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San Diego historic places: the church at Mission San Diego

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Church interior, Mission San Diego (Dan Schaffer photo)

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — Rebuilt in 1931 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the church at Mission San Diego features a broken crucifix that intentionally has not been repaired.

There are no arms on the figure of Jesus on the cross, but in 1970 when Monsignor Brent Eagen saw it in an antique shop in Rome, he thought it was just the right age to fit in with the historic mission and just the right size to cover the painted cross on the altar.

“It dismayed him that it did not have arms, but everything else was perfect about it,” said Janet Bartel, the chief docent at Mission San Diego. “So he had it crated up, brought it back here and figured that he would have a craftsman put arms on it. But when one of the nuns next door at the Sisters of Nazareth saw it, she said that St. Theresa had said something to the effect of ‘let the people do Christ’s work.’ So it is a reminder to us at Mission San Diego that we should be out doing the work of Christ, we should be the arms of Christ.”

Since the American Bicentennial in 1976, the church has been ranked as a basilica, not because of its architecture but because “it is a church of very important historical significance,” Bartel said. “It is an honor bestowed upon a church by the Pope. If the Pope wanted to visit San Diego this would be his official headquarters.” Above the pulpit hangs a canopy in the papal colors indicating the church’s status.

The designs of the old mission churches of California were dictated by pragmatism, Bartel said.

“The original mission churches wouldn’t have been this large, but they would have been long and narrow because they had no way of joining beams,” said Bartel, pointing to the roof. “”So they would have cut down the tallest trees they could find, line them up side by side and the shortest tree would determine the width of any building.”

Of all the buildings around the mission quadrangle, the church by design was the largest because it was “the most important building on the site,” the docent said. “So once they decided how wide the building could be, they would dig trenches, place the smooth round rocks in for drainage, and begin building the adobe. They would put a tree there and slowly lift it up, because they didn’t have any cranes. … And then they would cover it with tule or bamboo.”

After Mission San Diego was burned down in an attack in 1775, the Padres realized that red tile clay roofs were preferable because they were fire proof. Windows in the adobe walls were placed high up, because “the adobe would have been four or five feet thick and structurally it would not have been safe at all if all those openings for windows were at the bottom.”

Among the images painted on the pulpit lectern is a pineapple—the international symbol of hospitality. In 1989, when executives of the Key West, Florida-based Historic Tours of America (HTA) visited San Diego to decide whether to open Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego, the pineapple visibly moved Bobby Bernreuter, who then was in charge of HTA’s operations in the State of Florida. Active in the Catholic Church in Key West, he took the presence of the pineapple painting in the first church of San Diego as a favorable omen. The company, which names its trolleys, located an operation in San Diego, and named one of its vehicles after Father Junipero Serra, the mission’s founder. 

There are statues and numerous portraits in the area of the altar, among them a painting of St. Didacus (who is known in Spanish as San Diego) that was brought to San Diego in the ships of Father Junipero Serra’s expedition and restored in 1987, said Bartel. Nearby is a statue of the Virgin Mary. It depicts her pregnant with the Christ child, yet embroidered on her dress is a cross symbolizing how that child would die.

In its long history between 1769 and the present, Mission San Diego had been moved, burned down, rebuilt on several occasions, stripped by Mexico from Catholic Church ownership, used as military headquarters by the U.S. Army, restored to the Catholic Church by President Abraham Lincoln, plundered of its bricks and other building materials during its period of abandonment, and reduced to rubble. Fighting the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps was authorized during President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to put the mission back together on the basis of plans dating back to 1812.

In over 240 years of its history, many of the church’s possessions were hidden away for safety or carted away by those with less altruistic motives. As the Padres kept meticulous records which survive to this day, it is known what sacred objects were in the original church.

For example, there were statues of three saints –the archangels Gabriel, Rafael and Michael—at Mission San Diego. “When this mission was abandoned a lot of the stuff went back to the Franciscans,” the order to which Father Serra belonged. As the Franciscans are still at San Luis Rey, they inherited considerable property that had once been at Mission San Diego, including the statues of the three saints. Pointing to a statue of San Gabriel, Bartel commented, “we were only able to get this one back.”

