If it’s early August, the Cabrillo Music festival is happening in Santa Cruz and other areas in and around Santa Cruz, just south of the SF Bay Area. My friends Howard & Gene go most years, and I join them whenever I’m close enough to make it feasible. The final concert each year takes place at the old Spanish mission at San Juan Bautista, a small town south of San Jose — hence the bell tower, above. I take advantage of the week in between the two main festival weekends to enjoy SF and see my friends Amy, Nancy & Kip — from whose lovely hilltop neighborhood of Bernal Heights these sunset shots of the bay and city, above and below, were taken.
Junipero Serra was the Catholic priest who decided to set up missions a day’s ride from each other all up the coastline of what was then Alta California, part of the Spanish colony of Mexico. These days the missions serve as parish churches in many places, and historical points of interest from San Diego in the south all the way to Sonoma in the north. Considering the history of near-utter extermination of the native inhabitants of California (surely an earthly garden of eden in the pre-European-invasion era, I’d think) in very short order after their exposure to Europeans and their diseases and culture, I personally think Junipero Serra’s legacy is as freighted with death and destruction as that of the rest of the church. But that’s just me. He’s certainly an important historical figure, and the missions certainly add interest and history to California. OK, soapbox time, with apologies to those who’ve heard it before: what is it about American liberals that allows them to feel comfortable driving around in cars with “free Tibet” stickers while living in big houses in the hills of California, on land that’s far more stained with blood and cultural genocide than Tibet? I know, we can’t roll back history here in the US – or can we? is there some creative we could retroactively create a little more justice and space for the first nations that remain and whose land, culture, languages and resources we have shamelessly stolen since our ancestors first landed on these shores? – but could we at least be a bit more humble, a bit more nuanced in our approach to the complex histories of territorial expansion and conflict occurring on the other side of the world, in regions with millennia of history that make our own expunging of native Americans from most of their former homes and zones seem like a highly-efficient blitzkrieg?