Saturday, November 21, 2015

El Camino Real Part 3

The historic Washington DC Holy Mass by Pope Francis canonized Friar Junipero Serra (1713-1784) 230 years after his death. Fr. Serra, the name dominated in California as the founder of 21 missions, especially the very first “Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala” and the inspiration for today’s MLB baseball team, “San Diego Padres” - the Swinging Friars.

What would my San Diego friend, late historian and newspaper writer Art Ribbel and his wife Virginia Ribbel say? Perhaps, “It’s been a long time coming.” He wrote, “The San Diego River is hard by El Camino Real, the Highway of the King, one of the oldest traveled roads in America”. Virginia Ribbel sent me a special collection of Art's San Diego Union articles and I found her sketch in it of Fr. Serra. At one time, we were both residents of Carlsbad.

I remember there were two stories, maybe called “Junipero miracles.” One was Fr. Serra’s 250 mile piety trek from Veracruz to Mexico City through mountain trails. That was one of his hardest trips, which not only injured his leg permanently, but his party lost their way and found themselves starving. They found a distant light to which they were drawn. The couple they met treated them to dinner and lodging. The following day they were told there were no such good Samaritans in the vicinity. The other story told of how Fr. Serra was originally going to San Antonio Mission before he elected to head for California. San Antonio was attacked by Apaches and he would have been there. These were his life saving miracles.

Having resided in California for more than 20 years and visited almost all the missions, it is quicker to name the missions not visited. They are Mission San Antonio Padua, and Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. I hope I can finally visit them on my next visit. I was lucky that my daughter’s family was in Santa Barbara. As I visited them, I was able to visit missions close by on the way.

Later they moved to Thousand Oaks and there we visited together and strolled the beautiful 4.5 acre Garden of the World across the Civic Arts Center. It has an Italian fountain, English Rose Garden, Japanese Koi pond, and what they call a California Mission Courtyard. You can go around the Courtyard to see the fabulous paintings of 21 California Missions on the walls.

Regarding the controversy of Fr. Serra, I wish to follow Pope Francis’ “rejoice” homily that Fr. Serra left his native land and its way of life. “He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life.” Pope Francis continued “Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.” As the first Latino pope, the act of canonizing Fr. Serra is an international statement about Francis’ own identity and his role as a leader in the new world and for a new church.

Monday, November 9, 2015

El Camino Real Part 2

It was amazing that missionaries, perhaps two or three at first, followed the Spanish conquistadors, whether they were Jesuits or Franciscans, after the demise of the Aztec Empire in 1521. That number amassed to more than one thousand. The main path was the El Camino Real Corridor (1400km), from Mexico City up north to Santa Fe, via silver mines* such as Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, though tapering off north after El Paso. The El Camino Mesilla Corridor ran sideways from El Paso to Yuma, the El Camino Sonoran Corridor south down to Hermosillo. There is one more route – the El Camino de los Tejax, from San Antonio down south to Espada, Texas along the San Antonio River.

The name Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) rose as explorer/ geographer in El Camino Sonoran and Mesilla, along with Father Juan Maria Salvarierra. He proved that Baja California was not an island, by leading a land exposition. He introduced horses, cattle, and new crops such as wheat to the native Indians. He established 24 missions and vistas. The ruins of one of his missions was found close to Nogales, now known as the Tumacacori National Monument. I think I drove by the Monument when I visited Rancho Santa Cruz to say goodbye to my ex-boss who relocated there from San Diego after retirement. The city of San Antonio hosted the 2002 Toastmasters International Convention and I spent more than a week there, attending the Conference and traveling to five missions along the San Antonio River. In the 18th century, the Spanish Crown secured its northern frontier empire by creating 50 military presidios and self-sufficient mission communities in Texas.

Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was founded in 1718. By the 1730s there were several church-centered settlements along the San Antonio River. Settling into mission life, the simple hunter-gatherers of South Texas, called Coahuitecans, learned the Catholic faith from Franciscan monks and practiced agriculture.

