El Campo cemetery in the old town, San Diego
My nomadic ancestors have graves all over the world but I recently found out that some of them settled in San Diego as early pioneers. This provoked my recent visit to San Diego. Leaving the airport, I had a very personable Uber driver who took me to my hotel in the Gaslamp area, to drop my bag, and then straight to the oldest cemetery in San Diego, El Campo. It is situated in what was once the old town and now has a replica pioneer town. At first I was surprised at how small and basic the cemetery was but there was something haunting about the simple stone markers and recent wooden stakes. Much of the cemetery was taken over when a new railroad was built and many of the residents were re interred in a different part of the city.
This plaque is in remembrance of my great-great-great grandfather Jesse or Julian Ames, a pioneer from Connecticut. His daughter Matilda is my direct link to this very large family. The Ames family has a very large family get-together every year – perhaps I will ask for an invitation? He was born in 1807 and died in 1866.
This is the grave of my other great-great-great grandfather, Juan Maria Marron who was born in 1808 or 1809. From researching historical records there were many people with very similar names born at the same time in San Diego. The re interred graves caused some more confusion but my ancestors are there somewhere and more importantly their spirits live in the modern city of San Diego. Juan and Julian’s children married and are my great-great grandparents.
Grave of an Indian Maiden
Of all the graves I looked at, this grave of an Indian maiden pulled at my heartstrings. Did she die of a European plague such as smallpox or flu? Or perhaps life was just harsh back in those days. So many women died in childbirth although I think referencing her as a maiden means that she was without children. Then my mind wandered to my Mestizo heritage. Was this a maiden taken from Mexico or a local native? Cemeteries are so interesting, especially if you have a personal link. In those days, San Diego would have been paradise, good weather, fine farming and seas full of fish.
On the water somewhere?
Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.
Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.
The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.
I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…
Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz
The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own. Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.
This is the beautiful San Luis Obispo Mission. Note the date – 1772. My mission ancestors moved up the Californian coast around that time, when it was still a Spanish Territory. The first conquistadors visited in the 1500s. Some of us Hispanic people have been here in the USA for a long time with a rich and full history. I am so proud of my 4% Native American DNA …although they were illegal immigrants, too! There was a recent National Geographic article that stated that they have proved categorically that current Native American people have a direct DNA link to those recent skeleton finds in the American continent that date back 12,000 years. Their bone structure looks different likely because they evolved to live in different conditions. In front of the San Luis Obispo Mission, there is a delightful water sculpture that pays homage to the Chumash, the native people who lived there. They made remarkable plank canoes, fished, hunted and gathered nuts, especially acorns. Like many other tribes their numbers were decimated by the diseases that the Spanish brought such as influenza and smallpox. Eventually they moved into the Missions and adapted to life with the new migrants, perhaps unwillingly? San Luis Obispo was the first place in California that I fell in love with. Click on the red link to see more of the town and my adventures. POSTCARD FROM SAN LUIS OBISPO – click here