Among the other figures and paintings at the front of the church is a depiction of the Virgin Mary. Bartel said that it came from San Antonio de Padua, “which is Italian, but this statue has Asian eyes, so we feel that it came originally from the Philippines. It will be going to San Francisco temporarily where there is an exhibition of Asian art planned.”

A painting called “Our Lady of Life” once belonged to the Mission but now, “much to our consternation,” is in the hands of the San Diego Historical Society. The mission has commissioned an artist to make a copy.

“And this statuary,” the guide continued, “is Costa Rican—Our Lady of Angels.” Part of the statue includes a black Madonna within an oval. “The story is that there was a woman who found a wood Madonna. She brought it home and she was telling someone about it, but then she went to take it out, it wasn’t there. She went back to where she found it, and it was on the wood pile. They tell the priest about it, and the priest says (disbelievingly), ‘yeah, right.’ They give him the Madonna and he puts it in his desk. But when he opened his drawer later, it wasn’t there. It was back at the wood pile. Supposedly that was one of the apparitions of Mary and she wanted a Cathedral built on that site. People from Costa Rica come here in May and September, and they recently had it restored.”

Another sculpture is of Father Serra, and it was done in his native Majorca.

At the back of the sanctuary is a bapistry, which is no longer used. The baptismal font is a copy of the one in which Serra was baptized in Majorca. And there is a painting of St. Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary), that may be older than the original mission.

The Mission Church is today both a place of history and present-day worship. Masses are celebrated in this church twice on weekdays, and five times on Sunday at 7, 8, 10, and 11 a.m. and at 12 and 5:30 p.m.

*
Harrison is editor of  San Diego Jewish World.  Preceding was previously published on examiner.com

The Jews Down Under… Roundup of Australian Jewish News

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

The Zentai saga rolls on

PERTH 13 April – The Federal Court in Western Australia will next month begin hearing an appeal from Perth man Charles Zentai against his
extradition to Hungary to face war crimes charges.

The court has postponed the start of a judicial review into the case to April 27; it was supposed to begin last month. A review favourable to
Zentai is widely seen as his final opportunity to avoid extradition.

Earlier this month, lawyers representing Zentai and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor met inFederal Court over the defendant’s right to see a full version of the documents used by O’Connor in reaching his decision to green-light the extradition.

Zentai is accused of playing a role in the murder of Peter Balazs, a young Budapest Jew who was beaten to death in November 1944.

Zentai, who was arrested in 2005 on a Hungarian warrant, denies the charges.
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Remembering Six Million

MELBOURNE, 12 April – Commemorations for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day, were held around Australia on Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12.

In Melbourne, survivors from the “Buchenwald boys” lit memorial candles at a memorial at
Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall.

Sydney’s Jewish community hosted a number of functions, including a name reading ceremony at
the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. More than 300 people, including consul generals from
Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Britain, Croatia and Romania, joined school
children, many of them from non-Jewish schools, at Sunday’s moving commemoration.

Moriah College hosted a Yom Hashoah event, with a keynote speech from Israel Embassy deputy Eli Yerushalmi, while Masada College had scheduled its own commemoration for Monday night.

Yom Hashoah memorials were also held in Perth, where Associate Professor Mark Baker was keynotespeaker, and in Canberra, where diplomats,politicians and representatives of various faiths
came together to remember the Holocaust.

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Goodby to politics but not Jewish Community

SYDNEY, 12 April – After years of involvement, Malcolm Turnbull said his resignation as
Wentworth MP will not see him cut ties with the Jewish community.

Speaking the day after announcing he would not contest the next election, the former Liberal
leader called the local Jewish community “the heart and soul” of his electorate.

“I don’t intend to stop my association with the Jewish community just because I am out of
Parliament. I’ve loved my involvement at so many communal events and just having so many friends in the Jewish community.”

Using the new social medium Twitter, Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would not recontest the
inner-eastern Sydney seat come the next election.

The decision was made, he said, following his loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Tony
Abbott by one vote in December last year. The catalyst for that vote was the emissions trading
Bill, which Turnbull continues to strongly support, but which much of the Coalition opposes.

But he never had trouble keeping the Jewish community on his side ­ even those who weren’t
Liberal voters held Turnbull in high esteem because of his commitment to the community.

