Above, San Diegans watching a group of samba dancers perform before a set by a legend of dub, U.K.'s Mad Professor, at the World Beat Center stage at Earth Day in San Diego. The faces you see are a cross-section of this city's true identity, multicultural and mellow.
It is Sunday, April 18, and we are just below the flight path for jets landing at San Diego International Airport.
Here's the bill for the day's performers at the World Beat stage. Earth Day, held one Sunday every April in San Diego's vast and lush Balboa Park, is described as the largest free environmental event in the United States.
The Union-Tribune says 70,000 people attended the festival, which is officially named EarthFair. (70,000 is about the same amount of people who go to Coachella in a day.) Here's a U-T piece charting Earth Day's 40-year history, with roots I was unaware of: student activism at UC San Diego in 1970. "Earth Day ... has evolved into a more centrist and commercialized event but retains the core element of creating awareness about ecological problems," writes Mike Lee.
The food vendors are always a major draw. This year we had Jamaican patties and a plate of Filipino pancit, lumpia, and rice, and from the Centro Cultural de la Raza, aguas frescas and Oaxacan tamales. I have memories of attending this event since I was little, and I always run into old faces from high school when I drop by now. No difference this year.
A few more photos here, here, here, and here. Yes, it is "played out" in some ways, but Earth Day serves as a good marker for the outside world to re-calibrate its assumptions about diverse and sunny San Diego. In other words, stereotypes related to malls, military bases, and Republicans won't cut it anymore.
* NOTED: First Lady Michelle Obama visited San Diego on Thursday, stopping by after her visit to Mexico City. Mrs. Obama checked out a community garden in City Heights, San Diego's traditional arrival point for new immigrants, and my local hood.