San Diego Mugshots

…and to another brilliant segue by Kerry – from Folsom to San Diego. There is a lovely little seaside community in San Diego called Seaport. As I was walking about I noticed this fancy schmancy shopping and dining center, The Headquarters at Seaport. Even more intriguing was that this was the original San Diego Police Headquarters built in 1939. What a place to work with magnificent views of the water! As the city increased in size they outgrew the original headquarters and here we are today. Amazingly they kept the original 8 block cell intact with some of the mugshots of the prisoners. This is a link to the history and architecture of The Headquarters.

Since I went to San Diego to research my ancestors, I looked with cautious trepidation at the mugshots. Was one my relative – not to my knowledge? What an interesting bunch they were. Such a mix of ethnicities and most of the crimes seemed relatively minor.

Block of 8 jail cells


The cell blocks themselves looked better than most youth hostels I frequented in my youth. You had a bed, toilet and sink all to yourself – wow! I bet there was even hot water…


As fascinating as it was, I was left with a feeling of sadness that so many of them were drug addicts. How little life changes over the generations. At least they had reasonably sized jail cells with the smell of the ocean just outside the door.

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Dzibilchaltún and the Temple of the Dolls

Temple of the Dolls

Try saying that when you have had a couple of glasses of Mexican Rosé…  Dzibilchaltún, (Dzeebeelchaltoon is the pronunciation and it translates as ‘the place with writing on the walls) is a Maya archeological site close to the city of Mérida in Yucatan, Mexico.  Seven small clay or stone figurines were found at the Temple of the Dolls which led to the name and it is built under the ruins of a previous pyramid.  The city has been continuously occupied for 3000 years.  It was exciting walking towards the Temple along the ‘sacbe’ or white road wondering what type of religious processions took place there.

The white road

The cenôte is likely the reason why the city was situated in that location and it is one of the largest, deepest in the Yucatan.  Dzibilchaltún was a wealthy port, close to the Caribbean and local salt production.  Archeologists have studied just a portion of the site and have found up to 8000 structures – it must have been a buzzing city with a peak population of about 20,000 to 40,000 people, even larger than Mayapan.  Dzibilchaltún was not as remote or quiet as Mayapan but still relatively quiet with many local visitors, some expats and non-tourists just like me!  Throughout the ages Dzibilchaltún has changed from a city to a town to its current status as a village.  It began to decline in popularity after the rise of Chichen Itza.

Dzibiltchaltun Cenote

water hyacinths at cenote

When the Conquistadores arrived they used the local stone from previous structures to build a 16th century chapel which is now also a ruin.

remains of 16th century chapel

Eight stucco masks of the Rain God Chaac were found in the Temple of the Dolls.  The Yucatan has no natural lakes or rivers so rain is still much needed to fill the cenotes and water crops.  My upbringing in Scotland has given me enough rain to last a lifetime…  At the equinoxes the sun shines right through the entrance to the Temple of the Dolls creating a fantastic effect.

Remains of a pyramid at Dzibiltchaltun

Tunnel into Pyramid

Little flash of red in jungle

On a final side note, my Mexican Rose wine was quite delicious and went well with the food in Yucatan, which is hearty.  The Spanish brought wine-making to Mexico and most of it comes from Baja, just below California.

Mayapán Ruinas – sshhh!

Temple of Kukulcan

Although I have been to the Yucatan area of Mexico a few times, I have never visited the famous pyramids. I have visited Tulum, the youngest Maya site, as you can read in an older blog. As much as Chechen Itza fascinates me, my almost phobic fear of too many tourists, has made me avoid it. Before this rapidly organized trip to Merida, I researched travel blogs to see how easy it would be to hire a driver to reach some of the more remote archeological sites. Apparently it was as easy as negotiating with a taxi driver, especially since I only wanted to go for 4 hours at a time.

Plaza

After I arrived at my newly renovated hotel, I asked the receptionist about a driver. She told me that a driver had just handed in some cards. I said that websites had indicated that 800 pesos was reasonable for 4 hours. When she called him, he counter offered 1,100 pesos which is about $60. That seemed fair and he arrived very promptly in a very clean new red car. He was a charming young man, perhaps in his late 30s, rejoicing in the name Angel Ku. Ku is a native name meaning frypan. He had a little English and I had bad Spanish but we communicated perfectly well. I explained that I didn’t like crowds, so off we went to the Mayapán Zona Arqueológica, not to be confused with the town of Mayapán.

