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Tuesday, June 21, 2011


By Silvia Uribe

Although the super-warm days are not yet in sight, for a while I have been craving to go to the beach. So, finally, last weekend I gathered my towel, my sandals, sunscreen, and a big bottle of water, and I ventured to the Bacara Hotel’s Beach anyway.

Yes, I know I called it the Bacara Beach and not Haskell’s Beach. I purposely didn’t because our Haskell’s Beach is ours no more. Very few of us have been able to enjoy the beach or its ocean water for a while.

First, medium and large rocks appeared there. I was told that these were the result of storms. They are located at the top of the beach, and go along the entire length of it. Based on its present appearance, many may think that Haskell’s Beach has always been a “no sand” beach, meaning it only has rocks and water, and people cannot stroll there. However, I cannot count the hundreds of times that I went to that beach since the time I moved to Goleta in 1998. It always had a wide and beautiful sand beach. I guess Nature does these things at times.

Now the sand is back, but huge tree trunks are blocking one of the entrances to the beach. No one could explain the presence of these trunks to me. At the other entrance, a big, uneven, and dangerous step presents itself even before you get to the rocks, making it impossible for most little kids, seniors, and others to get safely to the beach and into the water.

As background information, for those who never knew or have forgotten, one of the main conditions under which the hotel was built was access to the beach. The Coastal Commission then ruled, and the City of Goleta enforced, that the Bacara had to provide access to the beach 24/7 and certain services to the public. The Bacara finally agreed, and to that end the hotel built a public parking lot and a beach trail, and offered some services to the public at their facilities. They made an investment, and in so doing they won the community’s approval (to some degree).

Wouldn’t it make sense then, for the Bacara to offer at least one clean pathway for the public from their facilities to the beach, now that the sand is back? Wouldn’t it show good will on its part to do this for all members of the community? How much could it cost? Can the Bacara not afford it?

As citizens of Goleta, we support private, clean businesses that create and maintain jobs for locals. However, it is also true that businesses should give back to the communities that embrace them. By creating a short, clean path to the beach, the Bacara would be partnering with and supporting the city’s efforts to maintain and improve the quality of life for all Goleta residents.

Haskell’s Beach has always been our community beach, and as a member of that community I know that I would love to have our beach back, by having easy and safe access to it. I’m sure others feel the same way.

Will the Bacara help us get there?

Monday, June 20, 2011


Goleta: Home of Photographers Henry O. Ventura and Aliz Ruvalcaba-Ventura

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I recently attended the photography exhibit called "The Art of Making Tequila" at the Casa Dolores Museum, 1023 Bath Street, in Santa Barbara. It simply took my breath away, not for its size, but for its quality. Since I love photography, I try to go to exhibits to see what I can learn, but I mostly just stare at the pictures in awe of their beauty and the artistry involved.

This time, not only did the photographs attract me to the museum, but also the topic. Because I enjoy tequila so much, it would have been an unforgivable sin not to show up and at least acquire a little knowledge about the complicated and arduous process of making it. This exhibit will be open to the public until June 15.

I’m not going to try and explain the process to you, because that’s something that you can learn on your own when you go to Casa Dolores by looking at the pictures. Instead, and because these photographers live right here in Goleta, I decided to interview Henry O. Ventura and Aliz Ruvalcaba-Ventura, and ask them a few questions about their love for bringing images to life. Not only for telling a story, but about their efforts to — as Aliz described it — bring “those who observe our pictures as close to the experience as possible.”

I asked when they started taking such artistic pictures. In an alternating, animated manner they explained that they founded R&V Photography in 2009. For a long time, they both had photography as a hobby in common, and at some point decided to take it more seriously by creating a business venture.

Their initial idea was to offer a professional photography service for low-income families at a reduced price, and in that way give something back to the community. They were constantly called on to fix other people's jobs—blurry pictures, and so on—and felt that it was simply not right that people were paying so much for such poor service. After all, the Venturas pointed out, these are very special, treasured moments for families.

Now they have expanded from that original impetus, but they "will always continue to serve low-income families," they said together, with warm smiles on their faces. But after awhile, they started to get called to take pictures at bigger events, and for journalistic assignments, and of course they didn’t say no. And, because traveling is another one of their passions, they also "share the world as we see it, from our own perspective, and through our pictures." They have done so with their travels in China and Cuba; the tequila exhibit came about from a trip to Mexico, specifically this region called Tequila, Jalisco.

A picture of a man working on an agave caught my attention, and I asked what the man was doing. He is a jimador, they answered, the person who peels the leaves from the jima, as the heart of the agave is called. The man is wearing the traditional white cotton attire used to do this job, they explained. Jimadores peel those leaves off in order to be able to extract the agave’s juices, and that’s how the whole process of tequila making starts.

While looking at this picture, my mind immediately transported me to the Mexican campiña and I felt like I was there, next to the jimador, hearing the sound of his tools, feeling the intense heat, and enjoying the openness of the field. This picture also evoked the dramatic skies in Gone with the Wind and the exhausting labor of those who work in agricultural fields. Aliz and Henry’s work truly allowed me to immerse myself in the experience of this captured moment.

At the exhibition, people will also see pictures showing the old fábrica, where they used to do the tequila distillation, for a better idea of the whole process.

I asked what kinds of technical things people might want to be aware of when they look at the photographs. They said to look at the paper: It is a metallic paper that makes the photos more dramatic, with more vibrant colors, and it has a distinctive texture. Also, the lighting: "We tried using natural light, as well as the original electric light – yellow bulbs - inside the fábrica, and the result was really spectacular, we think, but it is up to the public to decide."

People can buy their pictures via their Web site, as well as to seek their photography services for an event, and for a sneak peek at their greater collection of pictures, called “The World Through Our Eyes.” Before we said good-bye, Henry and Aliz promised they will let us know first when the public will be able to view this collection in an exhibit.