It was Chanukah parties that Turnbull highlighted as some of the best memories during his time in
office. “I really enjoyed Chanukah celebrations, whether it was the event at Double Bay that Yanky
Berger does, or the Russian ceremony,” he said, adding he once gave a memorised speech in
Russian, which “amused some of the older attendees”.

One organisation that Turnbull has had a strong involvement with for the past three years is
Sydney’s Montefiore Home, where he is the ambassador.

This week, Montefiore vice-president Gary Inberg said he hoped Turnbull’s role as the home’s
“ambassador, supporter and friend” would continue. “Our residents are always delighted to
see Malcolm and we have enjoyed hosting him at the home on numerous occasions. It is a pleasure
and an honour to be associated with him,” Inberg said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also paid tribute to the politician.

“We regret, but understand, Mr Turnbull’s decision. He was a most effective advocate for a
variety of matters of concern for the Jewish community,” Goot said.

In terms of a successor, the Liberal Party has opened nominations for a new candidate to contest
the increasingly marginal seat.

A number of Jewish names have been suggested ­ including party bigwigs Richard Shields and
Julian Leeser, as well as former Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin and current local councillor
Anthony Boskovitz. The vote is expected to be held within a month.

Turnbull weighed in on the speculation of his successor, but in a non-partisan way.

“People often assume, in a somewhat patronising way, that the Jewish community will always vote
for a Jewish candidate. I think there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who would make
great candidates for Parliament, but ultimately it is the quality of the candidate that matters,” he said

*
Push for closer diplomatic ties

CANBERRA, 13 April – Ronen Plot, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs, was in Australia this week in what is seen as part of a larger effort to
cultivate a better relationship between the local community and the Jewish State.

The director-general, who also spent time liaising with Jewish community leaders in Hong
Kong and New Zealand as part of his regional sweep, said that his trip had a dual purpose: as
a fact-finding mission to learn more about Diaspora communities and develop a working
relationship with their leadership, while also looking for opportunities for new collaborative
projects in education and other spheres.

Speaking in Hebrew, Plot said that his visit was considered essential in order to carry out the mission of his department.

“You can’t have a situation where you have an office of Diaspora affairs and run it exclusively
from Israel,” Plot said. “It’s extremely important to meet and get to know people in the
Diaspora communities themselves.”

Dr Ron Weiser, past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and current committee
member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was one of the many communal officials
who met with Plot during his Pesach visit.

Dr Weiser said that Plot’s visit represents the beginning of a long-term process to change the
relationship between Jerusalem and the Diaspora. He recalled the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. “[Olmert] said, for the past
60 years, Israel has been the project of the Jewish people. For the next 60 years, the Jewish
people will need to be the joint project of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”

The current visit is the latest step in that process, Dr Weiser said.Plot dismissed speculation that his trip had any connection to recent allegations that Israel had forged Australian passports.

His visit, he said, was planned well in advance of the scandal and had very clear objectives far
removed from such controversies.

Plot added that, at any rate, there has been no proven link between Israel and the forgeries.

In related news, Plot could not confirm the accuracy of a report in The Jerusalem Post last
Thursday that PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow may accept the position of
deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

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Passport report in, but no action to date

CANBERRA, 15  April – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said he will not rush his response to
an Australian Federal Police (AFP) report into the alleged misuse of four Australian passports
in the assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh .

The AFP investigation, which saw three officers travel to Israel, was completed recently, with
Smith receiving the findings last Friday. The Foreign Minister said he had looked at the
report, but was not ready to make any decisions.

“I haven’t yet had the opportunity of very carefully considering that, but it’s clear from a
preliminary assessment of that report that I need to get further advice and see further work and
have further discussion with other agencies,” he told Channel Nine.

He said he would be discussing the report with Australia’s two premier security agencies ­ the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ­ before making any decisions.

“When that work has been done, and I’ve had the chance to fully consider, not just the AFP
report, but also that further work and advice from other agencies, then I’ll make the detail of
the government’s deliberations about this matter public.”

Responding to whether the Australian investigation was taking too long, Smith said he
wanted to be sure of the facts.

