Participant Observation is the Process of Learning by Observing and Participating in Cultural Life
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< December, 2019 >
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Coming Soon...
Monday, Dec 9
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
Tuesday, Dec 10
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
7:30 PM Music: Gamelan and Mariachi Ensembles
7:30 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
Wednesday, Dec 11
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
5:30 PM SDLFF Poster Unveiling Party
6:00 PM Movie: The Farewell
7:00 PM Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
7:30 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Thursday, Dec 12
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
4:00 PM Stage: Sila (The Arctic Cycle)
7:00 PM SDIFF Film: La Befana Vien di Notte (The Legend of the Christmas Witch)
7:00 PM Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream
7:30 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
7:30 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
8:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
Friday, Dec 13
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
2:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
6:00 PM VIA Posada Holiday Celebration Fundraiser
7:00 PM Stage: Sila (The Arctic Cycle)
7:00 PM Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
8:00 PM An Irish Christmas
8:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
8:00 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
8:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Saturday, Dec 14
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
11:00 AM Paris Holiday Celebration
1:00 PM Southern California Ballet The Nutcracker
1:00 PM Talk: Dragons, Myth and Reality
2:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
2:00 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
3:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
5:00 PM Stage: Sila (The Arctic Cycle)
7:00 PM Southern California Ballet The Nutcracker
7:00 PM Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
8:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
8:00 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
8:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Sunday, Dec 15
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
10:00 AM Hanukkah Painted Placemat Class
10:00 AM Association for Jewish Studies Conference
1:00 PM Southern California Ballet The Nutcracker
2:00 PM Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream
2:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
2:00 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
2:00 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
2:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
3:00 PM World Holiday Traditions Variety Show
7:00 PM World Holiday Traditions Variety Show
7:00 PM Stage: Cambodian Rock Band
7:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
Monday, Dec 16
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
10:00 AM Association for Jewish Studies Conference
7:00 PM Stage: A People's Cuban Christmas Tale
Tuesday, Dec 17
All Day Free Admission to Japanese Friendship Garden
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
10:00 AM Association for Jewish Studies Conference
8:00 PM Reggae Tuesdaze w/ Ocean Natives & Bunny Mystic
Wednesday, Dec 18
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
Old School Little Italy Food Tour
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Thursday, Dec 19
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
6:00 PM Talk: Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM Film: La Befana Vien di Notte
7:30 PM SDIFF Film: La Befana Vien di Notte (The Legend of the Christmas Witch)
7:30 PM Mariachi Sol De Mexico: A Merry-achi Christmas
7:30 PM SDIFF Film: La Befana Vien di Notte (The Legend of the Christmas Witch)
7:30 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
7:30 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Friday, Dec 20
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
8:00 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
8:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Saturday, Dec 21
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
2:00 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
3:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
7:30 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
8:00 PM Stage: Around the World in 80 Days
8:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
Sunday, Dec 22
All Day Ongoing and Extended Events
2:00 PM City Ballet: The Nutcracker
2:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
7:00 PM Stage: A Christmas Carol
7:00 PM Stage: The Nutcracker in Balboa Park
A Freeway Runs Through It: Little Italy
Washington Elementary School
Washington Elementary School

Andy Asaro grew up in Little Italy when it was a tight-knit community of fishermen, 6000 families strong. In 1959 he left for a tour of duty in Naples, Italy. When he returned three years later, he looked around and asked himself, "What happened to the neighborhood?"

"It was like the neighborhood was abandoned," recalls Lou Palestini, another area native. "There was no more hustle and bustle. You could stand on the corner of Fir and India Streets and shoot a cannon either way and not hit a soul." India, the main thoroughfare, had been a major focus of community life.

Washington Elementary School, a sacred institution that had been attended by successive generations of Italian-American children, took a big hit.

"Everybody went to that school from my mother's age on. It was the center of a lot of community activities," Asaro says. The building, constructed in 1915, "always reminded me of the White House with its pillars and stairs," says Palestini, one of its former students. "It had a gym downstairs, a big playing field, which is all freeway now. They took all that away."

Asaro, a retired schoolteacher who lives in the modest bungalow he grew up in, reminisces about the community of his youth. "When I grew up, we had a lot of space. There were empty lots. We used to hang out by the bay a lot because everybody was a fisherman."

Sunday mornings were a favorite time. "You would walk down the street and everybody was cooking sauce and meatballs, a little differently, but everybody was doing the same thing. The big meal was at noontime."

The Bay City Drugstore at the corner of India and Grape, now a camera shop, housed an old fashioned soda fountain that attracted the neighborhood kids. Adults, too, found the drugstore an inviting place to gather and socialize.

"All the guys would hang out on that corner. When I would come out of the house, all of the older guys were across the street. It was a comfort zone," Palestini recalls.

