Local publishes unique guidebook for children

Source: Mission Time Courier,  July 21st, 2017

by Margie M. Palmer

Mission Valley resident Linda Gallo Hawley may not be a San Diego native, but the New York transplant and lifelong educator can school most San Diegans on the region’s native flora, fauna and even cultural history.

(l to r) Trail guide and author Linda Hawley at work at Mission Trails Regional Park; the cover of Hawley’s book

In addition to making her own mark on the culture of the region through her monthly “Nature Adventures!” programs at Mission Trails Regional Park, where she guides primary school children through the park’s many trails, she’s also the proud author of a recently published, child-centric guidebook by the same name.

Nature Adventures!,” the book, Hawley said, is one that children of all ages can enjoy; it includes facts about the habitats and wildlife of this region and features animals big and small from spiders to shrews, bats to big cats, and even smelly skunks.

“When I moved to San Diego in 2001, I knew nothing about the plants in my backyard and I wanted to learn about them,” she said. “I signed up to be a volunteer trail guide because to me, it sounded like a wonderful way to learn about the flora and fauna and animals of San Diego.”

Hawley admits she was quick to fall in love with the experience.

“After I completed the trail guide training, I immediately signed up for most of the children’s tours. I’m an elementary teacher by training and it was easy to love taking children out on the trails.”

She eventually began working with a program geared toward preschoolers, called Ant-Sized Adventures. Hawley said there was so much interest in the preschool program that she decided to write a curriculum.

It was so successful, she said, that the volunteer work eventually turned into a paid position.

“I changed the name of the program from Ant-Sized Adventures to Nature Adventures! and I sketched a rough copy of a [guide] book and took it to Kinkos to make copies. The parents and kids loved it so much that the parents kept asking when I was going to make it available ,” Hawley said.

In 2015, she decided to take a two-year hiatus to finish the self-published rough draft in hopes of signing with a publisher.

Hawley eventually signed on with El Cajon-based Sunbelt Publications, which works with authors who write books that celebrate California and Baja Mexico through natural science, outdoor guides, cultural histories, and regional references.

“Sunbelt encompassed everything that my book was about,” she said. “After I approached them, they took a look at it and said yes.”

Sunbelt Publications has been publishing outdoor guidebooks and books that celebrate the natural and cultural histories of the Californias and southwest deserts since 1984.

“When the opportunity arose to publish a book using songs to engage young children and educate them about the natural world, we were thrilled, especially because it was coming from a writer so dedicated to teaching youth outdoor appreciation,” said Sunbelt marketing coordinator Kara Murphy. “Linda has a gift for drawing children in to the topics she teaches about.”

In 2016, Sunbelt released Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors, which Murphy said introduced adults to San Diego’s natural wonders.

“And now we’re happy to do the same for children. Few San Diegans are aware that they live in a region recognized as one of the most biodiverse in the world, and we’re happy to help spread the word.”

Nature Adventures! went into print in April of this year; it’s currently available for purchase for $12.95 at Mission Trails Park, the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Amazon.com.

“What’s nice about the book is that each page gives information about a specific animal or topic. It has illustrations, which were drawn by another tour guide, of the animal and their tracks so children can identify them on the hikes,” Hawley said. “On the facing page is a song I wrote about the animal. All my songs are set to nursery rhymes, so you get the animal facts, a black-and-white drawing of the animal, their tracks and their scat and a song about the animal. It gives children factual information in a fun way.”

And since the drawings are done in black and white, children can color the artwork themselves.

“It’s an encompassing book. It’s a wonderful guidebook for teachers who want to teach about San Diego’s animals, flora and fauna. It’s something for everyone,” Hawley said.

Those who are interested in signing their children up for one of Hawley’s hikes are in luck — she will resume teaching a monthly, two-hour class at Mission Trails Park later this year. The program will run from September through May; the hikes will take place on Tuesday mornings between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and will include a lesson, an easy trail walk and a take-home craft.

Class size is limited, she said. Those who are interested in registering can access registration forms at bit.ly/2sGC7oo. Children must be accompanied by an adult; with advance registration and pre-payment the cost per class for ages 4 and up is $10 per child or $80 for all nine classes.

