats as speeches are about to commence.
The VIPs take their seats as speeches are about to commence.
There are four flagpoles, but only three flags are flying.
There are four flagpoles, but only three flags are flying.
Mayor Faulconer addresses the crowd, urging unity and a positive future for all.
Mayor Faulconer addresses the crowd, urging unity and a positive future for all who live in San Diego.
A leader of the Kumeyaay Nation addresses those assembled.
A leader of the Kumeyaay Nation addresses those assembled.
Kumeyaay women sway in front of the stage as the men perform traditional bird songs.
Kumeyaay women sway in front of the stage as the men perform traditional Bird Songs.

A presentation is made to the San Diego History Center, which operates the Serra Museum and helped to arrange this special ceremony.
A presentation is made to the San Diego History Center, which operates the Junipero Serra Museum and helped to arrange this special ceremony.
Before the event concludes, everybody's attention turns to the flagpoles.
Before the event concludes, everyone’s attention is directed to the four flagpoles.
The Kumeyaay color guard stands ready.
The Kumeyaay color guard stands ready.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation is unfolded and blessed.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation is unfolded and blessed.
It is raised.
It is raised.
The Kumeyaay color guard poses proudly for a photograph.
The Kumeyaay color guard poses with pride for a photograph.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation now flies on historic Presidio Hill, in a place of honor.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation now flies on historic Presidio Hill, in a place of honor.

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A joyful celebration of Christmas in San Diego!

Second grade students from Dailard Elementary School fill Balboa Park with joyous song during 2018 Christmas on the Prado.
Second grade students from Dailard Elementary School fill Balboa Park with joyous song during 2018 Christmas on the Prado.

If you love Christmas and happen to be in San Diego this Sunday afternoon, head over to Balboa Park! It’s the second day of Christmas on the Prado!

The 5th Annual Children’s Coalition “Christmas on the Prado” will be held at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and International Cottages from 1 – 4 pm, and will feature a special Christmas Concert by Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez, lots of holiday treats, inspiring scenes of the Nativity, games and crafts for kids, cultural displays of Christmas Around the World, a reading of The Night Before Christmas by Mrs. Claus, and photos with good old Saint Nick himself!

Christmas on the Prado is a joyful two day holiday event that celebrates the birth of Christ and the generous spirit of Christmas.

Click here to learn more. (Christmas on the Prado continues to grow every year–but they can always use more volunteers and participants! I learned that church groups from all around San Diego are welcomed to come together and join the program! Why not?)

Yesterday I experienced the first day of this year’s event.

Here are some photographs . . .

Mrs. Claus greeted me in the early afternoon as Christmas on the Prado got underway.
Mrs. Claus greeted me in the early afternoon as Christmas on the Prado got underway.
Looking at eight beautiful scenes of the Nativity created by the Community Christmas Center, which was established in 1953 in Balboa Park.
Looking at eight beautiful scenes of the Nativity created by the Community Christmas Center, which was established in 1953 in Balboa Park.
Child is awed by a visiting angel.
Child sees a visiting angel.
Elsewhere in the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Santa confers with an elf before a photo is taken.
Elsewhere in the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Santa confers with an elf before a photo is taken.
Dozens of happy elves would be first to perform on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage.
Dozens of happy, energetic elves would be first to perform on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage.
Young singers from Dailard Elementary School treat the crowd to fun holiday music.
Young singers from Dailard Elementary School treat the crowd to fun holiday music.
The nearby International Cottages were celebrating Christmas Around the World. This beautiful creche in the Hall of Nations is from Peru.
The nearby International Cottages were celebrating Christmas Around the World. This beautiful creche in the Hall of Nations is from Peru.
These fun Christmas crafts were on display in the House of Sweden's cottage.
These fun Christmas crafts were on display in the House of Sweden’s cottage.
Christmas baskets made of paper and many hands inside the House of Norway's cottage.
Christmas baskets made of paper by many hands inside the House of Norway’s cottage.
The House of Hungary had their very beautiful Christmas sparkling for all to enjoy.
The House of Hungary had their very beautiful Christmas sparkling for all to enjoy.
The House of England was hoping that Father Christmas would Please Stop Here.
The House of England was hoping that Father Christmas would Please Stop Here.
Members of the House of Ireland prepare to sing among the International Cottages during Christmas on the Prado in Balboa Park.
Members of the House of Ireland prepare to sing among the International Cottages during Christmas on the Prado in Balboa Park.
A bit later, Santa and Mrs. Claus read The Night Before Christmas to gathered children and the young-at-heart.
A bit later, Santa and Mrs. Claus read The Night Before Christmas to gathered children and the young-at-heart.
Back at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the super talented group Chamber Bravura performs. They've sung several times at Carnegie Hall!
Back at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the super talented group Chamber Bravura performs. They’ve sung several times at Carnegie Hall!
Chamber Bravura lifts hearts with Christmas song, combining popular carols with unexpected moments of humor.
Chamber Bravura lifts hearts with Christmas song, combining popular carols with unexpected bits of silly humor.
Jumping for treats at the Gingerbread House.
Jumping for treats at the Gingerbread House.
The Kearny Mesa Concert Band is almost ready to perform as the magical Spreckels Organ Pavilion lights come on.
The Kearny Mesa Concert Band is almost ready to perform as the magical Spreckels Organ Pavilion lights come on.
Lights also come on in the Nativity scenes. A beautiful depiction of Mary and Joseph with the Christ child, escaping to Egypt.
Lights also come on in the Nativity scenes. A beautiful depiction of Mary and Joseph with the Christ child, escaping to Egypt.
Jesus with the little children. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Jesus with the little children. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
More happy elves take the stage for a Christmas sing-along.
More happy elves take the stage for a Christmas sing-along.
The Sun Harbor Chorus Elves had many in the audience singing, clapping and ringing bells.
The Sun Harbor Chorus Elves had many in the audience singing, clapping and ringing bells.
The nose of an elf named Faith was getting cold, so Santa took a mini-Santa hat off the tree and put it on her nose. Photo courtesy Bill Swank.
The nose of an elf named Faith was getting cold, so Santa took a mini-Santa hat off the tree and put it on her nose. Photo courtesy Bill Swank. (Thank you!)