Between 1731 and 1775, the missionaries and Indians built seven long canals, called acequias, five dams, and an aqueduct to irrigate 3,500 acres of land. By the 1770s, when the mission system began to decline, San Jose was a prosperous social and cultural center with 300 inhabitants who produced cattle and agricultural surplus. Mission Indians were the original Texas cowboys and they also defended their fortified settlements against marauding Apaches and Comanches. In 1824, the Texas missions were entirely secularized and the mission Indians, who continued to live and work in the villages along the San Antonio River, became the first Tejanos. The Alamo Mission was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for the Battle of the Alamo of 1836.

For previous posts on trekking the Mexican Silver Route, please see:
* Trekking Mexico's Silver Route
* Mexico Memoirs
* Mexico Memoirs Part 2
* Dios da a Borda, Borda da a Dios

Monday, October 26, 2015

El Camino Real - Part 1

Starting in the mid-16th Century, European Colonialism and Christian Mission work had taken over exploring the New World consisting of the Americas and the Orient, including Japan. Missionaries, whether they were Franciscans, Dominicans, or Jesuits (the late-comers of all), were combative rather than sanctimonious in their proselytizing activities of Christianity.

I traveled extensively in Mexico after my retirement. Wherever I traveled, even in the remote fishing village of Baja California, I found a mission. I was impressed with the dedicated spiritual work of missionaries who learned the indigenous languages, fought atrocities and plagues, often met death before accomplishing their goals. I hear, on the other hand, negative reports of many priests. Seems they didn't fall under the same ink? Let's examine.

It was Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) who traveled to Japan in 1549 via Africa and India, accompanied by Anjiro, his guide and interpreter, later known as Paulo de Santa Fe. Disappointed, however, as there was no headway gained after two years because of the dissensions throughout the country then. A priest sought China next, but died on his way. Xavier, who had baptized an estimated 30,000, was beautified in 1619 and canonized in 1622, respectively by Pope Paul V and Pope Gregory XV. He became a patron saint of the missionaries (see Rioslogger post).

Juan Maria de Salvatierra (1648-1717), another Jesuit born in Italy, was deeply involved in the success of Sonora and Sinaloa Missions. He lived in Chihuahua for 10 years, the land of the Tarahumaras. He was appointed 'visitor ambassador' of Sonora y Sinaloa Provinces. After being informed that all military expeditions to Baja California had been without success, he began a “spiritual conquest.” It's said that he landed in 1697 at Bahia Conception in a small boat with a handful of crew and soldiers and laid the foundation for Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first and what became the base of Baja California Missions.

As he did in Chihuahua, he mastered the indigenous language and in 7 years established 6 other missions along the coast. Close to 20 Missions were built by Jesuits after Salvatierra, but King Carlos III expelled all Jesuits from Espana Nueva. There was a couple of reasons quoted – first, "some missionaries amassed fortunes" and the other, Jesuits attempted to unseat the new king citing an illegitimate birthright. King Carlos III newly appointed Franciscan Father Junipero Serra instead to go to San Diego with Captain Portola, and later in 1772, sent Dominicans to replace Jesuits in Baja California.

Traveling myself to Loreto, I found out that Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra departed there for San Diego via a sea route (according to his diary March to July 1769)) but Salvatierra was seldom mentioned. Salvatierra died in 1717, (well before the Jesuit expel order was issued) while traveling and compiling the History of Espana Nueva at the request of King Felipe V. I personally feel that he deserves to share the honorable title "apostle of California" with Father Junipero Serra.

A Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero (1731-1787), expelled in 1767 by King Charles III, relocated to Italy and became a scholar and historian. He wrote "Historia Antigua de Mexico", in which he praised works of Juan Maria Salvaierra, Eusebio Francisco Kino and other Jesuit missionaries.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Monterey and San Diego: A Comparison

What are the commonalities between San Diego and Monterey? Both are popular California destinations today. Monterey has 'Del Monte’s' Pebble Beach, the 17 mile drive, and Carmel by the Sea. San Diego has the famous Torrey Pines, La Jolla Shores, Hotel Del Coronado and La Costa. Both had thrived once as fishing capitals: Monterey - Cannery Row and sardines; San Diego - tuna. Respective attractions for children are Monterey Bay Aquarium versus Sea World, Balboa Park and the world renowned San Diego Zoo.