“I love working with children and the reason I created this program is because there is no other like it in San Diego.” Hawley said. “I’m grandma age but I’m not a grandma yet, so the children are my grandma fix. They’re the reason why I wrote this book.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of publications for over a decade. Reach her at margiep@alumni.pitt.edu.

Diana Lindsay takes FIRST PLACE Honors in Outdoor Writers Association of California Craft Awards 2017

Editors Diana Lindsay, Terri Vanrell, and Paula Knoll

From Outdoor Writers Association of California P.O. Box 50136, Oxnard, California 93031

May 3, 2017–

Founded in 1986, OWAC is a non-profit organization of more than 150 professional outdoor communicators from California and surrounding western states, including newspaper and magazine staffers, freelance writers, book authors, radio and television broadcasters, video producers, editors, photographers and artists.

Each year members of the organization meet to honor their finest professional work. At a banquet, held April 26, 2017 in Bishop, California, the OWAC Board of Directors presented awards to individuals whose work has been judged “Superior”.

OWAC’s 2017 Craft Awards Media Competition judging determined the work to be a premier example of professionalism and talented execution. By its superior form and creative style the entry was selected from among all submissions in its category and has been awarded First Place in the Best Outdoor Guidebook category.

Judges felt that the design and visual appeal of the entry, “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors” was “Inspiring, intriguing and compelling.”

Exhibit Reveals The Art Of Former San Diego City Councilman Tom Hom

By Marissa Cabrera, Maureen Cavanaugh

Source: KPBS Midday Edition, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Above: Watercolor painting by former San Diego City Councilman, Tom Hom.
Above: Watercolor painting by former San Diego City Councilman, Tom Hom.

Some say politics is an art.

So it might make sense that if a politician had a hobby, they might give traditional art, like painting, a try.

That is exactly how longtime Chinese-American leader Tom Hom has been spending his time.

In celebration of his 90th birthday, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is unveiling paintings and drawings by Hom about the Chinese-American experience.

In 1963, Hom became the first minorit

y elected to the San Diego City Council. He later became the second Asian-American elected to the state legislature.

Hom and Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres, executive director of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, discuss the exhibit “Unseen Portraint: The Art of Tom Hom,” Tuesday on Midday Edition.


She’s history: Iris Engstrand, the go-to source on San Diego’s past, retires from USD

Source: San Diego Union Tribune, May 23, 2017

By Peter Rowe


Iris Engstrand
Iris Engstrand signs copies of the second edition of “San Diego: California’s Cornerstone” at the San Diego History Center on November 29, 2016.

To Iris Engstrand, a neglected hillside plot above San Diego’s Mission Valley is the Jamestown of the Pacific.

Presidio Park is dominated by the Serra Museum, dedicated to missionary Junípero Serra. Plaques note that this is the site of the first permanent European settlement on the West Coast.

The park has seen lots of history.

It’s also seen better days.
“Look at the paint!” Engstrand said, gesturing at the museum’s flaking walls.

“You see the mold?” she pointed to black streaks on the museum’s white tower.

“That clump of trees?” she waved at a cluster of shaggy palms. “It blocks the view, it’s ugly and it’s half dead.”

These are not the ravings of a cranky tourist. Engstrand has a doctorate in history (University of Southern California, 1962) and has taught at the University of San Diego and its predecessor for 48 years. She literally wrote the book on local history — “San Diego: California’s Cornerstone” — and is cherished by a network of scholars as colleague, mentor and friend.

“She’s a real dynamo,” said M. Wayne Donaldson, chair of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “She’s probably one of the most influential people in my entire life.”

“Iris Engstrand,” said William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, “is a scholarly treasure.”

Now 82, Engstrand will teach her last class Tuesday. Don’t expect her to fade away. She’s helping design a virtual reality tour of the Presidio. Campaigning to win UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for El Camino Real. Co-editing The Journal of San Diego History. And insisting the Presidio gets the respect it deserves.

“San Diego,” she said, “just needs to get a little social consciousness about its past.”

Starting, perhaps, with a simple road sign noting the birthplace of California.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Engstrand said. “Here we are in San Diego, the second largest city in California, the eighth largest in the United States, and we can’t even have a sign here.”