“I need further work done by our intelligence agencies and I’m going to get this right rather
than rush it in any way. It’s a very important issue. It has very significant ramifications for
use of passports and our relationships with a number of countries, and I’m not proposing to be
rushed. I want the exhaustive work to be done carefully and properly.”

The investigation was launched in late February after forged passports in the names of
Australian-born Israelis were discovered by Dubai police. Fingers were pointed at Israel’s Mossad
secret service, with Smith calling Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to Parliament
for an explanation and asking for his cooperation.

Last month, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat after completing its own investigation into
forged passports in the names of British-born Israelis

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Rabbis reach out to youth

MELBOURNE, 15 April – Local Orthodox rabbis are this week launching a range of programs in a bid
to relate better to younger Jews and to become more professional.

Tonight (Thursday), the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) will unveil a number of projects
at a gala reception in the presence of Victorian Government ministers, community dignitaries and young people.

Speaking in the lead-up to the event, RCV president Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said the rabbis
are hoping to offer their expertise to the community in different ways.

“The RCV hopes to work in collaboration with other communal organisations and believes the
Victorian rabbinate has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer the Jewish, and indeed, wider community,” the North Eastern Jewish Centre rabbi said.

One way it hopes to do this is through the “Mashpia” or mentoring program, which will link rabbis with young Jews.

“The purpose of this initiative is to encourage young Jewish adults, particularly in their latter
formative teenage years, to feel comfortable thinking and speaking about matters relating to
spirituality and religion, which some may feel naturally inhibited to do because of societal norms and expectations,” he said.

Those older than school age will also be catered for, with Rabbi Glasman hinting at a program that
will help young adults entering the workforce find a place in their busy lives for religion.

Some of the community’s most prominent businessmen are being engaged to assist.

The other area the RCV is pushing into is professional development. “We want to be
professional, we don’t want rabbis to deal with crises en route,” the president said.

These initiatives are currently being sponsored by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, but
Rabbi Glasman said the community will also be called upon to assist.

“We want communal donors to recognise that investing in the rabbinate is worthwhile.”

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Limmud Oz back for another year

MELBOURNE, 15 April – Planning for Limmud Oz, the festival of Jewish learning and culture, is
currently underway, with the conference returning to Melbourne for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.

Held annually ­ this year over three days ­ Limmud Oz gives participants an opportunity to
engage with and learn topics of Jewish interest.

“It will take you another step further in your Jewish journey,” Limmud Oz committee member
Sylvia Urbach said. “It will have some appeal to all people regarding any aspect of Jewish life
and Jewish thought ever considered.”

A host of international presenters are already on board, including executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Centre and Women of the Wall participant Anat Hoffman, Israeli professor of
political studies Efraim Inbar and Dr Aaron Rosen, a research fellow in Jewish history and culture at Oxford University.

Diverse local speakers will also feature on a broad range of topics ­ including Adam Goodvach’s
analysis of Australia’s closest neighbour Indonesia, Victor Majzner talking about art and a
discussion with Lionel Sharpe, one of the community’s foremost genealogists.

“There is a wide array of Jewish topics and speakers from religious to secular in every way,
shape or form,” Urbach said. “What’s important is that it is non-denominational and inclusive, with
subjects and speakers relevant to all Jews.”

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Artistic memlories of a bleak place
<http://jewishnews.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/jma_page.jpg>
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s newest exhibition.

Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s
newest exhibition. Photo: Peter Haskin

MELBOURNE’– Jewish Museum of Australia launched its latest exhibition, titled Theresienstadt:
Drawn From the Inside, last week in the presence of MPs including Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor.

More than 20 years ago, Holocaust survivor Regina Schwarz donated a battered suitcase containing 142 watercolours and drawings created in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt by her husband Paul and fellow artist Leo Lowit.

The rare collection of artworks was exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 1990, but has
remained in the museum archives since then.

A year ago curator Mera Brooks started sorting through the collection to select 90 works for the museum’s latest exhibition.

Paul and Regina Schwarz and Leo and Jindriska Lowit arrived in Theresienstadt in December 1941,
among 6000 Jews who arrived at the camp by rail transport from Prague that month. Paul, Leo and Jindriska were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Regina survived Auschwitz and settled in
Melbourne after World War II where she died in 1987.

