Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
My husband and I moved to San Diego just over two years ago. We had been living in Bogota, Colombia, where my husband was born and lived most of his life. Bogota is a city most would automatically associate with violence and drugs, but in fact, shares much more in common with Boston, Massachusetts. There are universities practically on every corner, sharped dressed professionals in suits and wool sweaters, world class culinary delights, and culture of all kinds. It came time to say 'adios' to our beautiful Bogota and return to the U.S.
We first flew into Miami, Florida and spent some time there before finally making our way out West. What we saw and experienced in Miami did not properly prepare us for San Diego. The contrast between the two cities is in some ways so stark that it leaves you in a sort of culture shock. Miami is a city of Latinos, built, owned, and run by Latinos. Mostly Cuban, Cuban-Americans, but Venezualans, Peruvians, Dominicans, and of course, Colombians. They speak their language, Spanish, and they expect you to speak it, no matter the color of your skin. They own the city. They are the politicians, the jefes. We became quickly aware in San Diego that it may be a city with many Latinos but not quite yet a city owned by Latinos. We spent our first month in Rancho Bernardo/Poway area, where the well off live exclusive lives. It is also a neighborhood where day laborers wait in the shadows and on the corners for their 'daily bread' of sorts. They appeared like prostitutes to me, standing in the sun, waiting for their next 'job'. A sadness stirred up inside me at the injustice in the world and the inequality in our own neighborhoods. We moved from the hills of Rancho Bernardo/Poway to a hill closer to downtown, Sherman Heights. At first, we felt a little more 'at home' with people who did not have to drive the latest Toyota model. But somehow shame crept in and I began to tell my co-workers that I lived in Golden Hill or the East Village, trying to sound more sophisticated. Slowy, though, like one would dig into a good Mexican meal, I began to dig in to Sherman Heights and find something unique in it. The appealing aspects of its proximity to downtown, the community center where I could take aerobics and yoga in Spanish - for free, the fact that every other house was remodelled (not all of them), the wonderful and not so wonderful neighbors. Sherman Heights became home for us. It was also the first time in my life I felt I couldn't move anywhere else. Bad credit and budget constraints made it quite challenging to find another 'better' neighborhood. Having grown up in a comfortable middle class lifestyle, it was a great life lesson and gave me a great empathy for those who live East of San Diego and East of many of the cities in the U.S. and cannot seem to move onto another 'better' neighborhood. While we now live only twenty blocks away in downtown San Diego and we feel happier and safer, something about Sherman Heights remains within us. The unpretentious feeling that this is 'home' and while I am here, I will make the best of it and be thankful for all that I have.