Carving detail

The archeological ruins were in excellent condition, it cost just a few pesos and there were about 20 other visitors in what was once a city of 17,000 people. Between the 1200s and 1400s it was the capital of the Maya, situated about 30 miles south east of Merida and 70 miles west of Chichen Itza. Mayapán had about 4000 structures within the city walls and many more outside, presumably for workers and farmers. One of the most attractive temples is the Temple of Kukulcan – it is the light version as the temple at Chichen Itza is more intricate and structurally sound. The limestone used at Mayapán is an inferior grade, perhaps all that was available in that location? It is believed that the founder of Mayapán was King Kukulcan (aka Quezalcoactl) after the fall of Chichen Itza.
There are some unique elements to the site with so many rounded buildings and no ball courts. This is the Temple Redondo –

Temple Redondo

View from Redondo to Pyramid

There were 26 cenotes (sinkholes providing water) around the city which perhaps explains the high population or vice versa. It has a central plaza which was surrounded by government buildings and houses of nobles. Other houses within the walled area encircled patios. Mayapán has a rather bloody history with shafts filled with sacrificial victims but at some point it was an important center of trade all across Central America. A wide range of foods were eaten and grown; there is some evidence of slaves which suggests wealth of the nobility. There is some evidence that there was a death cult. I mused if a large population and perhaps a catastrophic weather change might have contributed to the fighting with other tribes and the ultimate demise of Mayapán but that is pure supposition on my part. All great empires fall eventually, take note USA.

Inside the round tower

It was utterly magical to be in a pyramid city, almost alone with endless acreage of jungle right beside the site. If I had walked into the jungle, I might never have been found again. The photograph below shows how steep the pyramid climb was but it was so worth it! You really had to go up on hands and feet. On the way down I sat on my bottom and climbed down that way. If I had stood up, the steepness would have terrified me. It amused me that the teenagers just copied what I did (and they were a tad slower).

Vertigo!

It was blissfully quiet with no signs of any current habitations. If you visit, there are no facilities at the sight – no restrooms and you can only travel by car, bus or local bus. Please don’t tell too many people… La belleza estaba en la tranquilidad – the beauty was in the tranquility. There are no vendors, just some staff and it is still being excavated by archaeologists.

panorama of Mayapan

Kerry musing

Walk into the light

Side door of the Immaculate Conception Church, Old Town, San Diego

Outside the door

“It was here in Old Town that Saint Junípero Serra celebrated his First Holy Mass in California on July 2, 1769, near the site of the present Immaculate Conception Church, and it was on the hill overlooking Old Town that he planted the cross which marked the site of the Mission and the Presidio.”  This is a direct quote from the website of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Old Town, San Diego.  Given that my ancestors were buried in El Campo cemetery, a block away, I knew that they had sat in the current or previous church.  My senses tingle when I can reconnect with the past.

Exterior of Immaculate Conception Church

Intricate Spanish detailing on the front door

I was curious about this American saint with the strange name.  He was born in Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands, to the east of the Spanish Mainland.  When I was a toddler my crazy mum and dad took me to live on one the smaller islands, Formentera.  It didn’t work out… If you click on this link, Saint Junipero Serra, you can access an Encyclopedia Brittanica article about him.

There is some debate about whether he really helped the native people of California and that is the reason why he was canonized in 2015.  Missionaries often think they are doing God’s work when they might be erasing a culture or set of beliefs.  My personal belief is that you can volunteer or work in the third world without a specific faith or any but I wouldn’t want to belittle the good work that many missions do.

El Campo Cemetery had a broad mixture of names – Irish, English and Spanish mostly.  Many had intermarried like my family.  The stained glass in the Immaculate Conception Church had been donated by various families and it represented this broad range of original nationalities.

Front door

It was a lovely little church enhanced by the perfect sunny day.  When I was looking for information about the church, I was amused by reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor.  Who would dare give less than a 5 star rating???

 

 

Andres Quintana Roo

I liked this vivid statue in Merida but I mostly took the photograph to showcase the colorful buildings behind.  It was only when I zoomed in on the image that I realized that this was Andrès Quintana Roo for whom the state is named.  He was born in Merida in 1787 and died in Mexico City in 1851.  Not only did he draft the Mexican Declaration of Independence but he was a liberal forward thinking politician whose roles included Secretary of State.