"This was our world. We went to school, we went to church, we played on the playgrounds."

Tuna Fisherman
Tuna Fisherman

The Italian section of San Diego had been a self contained, self-sufficient neighborhood for decades. From West Laurel to Ash and from First Avenue to the bay, residents were walking distance from grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, a butcher shop, doctors, a Catholic church, an elementary school, a drugstore, fire department, bars, and even a massage parlor.

And whatever residents didn't buy, they could make for themselves. Coming from an agrarian background, the inhabitants were skilled at making wine, raising chickens, fishing, growing fruits and vegetables, and making cured meats like pepperoni, prosciutto and salami.

It was their fishing skills that made an enduring contribution to San Diego and turned the city into the tuna capital of the western United States.

The history of Little Italy is a story of fishermen from the Italian Riviera and Sicily settling in San Diego close to the bay. Southern California had become a favored destination because of the abundant fishing off its coast. Italian men seeking their fortune began to migrate here, and by 1920 there were 935 native Italians living in San Diego County.
Hughey Drug Store
Hughey Drug Store

John Rippo's maternal grandparents were among the early settlers. They arrived on a steamship from San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake along with other homeless Italians, having lost everything.

"They built tents and shacks and little houses out of whatever they could find all along India Street," Rippo says.

San Diego's fledgling Italian community was not entirely welcome in its new home, Rippo says. His grandfather told this story:

One rainy evening shortly after arriving, native inhabitants thought to be local Ku Klux Klan visited the settlers. His grandfather, eighteen years old at the time, joined with other men in a nighttime brawl that resulted in the death of at least two Klansmen.

"The Americans were buried face down at the crossroads of India and either Fir or Date. In Catholicism, that's a great insult," Rippo says. "The end result was that the Americans never came back."

Bayside Community Center
Bayside Community Center
In the ensuing decades, the Italian population became firmly rooted in San Diego, growing into a prosperous working class community. The men went out on boats for months at a time while the women stayed home to care for the family or work in one of the city's three tuna packing plants.

For a while, the Italian section became known for producing another popular product: wine. During Prohibition, people were allowed to produce up to fifty gallons of wine a year for personal consumption and sacramental use.

"Everybody made wine and everybody sold it," Rippo says.

"The police, the judges, the lawyers and the major players in San Diego would show up in limousines to buy their booze from Italians on India Street - even as they were prosecuting them for rum running and bootlegging."

Giacalone Family
Giacalone Family
What happened to the Italian section? The Crosstown Freeway (I-5), constructed as part of a national effort to expand the nation's freeway system.

"Most of the neighborhood got really quiet because it eliminated a lot of people," Asaro says.

There had been a big debate about where to put the I-5 freeway, whether to take a coastal route or go inland. "They decided on inland rather than on the coast," Asaro says.

"The freeway went straight through Little Italy," says Palestini. "But the downtown portion of it avoided impacting businesses. We felt slighted on the deal

By the early 1980's, Little Italy had lost so much of its ethnic character that it was no longer referred to as Little Italy. Efforts to make it a tourist attraction to fit in with downtown redevelopment plans began around this time, but it wasn't until the Little Italy Association (LIA) was founded in 1996 that the area started to come to life in a big way.

"We were dead. We weren't even Little Italy, we were Midtown," Danny Macero, vice president of the LIA says. "The Little Italy Association brought it back to be officially called Little Italy."

Festa Girls
Masquerade at Festa
The LIA is a non profit organization representing the interests of the businesses and residents of Little Italy. Over nearly twenty years, it has had a dramatic impact on the neighborhood, rescuing it from obscurity and transforming it into one of San Diego's most popular destinations.

The LIA accomplished this through funds from the Little Italy Maintenance Assessment District (MAD), the Little Italy Business Improvement District (BID), the Little Italy Parking District, and various other programs. The organization makes sure that roads and sidewalks are repaired and maintained, and it funds improvements such as the Piazza Basilone, Amici Park, the Little Italy sign arching over India Street and banners proclaiming notable Italian-Americans such as Danny Kaye, Joe DiMaggio and Martin Scorsese.

Had an organization as savvy, well funded and influential as the LIA existed sixty years ago, there might not be a freeway running through Little Italy today.

The LIA oversees the development of Little Italy, setting ground rules, maintaining order and planning for the future. Anything that goes on in Little Italy is vetted through the LIA first.

Festa
Festa
"We don't want another Gaslamp," Macero says. "We want it safe. We take care of everything, so it's a safe place to be, guaranteed." The LIA website proclaims the new Little Italy "A Hip & Historic Urban Neighborhood."

Asaro and other long time residents lament the changes to the neighborhood they