Back in the 18th century, both attracted Spanish explorers, conquistadors and missionaries as ideal ports of calls. They enjoyed the scenic beauty, abundant wealth of sea life, and, in my humble view, “pine” and cypress trees, though the Spaniards, the voyagers, could not tell the difference.

They named the bay after their sponsor, the Count de Monte Rey and the point at the southern end of the bay, Point Pinos (la Punta de los Pinos). Monterey served as capital for Alta California under the Spanish and Mexican rule and was the only port allowed to trade on the west coast.

Portola, the Spanish captain, built the Presidio, the fort to guard a possible Russian attack from the north, while Father Junipero Serra celebrated Thanksgiving Mass. Father Serra built a small mission, but relocated it later to Carmel after Portola was replaced by Fage. Father Serra and his mission will be dealt with in a future blog.

A few words on Monterey Pines - I found their cones are “serotinous”, i.e. they remain closed until opened by the heat of a forest fire when the abundant seeds are then discharged to regenerate the burnt forest. The cones also burst open in extremely hot weather. I quote Frank Perry, Research Associate at Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, “On very hot days (a rarity where I lived) the trees emitted an eerie cracking sound as some of the cones opened." (Click here for more information). Besides Monterey, Monterey Pines grow in San Mateo, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Guadalupe and Cedros Islands down south.

A few words also on the Presidio, taken over by the U.S. after the Mexican war - The Presidio remained a fort and as a U.S. infantry military facility. When World Ware II broke out and Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Army established an Intelligence School to teach the Japanese language to Nisei American soldiers, but in 1942 it was moved to Minnesota and renamed the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). The school produced 6000 wartime graduates.

Japanese imperial military codes were deciphered by the graduates. Today, the school moved back to Monterey and is renamed the Defense Language Institute West Coast branch under Washington DC Headquarters.

Speaking of language studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies (formerly known as Monterey Institute of International Studies) is famous. My ex-employer used to hire MIIS graduates.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Torrey Pines State Park & Its Trails - Part 2

Poor, lonely tree.
A birth in barren soil
Where rocks protrude and ledges gape.
A growth where elements contend.
‘neath genial sun when dulcet zephyrs list;
Where biting, salty winds assail;
And tempest mutilates fragile limb;
Yet to posterity are seeds bequeathed.
- Clifford Stout (1922)

San Diegans are proud of their rare and unique Torrey Pines, once the beacon that served the coastal pilot.

Torrey Pines was discovered by a young physician-naturalist Charles Parry (1823-1890) on his U.S.-Mexican boundary survey and sent samples for verification to his mentor, John Torrey (1796-1873), an eminent American botanist at Columbia University. The tree was named 'Torrey', in his honor, around 1850. It was fortunate that the founder Charles Parry strongly advised the fledgling San Diego Society of Natural History that trees deserved protection. Despite San Diego’s growing awareness, however, degradation of trees continued. Woodcutting remained a permanent threat.

By the turn of the century, steps were taken to strengthen preservation efforts. San Diegans should recognize a few familiar names who aided this endeavor, such as George Martson (1850-1946), Ellen Scripps (1836-1932), Guy Fleming (1884-1960), Ralph Cornell (1890-1972) and others.

George Martson, known as the first citizen of San Diego, was instrumental in establishing San Diego’s park systems, including the famous Balboa Park and Torrey Pines State Park. (San Diego City Public Library was also one of his projects.) Ellen Scripps, a philanthropist, endowed Torrey Pines State Park to the citizens. Guy Fleming, botanist and a fellow with the San Diego Society of Natural History, dedicated his life to make Torrey Pines Park a State Park. Ralph Cornell, landscape architect, left Torrey Pines Park management guidelines to Guy Fleming. Ralph’s point was that the picturesque slopes should not be concealed by excessive planting and to keep the reforestation as modest as possible. The Guy Fleming Trail is about a mile long and leads you to fantastic sea bluffs.