Soaked in salt water

When questions arise about Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Kate Sessions, Alonzo Horton or any other notable from San Diego’s past, Engstrand is the go-to source.

Not bad for an accidental historian.

Growing up in Laguna Beach, Iris Higbie loved to surf and swim. Her passion for the sea led her to enroll at the University of Southern California as a marine biology major. Even her love life was soaked in salt water. While still an undergraduate, she married Larry Wilson, an albacore fisherman.

For the next six years, she’d bunk aboard fishing boats. Life at sea was an adventure, but marriage also meant new financial pressures. Her parents stopped paying her tuition, so the undergraduate landed a job as a legal secretary.

Her work hours, though, conflicted with the marine biology lab schedule.

A professor noted that Iris had gobs of history units. Why not make that her major, marine biology her minor?

She did, becoming so immersed in this field that she pursued it for a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate, all at USC.

Fascinated by Southern California’s Iberian roots, she also won a fellowship that sent her to Spain. In Madrid, she spent two years researching Spanish scientists who had explored the New World.

Her own expedition had touches of glamour, thanks to a roommate’s ties to the crew filming Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren in “El Cid.” The women roamed the Spanish capital in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, borrowed from a studio executive.

Young and bilingual, Engstrand was invited to parties at the U.S. embassy, mingling with actors and visiting dignitaries, including Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York.

Back in the U.S., the freshly minted Ph.D. taught at USC and Long Beach City College. In 1968, she joined the faculty at the San Diego College for Men.

Soon, this L.A. native was synonymous with San Diego history.

Hidden messages

Despite her devotion to USC, Iris Wilson was happy to leave Los Angeles. Her marriage had fizzled out. Moreover, she was impressed by Old Town and other efforts to preserve San Diego’s heritage.

On paper, though, she looked like a bad fit at her new school. The College for Men was a private Catholic institution that in 1972 would merge with the College for Women, becoming the University of San Diego.

“I was not only not Catholic, I was divorced,” Engstrand said, “and at the College for Men. But they didn’t care.”

She shook up a small school’s little History Department.

“In many ways, it is her department,” said Colin Fisher, USD’s current History Department chairman. “She created it. She played a role in hiring every faculty member.”

In the classroom, she had a talent for resuscitating the past. Instead of memorizing dates, she urged students to examine the raw materials of life — food, fashion, music, relationships, tragedies, triumphs.

For instance, a lecture on Spanish royalty includes a vivid account of the hidden political and cultural messages in the canvases of Francisco Goya.

“She always stresses the ‘lived experience’ of the people and societies we study,” said Andres Meza, a senior in Engstrand’s course on the history of Spain.

Donaldson, an architect, worked on historic preservation campaigns in the Gaslamp Quarter. Engstrand urged him to investigate the people who built and inhabited those buildings.

“Where did they come from? Why did they come to what was to become the Gaslamp Quarter? What were their families like?” Donaldson said.

“She’s the one who turned me on to really look at the people and their character, and not just to rewrite old history.”

Right place, right time

Credit this rich, multi-disciplinary style to a rich, multi-faceted life. Engstrand’s interest in Spanish scientists, surveying a strange land’s flora and fauna, never faded. In 1999, she wrote “Inspired by Nature,” a history of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

A fascination with the region’s arid climate led her to the San Diego Water Authority’s lawyer, Paul Engstrand. They were married 45 years, until his death in 2015.

An aunt who was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ office manager led to a friendship with the team’s general manager, Buzzie Bavasi. After he became the San Diego Padres’ president in 1968, Bavasi often called on his fellow L.A. transplant.

“My life,” Engstrand said, “has been a series of unusual coincidences, of being in the right place at the right time.”

Coincidence may have been one factor behind Engstrand’s success. Others see a rigorous work ethic and ever-expanding social network.

About 11 years ago, The Journal of San Diego History had lost its editor. Engstrand agreed to become co-editor with another USD history professor, Molly McClain.

“It’s an enormous amount of work but incredibly interesting,” said McClain. “Iris makes everything really fun.”