He had a Romeo and Juliet romance with his wife Leona.  Her family were Royalists so they ran away to get married.  Andrès’ father was part of a group called the Sanjuanistas who fought against native slavery and oppressive taxes to the Catholic Church.  Go Sanjuanistas!!  We sometimes forget that the USA is not the only country who participated in slavery.  There are many African Americans in Texas who have my Scottish last name and I have no doubt that there will be many native Mexicans who are called Ortega, my maiden name.  For all I know some of my native DNA might be Maya or from the Mexican region although I doubt it.

We recently had a false rumor around Houston that a statue of Sam Houston was going to be removed because he was a slave owner.  Enough already!  We don’t need statues of dictators such as Hitler but even George Washington owned slaves because it was the unacceptable norm of the day.  My great-great grandfather was a Confederate medic but I doubt he had much choice about his fate.  He used the experience to become a renowned doctor in Arkansas.  History is rarely sunshine and butterflies but we learn something from our mistakes.  I have a long line of ancestors named Sam and/or Houston because he (Sam Houston) was admired so much my family who have native heritage.  My father’s middle name is Houston.  I was meant to be here…

Back to Quintana Roo –in this state you can clearly see native heritage in the faces of residents.  Less Spanish, more Maya.   On one side of Andres’ statue was the church of Santa Ana.  The yellow towers made the red brick stand out. Look at those flame trees!

Church of Santa Ana

In another neighborhood, I was taken by the contrast of this yellow column against the red umbrellas.  Yellow seems to be a favorite color in Merida – so sunny and vibrant!

 

Ybor City, Tampa

Ybor City State Museum

Ybor City State Museum

Before we visited Tampa, I had no idea that it had a historical area of such significance. From the periphery, Tampa looks like many other modern cities in Florida, with the exception of Miami and its wonderful Art Deco buildings. Ybor city was named for Vincente Martinez Ybor, an entrepreneur who had moved his cigar business from Cuba to Key West.

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

That hadn’t been entirely successful so he decided to settle in Tampa in the 1880s. The cigar workers were skilled so many of them came from Cuba and Spain, followed by an influx firstly of Italians, then Eastern European Jews, Germans and Chinese, many of the next stage immigrants serviced the city with restaurants and other industries.

Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

cigarshop

Cigar Shop

It was an eclectic mix that was stable because each ethnicity had their own social club with welfare and benefits. Additionally, the work was plentiful and well paid. Each worker had their own little Casita, some of which are preserved, others have been renovated. The docent at the Ybor Museum told us that they used Ybor City’s welfare system as a template when they set up Medicare and Social Security in the 40s. That fascinated me more than anything else.

Streetcar in Ybor City

Streetcar in Ybor City

Ybor City reached its zenith at the beginning of the 1900s but cigar making started to decline after the Great Depression and World War II. Surprisingly, many of the original buildings remain with their exotic tile work. Artists started to flock to Ybor in recent times and it is being renovated block by block. It is a peaceful little oasis in a busy modern city with lovely tram cars. There are free range chickens on every porch because they outlawed harming chickens to stop cock fighting. You can read more of this in the The Chicken Murder. I noticed with a chuckle that you can have an event or a wedding in the garden of the Museum , but just look out for hungry hawks…
spanish street posters2

Church Street, Charleston

The French Huguenot Church

The French Huguenot Church

Never has a street been more aptly named. There was one wonderful church after another. The title photograph is of the French Huguenot Church – it is simply known as that. I noticed it particularly because it is painted a delicate pale pink with black cornichons. The Huguenot’s were French Protestants who escaped persecution from the Catholic Church. I loved the way they embraced the Protestant ethic and yet created a house of worship with a certain French soupçon of elegance. Below is the exquisitely simple interior with a startling blue chandelier, accentuated with the blue prayer books.

Nave of French Huguenot Church

Nave of French Huguenot Church

St. Philip's Church

St. Philip’s Church

Above is St Philip’s Episcopal Church which is the grandest on the street. Another tourist later told me that the church keepers weren’t very friendly (well, they are Protestants – I am sorry but there is always a lapsed Catholic devil sitting on my shoulder). There is always a fine line between visiting a historic site and respecting that it is a current house of worship. No talking, flip-flops or chewing gum, please! There were some very distinguished guests in the graveyard and it was so serene on a hot, steamy Charleston afternoon.

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for...

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for…

church street

Both churches were in the French Quarter. The streets were a charming mix of old and new.

St Philip's Graveyard

St Philip’s Graveyard

It was only after I left Charleston that I remembered about the Charleston Church massacre more than a year before, at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. The victims of this hate crime, their relatives and the people of Charleston give us something to aspire to in this horrific week. Dignity, sorrow and forgiveness.