The Theresienstadt: Drawn From the Inside exhibition is at the Jewish Museum of Australia
from April 11 until March 13, 2011.
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Nonagenarian still an active athlete
MELBOURNE, 19 April–90 years young and still as active as ever – Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration! When ‘Friend of Maccabi’, Simon Shinberg called the office this week to RSVP to the upcoming Friends of Maccabi Luncheon, he told me that he was very much looking forward to hearing motivational Special Guest Speaker, Brian Rabinowitz, as Brian was Simon’s Spinning
instructor! I had to find out more…..

Simon Shinberg not only takes 45 minute Spinning classes 4 days a week, he also does a couple of
hours of gym 4 times a week too!

Simon has been involved in sport for as long as he can remember. He was a member of the first
AJAX Athletics Club, focussing on sprints, high jump and shotput. He represented Victoria at both
the 1937/38 Carnival in Melbourne and the 1938/39 Carnival in Sydney, where he won the High
Jump.  He also played soccer for Hakoah when he was 18 years old.

During the many years of running his successful clothing manufacturing business, Simon went for a
run at 6am every morning, keeping him energised for the remainder of the day.

And Simon has no plans to slow down now, saying that keeping active and his wonderful friends
both from Maccabi & other walks of life is what keeps him going each day. Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration!

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Agitating for change at Yeshivah

MELBOURNE, 19 April –  Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.

The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing
or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of
Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies. When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner said he knew “nothing about it”.

However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion
they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.

Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main
Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose
founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method
for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.

The sign, according to an article by YeshivahGedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that
the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.

Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi
Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.

A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and
promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad
ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.

Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that
was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late
Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.

“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is
going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees
things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.

Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original
newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own
philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of
worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.

On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among
members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”

Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The
issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and
instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts
and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Compiling a digital menagerie on Holland America cruise

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Seventh in a series

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

ABOARD MS ROTTERDAM – Not really conscious that I was doing so, I turned this Holland America  cruise ship into a digital Noah’s Ark while voyaging from Lima, Peru, to San Diego, USA.

In port after port, I photographed whatever seemed interesting that crossed in front of my lens.  This included shops, architecture, signs, people in national costume, flags—the usual eye-appealing parade of color that catches the eyes of tourists. To my surprise,  it turned out that in every port—even in one at which I was feeling too ill to get off the ship—I photographed animals. 

Some of the animals were alive, some were representations in art, but  the growing unplanned collection seemed a testament to the fact that no matter where in the world where we go, humans find animals irresistible to watch and to admire.

Our cruise started in Callao, which is the port for Lima, Peru.  In the Plaza des Armas, near the presidential palace, various artists had decorated life-sized sculptures of cows.  I was told that this was  a public art project that eventually through auction will raise money for charitable causes.

Iguana Park in heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador

The next stop was Guayaquil, Ecuador, and from the pier, courtesy shuttle buses took us to a park in the center of town famous for the iguanas that roam there along with the pigeons.   Admired, photographed, oohed and ahhed over, the iguanas are quite used to the Ecuadorians and tourists who come to see them on a regular basis.   They even seem to tolerate the pigeons, which like to share in the iguanas’ bounty.

Tuna fountain in Manta, Ecuador

Manta, Ecuador, is home to tuna canneries –and tuna are celebrated with public art showing them jumping out of a fountain and flying across a main street.

In Puerta Caldera, Costa Rica, I felt too ill to get off the ship—a short bout with  a  gastro-intestinal malady had done me in – but a black bird of a species I couldn’t identify apparently took pity on me, flying right to the Promenade Deck outside the sliding door of my cabin. 

It was if the bird knew, even before I did, that I had this  animal photo streak going, and didn’t want a little thing like a stomach upset to spoil it.

Next it was to Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, where woodcarvers at work inside a giant tourist pyramid made various animals before our eyes, including a frog.

Huatulco shopping district

In Huatulco, the Gabriel the Owl store invited tourists to buy gold at 40 percent off with the promise on an outdoor sign that “we won’t cheat you too bad.”  How reassuring!

In Acapulco, at Fort San Diego, exhibits showing trade goods carried in the times of the Manila galleons included a sculpture of a horse carrying a Spanish soldier.

