annie then insightfully points out,
"Occasionally, we consider moving to San Diego. Itâ€™s warm. All the time. Itâ€™s beautiful. All the time. The people are attractive. All the time. Honestly, whatâ€™s not to like? Then you visit, however, and realize itâ€™s essentially a city devoid of culture, unless you consider being a stop on the way to Tijuana an important cultural experience. We donâ€™t."
I am really glad that Annie posted her response. When I read Jeff's comments I became very upset but I couldn't articulate it at first. Because one, I am not a fan of San Diego and often find myself talking about why I am uncomfortable when I am in SD, and two I agreed with parts of what Jeff wrote - that sure it is warm and sure most people consider a visit to Tijuana a "cultural experience."
"We just have to look harderâ€¦ I know there are some pockets of culture here and there (music! delicious food! lotsa museums!), but definitely not in La Jolla."
After a few minutes of Tricia the Wolf personality where I wanted to bite off Jeff's head and the heads of every tourist who make comments about "culture" and san diego I decided that a more constructive approach was better than nurturing cannibalistic thoughts.
What is culture? I define it as beliefs, practices and values.
Many of time tourists want to have a "cultural experience" when they visit a town - but this usually means they want to eat food that interesting enough but not so authentic that their taste buds would have to be challenged into liking it and go to museums that are artsy enough so that they feel good about learning about "others."
The problem is that most tourists come to SD and they visit just a few miles - between 30 to 40 miles I would conjecture - they will go south on the 5 to Coronado but no farther, and then up north on the 5 to La Jolla. The brave ones will say I want to go to Mexico so they will bypass everything between downtown SD and Tijuana. Tourists then say they either LOVE SD or they HATE it. LOve it because great weather and people. HAte it because no culture. So Jeff here sits on the latter. Actually this dichotomy is one that is most often reified by those who live within the 30 mile swatch.
so what's my beef with the lofty editors at DRaft Mag? From here on, I will refer to the Editors of Draft Mag as "Crocodile Face."
- culture is more than a beer festival and a 30 mile swath of predesignated tourist stops. So if you don't leave the 30 mile swatch that I have circled in orange, then you will feel that there is "no culture" in San Diego
- Actually that feeling that Crocodile Face has of "no culture" points to the the dominance of white, elite, culture. So what's is beef with white culture? I don't like it when people claim that white people don't have culture - especially it sounds most lame when white people go to places where the white population forms the majority in demographics and they walk away screaming, "there was no culture!"
- if one defines culture as the experience of lots of public events with people of color all around you smiling and talking, then Crocodile Face is right - there is a lack of public cultural events in SD that brings together a diversity of people. So yes the beer festival that Crocodile Face attended probably didn't have all the blacks and latinos out of ther neighborhoods. Oh and probably not a lot of asians either huh? That's cuz we like to have private tea festvals with dragons (just kiiidddding)
- so you don't want to live in SD cuz there's no culture here huh? Let me explain to you the position that you are in to EVEN make that statement in the first place. The author, Crocodile Face, is in a position of luxury to even say that he could pick up and leave his city and move to another just because it might be more cool than where he is living now - - now I am in his position also - I am the person who is in position of priviledge to say that I can pick up and move. I picked up and left california to move to NYC solely based on the reason because I wanted to - I didn't know anyone - I had never been there - but it sure looked great from the movies and NYC has this feeling of cultural greatness that I wanted to understand. But I knew that for me to experience culture in NYC, it had to be beyond just eating authentic food and going to museums - I knew that I wanted the experience of being adopted into a community, to work with a community, to share common values and goals and to work towards similar missions. But tight communities have tight ties. Neighborhoods that are seem to have a strong sense culture tend to have strong social ties and networks - that means people know each other, they hang out together, and they watch out for each other. But it's hard to get into these networks So I knew that I had to work extra hard to become involved and to gain the trust of the community that I wanted to work in. I also knew that I wouldn't be able to join the communities that I wanted to work in (mainly lower-income, black and latino) by living in Manhattan. So I made the choice to live in areas where I wanted to invest my time to getting to know my neighbors. So if the author, Jeff, makes the decision to not move based on his perception of lack of cultures other than dominant, white, middle-upper class san diego culture ---perhaps that decision can be re-evaluated once he stops through Chula Vista and see those cultures.
- Now if an outsider (this includes me), goes to Chula Vista or National City or parts of Escondido - it may still feel that the most culturally diverse place is Walmart! So where are all the people of color on the streets in these areas south and north of the 30 mile SD dominant culture swatch? One of the issues with SD that Crocodile Face picked up on is the lack of visible diversity - and Annie says that we must look harder- Annie is right. We do have to look harder. But i think SD is particularly hard city to "Look in" if one doesn't understand the culture of migration and fear in San Diego and as two cultures that are inextricably linked. Even though SD has one of the highest populations of Latinos - why is it so hard to see see Latinos? Why isn't it like other cities where you can step out in certain neighborhoods and feel culture dripping from the clouds? It's because SD, with help from the federal government's ICT unit and leftover autocratic, facist Bush administration policies, has done a wonderful job at creating one of the most hostile city environments for Latinos in the USA. SD sits at one of busiest border border crossings in the world and the busiest in the USA - it is also the site where undocumented Mexican migrants come to support our economies. What's been happening lately is that the immigration officials have been rounding up anyone who has dark skin, detaining them, and questioning them. What they are doing is illegal and the ACLU San Diego Chapter is doing a lot to fight this. With all the immigrant raids on Mexican families - many who are citizens and unevenly documented Mexican families (e.g. in some families the parents will have citizenship but one of their kids may be undocumented), the ICE officals along with the silent compliance of local and county police officials, have created a widespead fear among neighborhoods with high numbers of Mexicans. The levels of fear are so high that families are scared to leave their houses. Undocumented people are scared to walk around on the streets. Even those with documentation are getting harrassed. All of this has created a culture of fear among the Latino community in SD - So tourists of SAn Diego - if you wonder why you don't see more Latinos on the street - it's because they are not comfortable walking around like you or I - like someone who is a citizen.
- In the context of the culture of fear and an understanding of the culture of migration, SD doesn't lack "culture," it just has a lot of "hidden culture." A lot of cultural practices, celebrations and etc are taking place indoors. The kind of public celebrations that could possibly bring lots of different cultures together aren't as frequent - with the exception of JOB's annual fiesta - which is an organization that is doing some of the most exciting coalition building and community organizing work in SD. It's hard to get people out of their houses when they are afraid to come out! JOB, lead by Norma ChĂˇvez- Peterson, is organized by people of color who work within and with Mexican and black communities - so there is a higher level of trust to attend their annual Fiesta - which you should be attending in August if you want to find evidence of vibrant culture in SD. Last year my girl norma rodriguez organized the festival.
** for an example of the unbalanced representation of Latinos in SD, read my post on what happened in the 2008 San Diego Wildfires, San Diego Fires - How Race and Class are Covered by the Media - We have no "refugees" here, and how I and others created a roundtable to discuss these issues