Wendy Kramer agreed. A historian who lives in Toronto, Kramer found documents proving Cabrillo was born in Spain — unwelcome news to San Diego’s Portuguese community, which long had claimed the 16th century explorer as one of their own.

When Kramer flew here in 2015 to meet local historians, she was uncertain about the reception she’d receive.

Her fears quickly vanished. Engstrand picked her up at the airport, took her out to restaurants, put her up in a bayside condo.

“One of the most lovely things about finding those documents,” Kramer said, “was meeting people like Iris.”

‘Plymouth Rock’

The University of San Diego has never been without an Engstrand, and even after this month’s retirement, the Engstrand Era will continue. Iris’ daughter, Kristin Moran, is an associate dean; a grandson, Tanner Engstrand, is the football team’s assistant head coach.

While leaving a university, she’s not leaving scholarship. She may have another book or five in her — Engstrand estimates she’s already penned 25 volumes — and a course to team-teach (with Derrick Cartwright) on art and architecture.

She’ll also have more time to devote to a bedraggled park.

“She’s particularly keen on the Presidio project,” McClain said. “To see the Plymouth Rock of California being neglected, she is very keen to set that to rights.”

On July 16, a plaque will be unveiled in the park. The inscription honors “the soldiers, missionaries and natives of the Portola Expedition that founded San Diego de Alcalá and gave birth to Spanish Alta California.”

Engstrand was one of the plaque’s backers. Just like she’s pushing for fresh paint, signs, pruned trees and a new banner to join the flags waving outside the Serra Museum.

“The Kumeyaay flag should be first,” she said, “then the Spanish, the Mexican and the United States, if you are going in chronological order.”

History, like a certain historian, never rests.

TheNAT Botanist Uncovers ‘Lost’ Mexican Plants

 Source: KPBS.org

An undated photo of a sabazia purpusii plant, one of the 50 "lost" species found by San Diego Natural History Museum botany curator Jon Rebman.


An undated photo of a sabazia purpusii plant, one of the 50 “lost” species found by San Diego Natural History Museum botany curator Jon Rebman.

Aired 9/19/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

TheNat Botanist Uncovers ‘Lost’ Mexican Plants


Jon Rebman, botany curator, San Diego Natural History Museum


An undated photo of a mirabilis triflora plant, one of the 50 "lost" species found by San Diego Natural History Museum botany curator Jon Rebman.


An undated photo of a mirabilis triflora plant, one of the 50 “lost” species found by San Diego Natural History Museum botany curator Jon Rebman.

It’s been more than 120 years since botanists have seen some flowers, ferns and shrubs in Baja California Sur. They’re called “lost plants,” with scientists in possession of only a handful of old specimens.

Scientists may not have been actively looking for the plants all this time, but they still never came across them in more than a century, according to Jon Rebman, botany curator for the San Diego Natural History Museum. So last year, Rebman spent 10 months in Baja California Sur on the hunt for these rare species to see whether some had gone extinct.

“Extinction is a really hard thing to say because some of these species require winter rainfall which is really rare in that part of the peninsula,” Rebman said. “If they get enough, the plants can pop up on these big plains. You could look for years, but unless it’s the right conditions, they’re not even going to show their heads.”

Rebman said last year it rained more than it normally does and he found 50 lost plants, traveling to remote areas and through abandoned, overgrown paths. The finding is significant even if these plants don’t have any immediate applications in medicine or other fields.

“I hate that aspect, that it has to be something that we value (in order to be worthwhile),” Rebman said. “But it’s a part of a healthy ecosystem. To me, it’s like we’ve inherited this rich heritage of biodiversity. You don’t want something to blink out on your watch. Now we know at least 50 are there and the threats to them.”

Rebman will be presenting some of his findings at theNAT Tuesday at 7 p.m. He joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on how areas of the the Baja California Peninsula has changed since botanists last visited.


Sunbelt comment:  Jon Rebman is the author of Baja California Plant Field Guide, 3rd Edition

Environmental expert sees change ahead; speed is issue

Source: San Diego Union Tribune, August 22, 2016

by Fred Dickey

Phil Pryde knows more about where you live than you do. No, not your street name or how far to the Vons store. However, the ground under your house, the water running through your faucets and the air above you are all things that he thinks about and knows about.

