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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Community Flavor vs. Panhandling

By Silvia Uribe

The issue of panhandlers is viewed by many as a nuisance, and by others as true social negligence. Some say that panhandlers discourage them from walking downtown. For me, this problem is not enough to preclude my enjoyment and pride for Santa Barbara, which doesn't compare to any other place I know. Here is why.

Last Saturday night for instance, I found myself standing on State Street, across from Paseo Nuevo, listening to a group called "The Blasting Sound". The rambunctious music was not ear splitting, as one might assume by their name. It was rather powerful, rhythmic, and definitely inviting.

Very much like a magnet, the young music players attracted groups of around 30-50 people each; passersby that stopped to listen, and left when the musicians took a very brief break after several songs. Altogether, about 300 plus people stopped for at least 15 minutes to listen to them.

People on the other side of the street were not immune to their magnetism. They were also clapping loudly after each song. Since I was not planning to leave any time soon, I decided to join those across the street, have a cup of coffee, and continue enjoying the serenade. The Blasting Sound played what seemed to be old European songs mixed with some Middle Eastern tunes for about 2 hours, almost non-stop. It was a real treat.

However, good music is not the only entertainment that you can find here. In Santa Barbara, there's something for everyone, and the entertainment happens everywhere, all year long.

You can find colorful balloons made by a world recognized balloon maker in the form of flowers, animals, or whatever else that pleases your taste. Or, exotic entertainment, like petting snakes big and small. There are drummers, and High School trashcan players. A dog, a cat and a rat piled on top of each other strolling down the street. There are random singers in English or in Spanish (how international!). There are skillful jugglers, and a street cartoonist capturing people's mementos.

If this is not enough, think about the entertainment that people like you and I provide for those who enjoy people watching, or about those who proudly drive their jumping low-riders, their impressive bikes, or their ultra expensive, envy provoking cars. And how about dogs? Small, big, medium, dressed up, in strollers, or socializing and allowing people to pet them.

For those who enjoy food, Santa Barbara is like the Garden of Eden, offering delicious, luscious, and at times, sinful bites; from traditional American food, to exotic dishes from around the world. A number of these eateries offer outdoor seating on the sidewalk, for patrons to enjoy the city's ambiance, and beautiful days and nights.

Not too far away from downtown, all sorts of festivals appear like wild flowers in the country during the warmer season: the French, the Italian, the Greek, Fiesta (for 5 days), ‘I Madonnari' for those who love art, music and food together, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, and a few more that escape my memory.

The social networking that takes place at any given moment right on the street is amazing. Living here, one can find (every three steps) some family member, friend, or co-worker. Lost tourists asking for directions (to the place right in front of them) and, at times, celebrities enjoying a rare opportunity for certain degree of privacy, and being able to take a calm stroll, just like anyone else.

We have the movie theatres, the many coffee shops, and all the shopping one might want. And, please don't forget the magnificent vistas of the ocean, and the mountains, the sunrises and the sunsets, and the unmatchable weather of the California Central Coast, which set our city apart from any other place.

No, I'm not being blind to the panhandler issue. But, with so much beauty, so much entertainment, and so many good and fun people around us, it is practically impossible for me to focus on one problem as opposed to enjoying all the good in our vibrant town.

How can we, then, deal with the panhandler issue? In the most effective way: with our volunteer work, and/or our money.

In the meantime, we can continue to dote upon the quality of life that we have in Santa Barbara, the entertainment opportunities that it offers, and the friendly (for the most part) community around us.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Museum at Rancho La Patera

Cavaletto History and Education Center Opening This Summer

By Silvia Uribe

“I have something exciting to share with your readers,” James Kyriaco, executive director of the Goleta Valley Historical Society, told me when we met at Rancho La Patera (home to the historic Stow House.) His enthusiasm piqued my interest.

“We are really excited because we will have a new museum this summer,” he said. “It is the Cavaletto History and Education Center, and it will be dedicated to telling many different stories about Goleta Valley over time, the Chumash, and about La Patera Ranch and its workers.”

He took me to his office, located at the Archive and Administrative Center. From his office window I was able to see part of the ranch’s five acres, and the mountains, a majestic and peaceful view. “You have to be a fool not to love working here,” said Kyriaco, deeply inhaling the fresh air.