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!

The triumphant return of the Spreckels Organ!

The amazing Spreckels Organ, largest outdoor musical instrument in the world and the joyful lungs of Balboa Park, made its triumphant return today!

After six weeks of silence because of a broken motor on the main blower, the Spreckels Organ is once again producing fantastic music, with a little help from San Diego’s world-famous Civic Organist, Raúl Prieto Ramírez!

Raul began today’s concert with Johann Sebastian Bach’s powerful Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The talented San Diego Children’s Choir then took the stage to perform a variety of classical songs, including Franz Schubert’s moving Ave Maria.

To honor Veterans Day, Raul concluded the program by playing three John Philip Sousa compositions: Semper Fidelis, In Memoriam, and Stars and Stripes Forever.

In a troubled world where the flag often flies at half-staff, this Sunday we were reminded that human good can prevail. With a little dedication any broken instrument in this world–even the mighty Spreckels Organ–can be repaired.

I saw many smiles in the sunshine.

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!

A stirring preview of World War I opera All Is Calm.

Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Yesterday I sat on a folding chair inside the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park blinking my eyes. Several voices singing divinely about our essential humanity had nearly brought me to tears.

I’d just enjoyed a short but stirring preview of San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. This unique chamber opera is a mixture of the spoken word and male singing unaccompanied by instruments.

Together voices relive a profound moment during the horrific trench warfare of World War I, when “soldiers from France, England, and Germany ventured into no-man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers exchanged food and gifts, swapped prisoners and performed burials, and played football and sang Christmas carols.”

The inspirational opera All is Calm contains no original music. It is composed entirely from music that was popular just before the onset of World War I, hymns and timeless Christmas carols. The actual letters of common soldiers and orders from officers are among the historical texts that are interwoven with song. Young soldiers from both sides, manning hellish trenches that were infested with rats and lice, made even more miserable with winter rain and freezing snow, are moved to walk out into the field of fire, risking their lives, to share a moment of common humanity.

The opera will be staged in early December in downtown’s Balboa Theatre, a smaller and more intimate setting than the San Diego Civic Theatre, where San Diego Opera usually performs. There is some singing in French and German, but the opera is primarily in English. Silent Night is sung in different languages by many voices, which eventually combine and rise together as one. Music moves the human heart like nothing else can.

The brief preview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 was simply amazing.

It gave me goosebumps.

These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where a few parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.
These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.
Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.
Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.
One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare's horrors.
One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare’s horrors.
Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this unique chamber opera.
Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this very unique chamber opera.
Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.
Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.
Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.
Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.
All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. It will touch your heart deeply.
All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. Its music touches the heart.

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!

If you’d like to read a few stories about life, click Short Stories by Richard.

Fun photos of the Sea Chantey Festival!

Today I enjoyed an extraordinary event. I boarded the Star of India at the Maritime Museum of San Diego and experienced the annual Sea Chantey Festival!

Here come fun photos!

You’ll see two musical groups performing in these photographs: first Raggle Taggle, then Kick up the Dust. Others groups who had the audience clapping their hands and dancing on the ship’s deck were the Jackstraws, Gemini Junction, Sportive Tricks, and The Chanteymen.

I saw many people in costume. I found myself in the company of pirates and sea captains and ladies in Victorian dress. Members of the Maritime Museum’s sail crews hauled ropes and climbed the rigging while traditional sea chanteys were sung.

Everyone jumped when two cannon shots rang out across San Diego Bay. Heads turned. Like a vision from the past, the official tall ship of the State of California, Californian, which is also one of the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s beautiful vessels, sailed on past.

It was pure magic. Every moment.

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!