San Diego: An Introduction to the Region, 5th editionPryde, 78, lives in San Carlos and is the author of “San Diego: An Introduction to the Region.” The book’s five updated editions have for years been easy reading for learning about this area.

He is currently on the board of the San Diego River Park Foundation and the Anza-Borrego Foundation. In past years, he served on the county planning commission and the county water authority.

Pryde is self-described as an ardent bird lover. Which means if you ever have to pick a bird lover out of a lineup, choose the one who is gentle of manner, deep of intellect and passionate of beliefs. Him.

For all that, my purpose is not to quiz Pryde about where to view the California gnatcatcher, one of his favorites. I’m after bigger game, so to speak.

Pryde is a professor emeritus of geography at San Diego State University, the author of many academic papers that neither of us has any intention of reading. But when he speaks of the big-picture environment, it is wise to listen. In this case, I ask him about climate change.

(A travel advisory: If you’re a climate change denier, I ask you to lean back and relax on your trip through this story. Pryde is not from the United Nations or the New World Order. He’s a mellow guy who has learned some things he wants to share. You can take comfort that he doesn’t claim all the answers. As a low-grade (of the C+ variety) science dullard, even I shall swim upstream and try to learn something.) On climate change, Pryde draws a distinction among what is known, not known and maybe known. The inclusion of “maybe” should allow some doubting readers to exhale.

But to Pryde, the big ponderable on climate change is not maybe, but how fast. “Nobody really knows for sure, because we don’t know what the rate of acceleration is going to be,” he says.

What would not surprise you, Phil? “I don’t know, because we don’t have enough facts. Right now, it’s educated guesswork. That, of course, invites other people to say we don’t know, or we’re exaggerating, or even that it will never happen.

“There’s even disagreement over whether it’s human caused. But I don’t see how anybody can objectively look at the facts and say it’s not caused by humans, particularly theburning of fossil fuels. “People would like scientists to say that 25 years, six months and four days from now the ocean is going to collapse. Big headline. Obviously, they can’t say that. All they can say is they don’t know exactly, but they know where it’s headed.”

Ocean-side San Diegans have a vital interest in knowing the effects of climate change because of where we live, which we tell everyone— no doubt irritatingly—is the most gloriousspot on the planet.The change, as it happens,will be uncomfortable.


“Even if global temperature increases by five degrees, we’re going to sweat a lot more, we’re going to wear shorts a lot more, but we’ll survive that. We can always make more air-conditioners. Even most wildlife will adjust, but certainly not all.”

The seabird brown booby used to be found south of Ensenada, but increasingly is seen along the San Diego coast. The reason is that the water is now warmer here. Other birds are behaving similarly.

The big problem will be beyond the shore, Pryde tells us. Climate change is affecting oceans in several ways. One is the melting of the ice caps. As ice, they reflect the sunlight back. They’re white. But when the ice caps melt, they’re replaced by the dark ocean, and dark absorbs more heat, which then melts ice faster, which makes it warmer, and so it goes.

Pryde says, “Here’s another thing about warmer water: It expands a little as it warms. The oceans are actually getting bigger just by getting warmer. Only scientists think about that.”

He says ocean levels have risen thus far only slightly, a few inches, but the trend is definitely upward. And someday if it increases much more, the change will hit us where we live. Or, to be alarmist about it, where we used to live.

“As it gets higher, that’s going to send saltwater much farther inland. What’s that going to do? Well, lots of things. It’s going to salinize your wells. It’s going to salinize your groundwater. San Diego River will become more saline. It’s going to affect birds. It’s going to affect everything.”

As carbon dioxide levels in the air increase, it will mix with ocean water and increase the acidity of the sea, he says.

“Scientists are really worried about some things becoming extinct because of acidity, particularly small organisms at the bottom of the food chain.”

Ocean dwellers are similar to rich people: Diminished resources make them unhappy.

Pryde says the rise of ocean temperatures is going to affect things far more than rising air temperatures, particularly in the oceanic food chain. We have plenty of evidence already that wildlife is struggling to adjust to changes in the ocean. Seals, for onething, will be forced elsewhere in search of the colder water their prey requires.