Then came a surprising find when Torrey Pines were discovered growing on Santa Rosa Island, 175 miles northwest of San Diego. Apparently Guy Fleming and Ralph Cornell visited the island and found they were not exactly the same kind of trees. They are named Pinus Torreyana Insularis, with slight genetic differences from Torrey Pine.

About 10 years ago, I visited my daughter in Santa Barbara. She took me to see the largest Torrey Pine in the world located in Carpenteria. This tree was brought from Santa Rosa as a seedling and planted in 1988 by Judge Thomas Ward. Local legend says that in the 1880’s there was a polite but heated competition between the residents of the city, to see who could grow the most unique plants, and when Judge Ward received his tree as a gift from his friend Townshend Stith Brandegee, he proudly planted it directly in front of his home. The tree now measures approximately 126 feet (38 meters) tall, its circumference 20 feet 5 inches (6.25 meters) and its branches span 130 feet.

When Florence Ward inherited the property she dutifully continued caring for the tree and saw that it received professional maintenance. It was Florence who proposed the tree should become an official landmark and be protected. In 1968 the tree was recognized as the city’s first official landmark as well as a state historic landmark. There was a celebration in 1988 for the tree’s 100th year anniversary.

The following is a comparison between Torrey and Monterey pines.

Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana): Torrey Pine is unique in that it is the only hard pine with 5 needles per bundle. The egg-shaped cones can be as large as 5 inches long. The tree grows to 40 feet in height. Natural occurrence is now limited to two dry, sandy coastal regions of southern California (coastal San Diego County and Santa Rosa Island off the coast).

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata): The needles are in bundles of 3 (rarely in bundles of 2) and are flexible, bright blue-green or grass-green. The cones are oval, 3-7" long, with light-brown rounded scales. The branches retain cones in many whorls or circles. Closed, but open and close frequently with changes in humidity. The bark is brown to grey-black. This tree grows to 100 feet in height with a 3 foot diameter and dense crown. It is found in three small California mainland locations and two off-shore islands; but widely planted in New Zealand, Australia, and Chile. It prefers humid and foggy coastal areas, from sea level to 1000 feet above sea level in the Santa Lucia Range. It has been found to grow in areas up to 2100 feet above sea level on Cedros Island.

Combining the cities of San Diego, Del Mar, Santa Rosa, Capenteria, and Santa Barbara, the total number of the surviving Torrey Pines is about 10,000.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Torrey Pines - Part 1

Torrey Pines’ 36 holes are listed as a “must-play” course in the U.S. for golfers - professionals or amateurs alike. It’s an icon and a challenge to San Diegans, having many of the holes atop the bluffs facing the wind. Floating amidst the spectacular views overlooking coastal lines and the La Jolla Seashore, are silent hang gliders. Too classic, I’m afraid. I proudly wear a Torrey Pines golf cap on my daily outings in Kitakyushu, although no Japanese ever voiced recognition of the tree emblem.

While I was living in New York, experiencing harsh winters with heavy snow, I marveled at the lush greens and sunny California sky, beginning with the New Year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, and the first Golf Tournament at Bing Crosby Pebble Beach and Andy Williams Open in San Diego, California. Then, upon my relocation to San Diego in the 1970s, I fully enjoyed the amenities. I used to leave my home on weekends before 5 am and mingle among the early birds who thronged outside the starters’ gate still in the dark. There was no price difference between the North or South course then. Today I’m shocked at the green fee schedules I found on the Internet. Boy oh boy! South Course and North Course have very different green fees now. If you play 18 holes on weekdays in the South, you pay $61 (seniors $43) with an annual $25 resident membership. Visitors must pay $183 per person. On weekends in the South, residents pay $76 while visitors pay $229 per person. For the North Course on weekdays, the price is $40 for residents (seniors $28), $100 for visitors and on weekends, $50 for residents and $125 for visitors. The membership fee has increased 5 fold compared to the days when I played. I remember paying a little over $100 at Pebble Beach as a visitor.