Once we were comfortably installed, and with our recorder ready, we resumed our conversation:

Tell me more about the new museum. Will it be in this same property? Yes. There’s a barn in the back. This summer, that barn will be transformed into our new Cavaletto History Education Center. It will include a combination of video, artifacts, and cutouts of portraits of individuals. These will be life-size, will have wheels, and will be movable, in case we want to open the space to accommodate larger exhibits.

We will have a permanent collection in the main barn building, and the side room will house traveling or other exhibits. We want to have new things for people to see and do every time they come to the museum, to give them a reason to come back. The new museum will also be interactive so children are engaged as they learn. This is truly an exciting project.

What kinds of things can we expect to find at the museum? A variety of items that are part of our permanent collection, started in 1966. Over time, we have collected very interesting items that have been either donated or bought. In the past we didn’t have a facility to properly display them, but fortunately we will soon. It will be a nice surprise.

Are you accepting donations of objects that local families might have either inherited from their family or otherwise acquired? We are in position to accept things that have historic value. Although those things might not go in the exhibit right away, we could set them aside for our temporary exhibits.

Where did the Goleta Valley Historical Society get the funds to build the new museum? We got a $119,643 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Also, the Cavaletto family, the Santa Barbara Foundation, the City of Goleta, and the California Cultural Historical Endowment, among others, gave us grant money for this project. The first phase is done. It included coming out with a plan, doing the archeological study, etcetera. Currently, we are working with a contractor on the actual fabrication of the exhibit. The museum will offer the latest technology. For instance, visitors will be able to dial a telephone number on their cell phone to hear the tour in Spanish, and possibly in other languages. I don’t know of many other places that offer this service in our area, but we will. Goletans and other county residents and visitors deserve the best.

Kyriaco then invited me out for a stroll of the gardens next to Stow House. “This is the Arboretum Project. Ida Stow used to have here many exotic plants and specimen trees from around the world. With a $100,000 grant from Goleta Valley Land Trust, we are planning to restore the gardens, create walking paths, install the irrigation system, and have the appropriate signage. Right now we’re in the process of hiring a landscape architect."

If I close my eyes, I can totally envision myself having a cup of hot tea there. However, I think that “Tea at 5 o’clock” is not one of the events they host. So, my final question for James Kyriaco was about the activities at La Patera Ranch and Stow House. Here’s what he told me.

Fourth of July with hay rides for children, blacksmiths showing people how they used to work the iron in those days, and a delicious BBQ.

Fiesta Ranchera in partnership with Old Spanish Days. This year it will be on July 15. This fun event is fashioned after the already traditional Dignatarios event that takes place at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Music at the Ranch is a free concert series happening every Tuesday evening from mid-June to mid-August. People bring their chairs or their blankets, and their dinner basket if they wish. They can sit on the lawn, relax, and enjoy different kinds of music.

Holidays at the Ranch, for which, said Kyriaco, “We invite Santa Claus to join us.” He brings his goats and dresses them as reindeer. Everyone loves them, especially the little ones. Also, the kids can come into the house, into the kitchen, and make cookies. At the end they pick up their baked cookie with their name on it.

Private Events can be held on the property. People interested in renting space for weddings or other private parties can visit the Stow House Web site or call (805) 964-4407.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Friday, April 9, 2010

Together till the end

By Silvia Uribe

(In honor of my father, Antonio)

I can see death, I can feel death
But I can't do anything about it.
I can hear it speak through my old man's lips
But I can't understand it.
It's like being acquainted but not really knowing
I haven't invited this, but I'm hosting it.

It's pain, and cry, and more pain
It's watching through his eyes, observing through mine,
Preparing ourselves…
It's listening, suffering, resisting, hoping, accepting,
At times it feels like welcoming

Hallucinations? Visions? What?
A deeper understanding of what was, and now is not
Of what is about to be
Indicating with his hand the way he's going
Telling us
Reaching in, and out

I feel like talking, but I don't wish to interrupt
A sacred process, nothing else
My usually loud voice has nothing to say
I said a little before
There is no need for more

We never needed too many words
To completely understand each other
My ‘I love you very much' and
His ‘thank you'
This time, were enough

I know now that death is solitude
For everyone involved
For mom and I
It is dark and lonely tonight
But eventually, we will find the light.

Written the night dad died, 5 years 4 months and 27 days ago.
He would have been 82 on April 9th. I will always miss him.

Cross-posted at

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.