A key to the survival of ocean wildlife is the fate of the tiny (not lowly) krill, a crustacean that’s sort of the popcorn of the oceans, enjoyed by almost all. Krill flourishes worldwide, especially in cold waters, and no one knows what even a slight temperature rise will do to the species. To take chances with krill would be like us taking chances with corn.

“If the krill go, the oceans go,” Pryde warns.

He says there’s a form of ice other than bergs that could have a nasty surprise for us.

“We do know that the polar ice cap is melting, but something is happening that is a far worse threat— methane.

“Methane is much more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,” he says.

Pryde knows methane because of extensive on-site studies that resulted in three books he wrote on the environmentof the Soviet Union before the fallof that government.

He says methane is trapped beneath the permafrost, especially in eastern Siberia. In the past, the top layer would melt in summer about 2 or 3 feet at the most. Thus, the methane to that depth has already been released. However, below that, it remains trapped by the frozen permafrost.

“Long story short,” Pryde says, “with global climate change and as Siberia gets warmer, the permafrost isgoing to melt deeper. That’s where a huge amount of methane is (trapped). The amount of methane that could come out of there would make us forget about carbon dioxide. Methane is basically poisonous. You make methanol out of it.”

Pryde says methane will go into the atmosphere and be distributed around the earth by air circulation. It’s a greenhouse gas, which means it doesn’t go into outer space. Methane will form a blanket and block the escape of heat far more than CO2.

Phil Pryde is a concerned preservationist, but not an alarmist. He sees the problems of our environment but is pretty upbeat about the future, so long as that future is hospitable to his beloved California gnatcatcher.

How did climate change become so damned political? Agree or disagree, it’s science that should be dispassionately sorted out.

Since we first wondered how a bug could fly or a bird could sing, scientific inquiry has required that we explore without fear, then question our findings and argue about them. But when we start to make a political or religious fight over those findings, someone ends up being exiled to Siberia.

At least that destination might be warmer now.

TheNAT Offers New San Diego Hiking Guide

TheNAT Offers New San Diego Hiking Guide

Aired 8/2/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

TheNAT Offers New San Diego Hiking Guide


Diana Lindsay, publisher/editor, “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors”


The San Diego Natural History Museum last year opened the permanent exhibit “Coast to Cactus in Southern California,” which celebrates the region’s incredible range of habitat, climate and biodiversity.

Now, theNAT has gone one step farther — literally.

In September, the museum will release a new hiking guide to areas represented in the exhibit.

“Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors” offers more than 250 trails, maps, photographs and descriptions of habitats and species San Diegans may encounter on hikes. Proceeds will benefit the museum.

“This book has been more than a decade in the making — you could say it took the scenic route — and is now finally coming to fruition,” museum board member Diana Lindsay said in a statement.

“It has been a labor of love for many of the volunteers who contributed content and helped to fund the publication of the book. It allows each reader the opportunity to go on a hike with a virtual Canyoneer that will give them a 360 degree view of the flora, fauna, geology and cultural and historical aspects found along their path,” she said.

Lindsay, who edited and published the book, told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday that the guide includes popular and lesser-known areas, like the Manchester Preserve in Encinitas. She also offered some tips for hikers.

The book jacket cover of "Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors."


The book jacket cover of “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors.”

“Of course, you want to be very sensitive to cultural areas so where there maybe cultural pictographs or rock art, you want to make sure that you actually don’t touch those,” Lindsay said. “Your oils in your hand can actually ruin pictographs. If you find, for instance, a shard that belonged to the Indians that lived here in the past, you may want to look at it but put it back in the same location. It’s extremely important to scientists and archaeologist who come later to study these areas.”

Lindsay added, “You want to have a deep respect for the nature that you’re actually seeing. Same with the animals, you don’t want to capture them or harm them in anyway. You want to learn about them, learn about the connection that you have with nature.”


Source: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jun/24/tecate-border-pueblo-magico/?track=san-diego


Despite changes, pueblo’s fans insist it’s still magical

— Life is changing in this Pueblo Mágico, and not every change is mágico.

