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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Human Tsunami

By Silvia Uribe

Jul 10, 2010, 9:45 AM

Santa Barbara's community events are great. Whether it is the Summer Solstice Parade, Fiesta, the Arlington Soccer Screenings, both Christmas parades, and other events - you name it - I'm usually there. My favorite, however, is the "human tsunami". You know - the mass passing underneath the freeway after the 4th of July Fireworks Celebration.

This one has become some sort of ritual for my friends and family. Ten to fifteen of us gather on State Street for a cup of coffee and some good conversation. Around 7:00 p.m., we start our pilgrimage down to the beach, or close enough to it, to enjoy the multi-colored lights and the loud booms of the fireworks, while also people watching.

When the show ends, we start walking back. It is a great sight when standing at the top of the street we can see others going under the bridge. Some run, others jump, and most walk. When they get there, everyone yells at the top of their lungs, or whistles, or makes noise in any way they can. IT-IS-LOUD! Some use their phones, while others use their cameras to capture the moment.

People in our group hold hands, creating a human chain in order to stay together and down we walk. Those who are not as noisy move their heads, pretending disapproval, the rest get more excited by the minute - everyone laughs. Other individuals walking next to us do the same. We exchange some words while we can hear each other. They are complete strangers, but we make them part of our group. We pose in their pictures and they pose in ours. It happens every time. Happiness flows - we all contribute to it.

If you have ever been to the Olympic games, or to a Soccer World Cup, you know what I'm talking about. It is the same kind of feeling of unity.

When the human tsunami comes out on the other side of the freeway, it is over. It quickly vanishes like the bubbles on the ocean's foam. The magic ends. But it leaves each one of us with a warm, positive feeling in our heart, and with the desire and the commitment to be there next year to re-live the experience.

There's an immense amount of good energy every time that a mass of people gather, and moves around in celebration of something. Some enjoy being active participants, while others, a bit less actively, enjoy with other's enjoyment. But whichever category one belongs to, the energy is contagious.

Maybe I like these things because of my Latino heritage and culture, which is, for the most part - and this is no secret to anyone -gregarious and loud. We say that when two Latinos get together, they have a conversation. When three Latinos gather, it is a party.

But there are other reasons as well.

Miraculously during these events, the old and the young, the able and the disabled, private individuals, celebrities, the rich and the poor sit next to each other for a couple of hours, completely oblivious of who the others are. We can relate as simple human beings, no strings attached. During that time, we can all share the same space, and the same kind of experience while exchanging a brief, casual conversation with one another.

This fact alone is enough to make me feel hopeful.

I also cherish the anonymity and the freedom that all these events promote. One can stand, sit on a chair or on the ground, dress fashionably or do the complete opposite. We can be extremely loud or completely quiet. We can sing, dance or do nothing. We can eat, or drink, or do both things. We can bring our whole family, be with a group of friends or come alone and spontaneously join others. Or, we can wear costumes, specific makeup, a festive headpiece or go natural.

We won't be judged by the same standards that we usually are. We are all free, and for the time that the celebration lasts, accepted as we may be. No prejudices.

This gives me enough reason to be there.

Our celebrations are a reflection of our town, our community, our families, and about each one of us as individuals. Peacefully gathering in mass with no other purpose than to be happy and make others happy is - in my book - a very healthy way to relate to each other. That's why tourists come to Santa Barbara.

On the other hand, I very much resent those who not being able to do this, engage in criminal activity during our celebrations. Thankfully, this happens very sporadically, and when it does, the rest of us don't let them take over our town, our festivities, and our sense of security.

Next year, come and join your friends and neighbors in the human tsunami, and all other celebrations. You won't regret it.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-published at

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