I stopped playing golf after returning to Japan. I found the golf courses in Japan too far to travel to since they are located in remote mountainous countryside. I switched from golf to swimming. My wife gave away my golf clubs to a buyer for a local department store. I’m wondering how the courses are faring with the recent 4-year California drought. “Brown is the new green” started a new joke. I’m sure Torrey Pines uses recycled water and a computer programmed watering system. I just found out that 81,400 rounds were played on both South and North courses during the 7 months ending on January 31, 2015, which culminated in a marginal profit. The paper says Vista in the north was hit hard by drought. The Eucalyptus trees were drying out. I will cover Torrey Pine trees next, one of the rarest trees, now on the IUCN red list of endangered species.

Monday, August 17, 2015

California Drought - Part 2

On July 17, I heard about the brush fire that set 20 plus cars ablaze on the California highway I-15. I mistakenly thought it was in El Cajon. Oh, no! I thought of El Cajon, San Diego but I heard it wrong. It was Cajon (meaning ravine in Spanish) Pass in San Bernardino. Checking on where Cajon Pass is, I found it close to the junction of Route 138 east to Lake Arrowhead. That is where I stopped the car to see the Mormon Rocks on my way to Victorville and maybe to Las Vegas via Barstow. In the late 1800s, Mormons from Utah, trudging their covered wagons, named those gigantic rocks and followed the arrow sign "to go down south the mountain road" and ended up settling in San Bernardino.

As an ex-San Diegan, I opened my dusty San Diego Roadmap to review San Diego water reservoirs I knew. My understanding is that San Diego is 20% dependent on the northern State Bay-Delta water, 65% on Colorado River, 15% on local surface/ground water, conservation (reservoir) and recycled water. Please kindly correct these figures if I’m wrong.

Two major San Diego Rivers (both about 50 miles) originate in the Cuyamaca Mountains. First, the San Diego River, from the northwest of Julian, a historic landmark for goldmines and today known for its apple-pies, flows southwest until it reaches the El Captain Reservoir, the largest reservoir in San Diego. Then it flows down through Santee and Old Mission Dam Historic Site before going by Fashion Valley through the floodway to Mission Bay. The other, called Sweetwater, runs down Alpine through Cleveland National Forest into Harbison Canyon (after John Harbison who built his honey kingdom there but was destroyed by fires - in 2003. President G. W. Bush inspected the site accompanied by both Governor Gray Davis and Governor Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger) and discharges into the San Diego Bay. Other reservoirs listed on the map include Sutherland, Cuyamaca, San Vicente, Dixon, Miramar, Morena, Loveland, Otay, Sweetwater and lakes include Henshaw, Barret, Hodge, Mohlford, San Marcos, and Del Cerro.

I have followed various attempts at desalination in California over the years, starting with efforts by Point Loma Naval Unit (taken to Guantanamo, Cuba), General Atomic testing and then SDG&E Carlsbad plant. Last year, it was reported that there was a breakthrough after decades of studies conducted and financed by Poseidon Water at the Agua Hedionda (stinking water in Spanish) desalination plant in Carlsbad. It utilizes the most advanced reverse osmosis technology in collaboration with the nearby Encina Power Plant (now owned by NRG Power). Poseidon Water is advertising a public plant tour on September 4.

I assume the plant completion is imminent. Once production starts, 50 million gallons (190,000 cubic meters) of water per day will be delivered to San Diego residents. I co-owned a house in Carlsbad with my son, so I felt pleased and proud of the achievement. The plant will be the largest in the western hemisphere and by 2020, the plant is expected to supply up to 7% of San Diego County water demand.

I compared Carlsbad’s 190,000 cubic meters of desalinated water with the Kumamoto’s water sprung daily at Ezu Lake. Ezu lately reported declining water levels but the Lake produces 50,000 cubic meters per day. The figures are just for comparison.

Note: Photo of Carlsbad beach wtih Encina Power Plant in distance was taken by my friend Haruo Toda (Hachioji, Japan)