Border crossings that took seconds now require minutes. This week, a rush hour passage required an entire half hour.

Residents who once left keys in their cars while shopping downtown no longer recommend the practice. (Nonetheless, a distracted reporter accidentally did this on a recent morning, returning in the afternoon to find his vehicle — and keys — where he had left them.)

Perhaps the most dramatic change: You rarely hear hooves clattering on the streets fronting the tree-shaded town square, Parque Hidalgo.

“We used to have more horses than cars,” said Daniel Reveles, Tecate’s unofficial poet laureate and a full-time resident since 1980. “I used to do local errands here from my ranch in a surrey.”

In 2012, Mexico City added Tecate to the federal government’s list of Pueblos Mágicos, places notable for natural beauty, historical significance or cultural import. This year, magic seems in short supply south of the border, as regions grapple with crime, pollution, drought and the U.S. presidential campaign. South of the border, many are leery of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration policy, which includes a fortress-like wall along the U.S.-Mexico line.

Fences already line most of the border between San Diego County and Mexico. In the 1990s, a six-foot-tall fence was erected here, followed by 18-foot-tall metal posts in 2008-2009. These barriers are visible throughout the city, yet irrelevant to most of the region’s 120,000 people.

“I don’t have a problem (with the fence), I can cross any time I want,” said Cristela Melendrez Taboada, 17, a waitress at Restaurante Lola, facing the town square. “And I’m pretty happy with life here in Mexico.”

Contentment is a common theme in this town, which sprawls across a valley about 40 miles east of San Diego. People here insist they are too happy, too relaxed to feel any cross-border tensions.

“I love Tecate,” said Martín Cortizo Rodríquez, who left his native Mexico City to work for the town’s Rancho La Puerta resort and spa. “You live over here with quality.”

In “Guacamole Dip,” “Tequila, Lemon and Salt” and other books by Reveles, Tecate is an enchanted village that floats above such crudities as international politics. Still, the author admits that unpleasant realities occasionally intrude.

“El Trump and La Clinton is all you hear right now,” said Reveles, who dines and drinks with “Los Cafeteros,” a band of genial idlers who meet in the bars and restaurants surrounding the town square. “One person says, ‘Trump is right. We are going to build a wall —to keep out all the illegal Americans!’”


Tecate was first settled about 1,400 years ago by the nomadic Kumeyaay, who fished and hunted from the Pacific to the mountains. A small but well-organized museum east of downtown, the Museo Comunitario de Tecate, displays shelters and baskets made by current tribal members.

The museum also gives the rest of the story: Indians and European settlers clashed in the early 19th century. Juan Bandini, whose Casa de Bandini stands in San Diego’s Old Town, abandoned a rancho here after numerous raids.

Farmers and ranchers eventually prevailed, producing vegetable oil, wine and grains for brewing. Rails linked Tecate and San Diego from the early 20th century until 1962, when the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad discontinued service here.

When Daniel and Harriet Reveles visited Tecate in 1976, the town was best known for its eponymous brewery and Rancho La Puerta, a fitness haven founded by Edmond and Deborah Szekely in 1940. Now a 3,000-acre preserve where guests spend $2,835 to $7,500 each for a week’s stay, the ranch had modest origins.

The same is true of Tecate. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Daniel was afraid that the native New Yorker he had married would find the place hopelessly rustic. She did, in an endearing way.

“She said, ‘Oh, what a charming village,’” Daniel quoted his late wife, who died in 1989. “And indeed it was. It was magical.”

A disc jockey and writer, Reveles was inspired by his new surroundings. The couple bought 30 acres 10 miles south of town, horses, the aforementioned surrey, a stagecoach. He began writing yarns that imbued Tecate with a magical realism reminiscent of the mythical touch Gabriel Garcia Marquez brought to his Colombian hamlets.

Reveles, one critic wrote of 1994’s “Enchiladas, Rice and Beans,” “assures his place at the forefront of a long line of Hispanic literary magicians.”

This week at Bar Diana, a 59-year-old downtown institution, Reveles enjoyed a lunch of carne asadatacos and tequila. In a white Guayabera shirt and Panama hat, he held court like retired royalty. Friends descended on his table for a warm abrazo.

“Don Daniel,” they called him. “Jefe.”

“People love the idea, they appreciate his work,” said Carlos Mateus, 61, the bar’s owner. “He’s a good person.”

In this town, who is not? “I’ve never met a bad person here,” said Reveles, who claims to be 91 but has a fabulist’s touch with cold facts. (In an interview with the Union-Tribune’s Arthur Salm 12 years ago, he gave his age as 94.) “Some scoundrels, but no bad people.”


As wildfires raced across San Diego County’s back country last week, Melendrez could see the distant columns of smoke. Miles from Tecate, the flames were moving in the opposite direction. Still, the young waitress fretted.

“I worry that we don’t have enough resources to help with the fire,” she said.

Why? Isn’t the fire in another country? “On previous occasions, the U.S. came to help us here. It would be nice for us to be able to help the U.S.”

You find a lot of warmth toward the United States in Tecate, but that doesn’t mean everyone here obeys U.S. laws. During the 2016 fiscal year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 80 people crossing the border here illegally. That’s less than .5 percent of the 20,782 apprehended in the entire San Diego sector.

Here as in other places, some blame any uptick in crime on newcomers. At Mini Todo Hidalgo, a gift and school supplies shop near the brewery, manager Grace Adams serves customers from Mexico’s interior. Some were deported from the U.S. to Tijuana or Mexicali, then journeyed to Tecate for the relaxed atmosphere and pleasant climate.

“Some of these people are bad people,” she said. “Not all, but some.”

Good or bad, most migrants are just scraping by. Anastacio Garcia, 64, pushed an ice cream cart across the town square. Earlier this month, he was nabbed during an immigration sweep in Albuquerque, N.M., his home of 44 years — and where his wife and two children still reside.

“I worked in Mexicali,” he said, “but I came here because Mexicali is too hot.”

He had been in Tecate three days: “A nice town, I like it.”

Lacking papers, Garcia can’t cross the border. With the right documents, though, this crossing can be a breeze. Midweek at 3:30 p.m., the line at the border extended a mere three cars.

Yet there are only two lanes at the Tecate Port of Entry, with no provisions for people with SENTRI cards, no separation between cars and 18-wheelers. Moreover, both lanes close daily from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“The lines here can be as long as four hours,” said Joe Crooks, who manages a nearby maquiladora. “It’s gotten worse.”

If Tecate was ever the border’s Shangri-La, untouched by the outside world, Roberto Arjona insists those days are over. He cringes whenever he hears about Trump’s wall or Sinaloa’s drug cartels.

“Every time those conversations happen, there is a direct negative effect on our town,” said Arjona, Rancho La Puerta’s chief executive. “When those comments are made, 98 percent of the time I’ll get calls from my guests, wondering what the heck is going on, whether it is safe to come.”

Slammed by the recession, Rancho La Puerta has bounced back. Business was fair in 2013, good in ’14, better in ’15. This year, the resort is at capacity, welcoming 140 to 160 new guests every Saturday.

“This is paradise,” said Cortizo, escorting guests through the lush grounds and cool, pristine Spanish colonial buildings. “Paraíso.”

Most Mexicans — most Americans, for that matter — can’t afford a week in these heavenly surroundings. But the rancho employs dozens of locals. Its restaurants and shops are stocked with Tecate-produced food, drink and artisan goods. Moreover, the resort’s foundation built and maintains Parque del Profesor, a public park with a soccer field, classrooms and nature trails.

People who live here boast about attractions new (La Finisima craft brewery), old (7,500-year-old petroglyphs in nearby hills) and emerging (the hot new dining spot, Lugar de Nos, led by rising chef Mariela Manzano).

“It is people like her who are giving Tecate a very fine dining scene,” Arjona said.

What they don’t brag about is efficiency or order.

“There are many good reasons to live in Tecate. Convenience is not one of them,” Reveles said. “Here, the road signals don’t always work and people don’t know the rules of the road. Or if they do, they don’t obey them. But you never hear a horn. There is no road rage.

“Everybody lives in harmony. You don’t see hate here.”

It all sounds too good to be true, like mágico.