In Cabo San Lucas, our last port before San Diego, we were fascinated by the large, friendly pelicans that loafed along the waterfront.

The ship also contributed to my photographic zoo.  Two large sea lions dominated the swimming pool on the Lido Deck, carved watermelons in the buffet line looked  like seahorses, and on many nights in our cabins, towel animals created by our stewards tickled our whimsy.

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Next: Boom times in Manta, Ecuador
*
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Cruising through Latin American history

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Francisco Pizarro statue in Lima

Sixth in a Series

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

ABOARD MS ROTTERDAM—From the earliest days of the conquest of Latin America to the years of liberation, our cruise ship sped us through some of the most dramatic moments in Spanish colonial history.

For us, a recent voyage aboard MS Rotterdam began in Callao, the port serving nearby Lima, Peru.  Inside the Cathedral on Lima’s Plaza des Armas, one can find the tomb of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who nearly 470 years after his assassination is still a controversial figure in Peru.

Renato Monteverde

As guide Renato Monteverde of taxilimaperu.com narrated the story, Pizarro is hated in Peru for having slain so many Incas during the time of conquest.  A well-known statue of him astride a horse once was located in front of the Cathedral, according to Monteverde, but the church didn’t consider a horseman with a sword consistent with its image as the helper of the people.  So, said Monteverde, the statue was moved by city authorities in front of the presidential palace.   But the president—being a politician who wants to court the support of the people—didn’t want so controversial a figure in front of his building either.  Spain was asked to take the statue back, but according to Monteverde’s version, the former colonial power would do so only if Peru paid for the shipping.  Eventually, the statue was moved to the catacombs by the river, in the hope, according to Monteverde, that it would be someday washed away.

While one might quibble with the historical veracity of Monteverde’s tale, it certainly portrayed in most vivid fashion how some people feel about the Spaniards who brought their weapons and their diseases to the Incan Empire.  At least for some parts of the population, Pizarro is an absolute anathema.

Fernando Lopez Sanchez

Fernando Lopez Sanchez, an historian trained by Lima’s Catholic University who today serves as chief archivist at the Cathedral, offers a more forgiving assessment of the conquistador.  “History tells us the facts that took place; it is up to us to interpret and understand the time in which he lived,” Lopez said.  “He was doing what all the soldiers of the time were doing, which was conquest.”

However, he added, “The intentions of Pizarro and the conquistadors was not just to come in and kill everything in sight; the intention was to try to spread faith to a population.  At first they tried to negotiate with the indigenous people, but once the negotiations failed, it turned into violence.”

It is true that many Incas died, “but what you have to take into account was that most of the deaths were not caused by Spanish arms but by the diseases” they unknowingly brought to South America with them.

Pizarro founded Lima in 1535, and he is buried in the cathedral “because the city would not have been established were it not for Pizarro and it was his dying wish to be buried in the cathedral.”

The conquistador of Mexico, Hernan Cortes, was a second cousin of Pizarro’s.  Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs in 1520 and Pizarro’s conquest of the Incans in 1532 are often equated.  However, said Lopez, “although there are similarities in the Mexican and the Peruvian pasts, the Mexicans today are ultra nationalists, whereas Peruvians are more open to people from different cultures.   Mexicans view their history with more hatred.  They hate Cortes, they say ‘he killed us all.’  What is happening here in Peru is that we try to understand the Spanish instead of just hating them.”

Spanish rule lasted in Peru for nearly 300 years, until 1821, when the Argentine general Jose de San Martin liberated Lima and became known as the Protector of Peru.

The next port of call for MS Rotterdam was Guayaquil, Ecuador, where San Martin in 1822 reportedly had his only meeting ever with the liberator of northern South America, Simon Bolivar.  Nobody knows for certain what the two men said, although it is believed that San Martin acceded to the idea of modern-day Ecuador and Peru becoming part of Gran Colombia, the confederation of South American states that also included modern day Colombia and Venezuela. 

La Rotunda in Guayaquil celebrates meeting of Bolivar and San Martin

The content of the meeting between the two great liberators today is still a source of speculation among historians.  The fact that it was held in Guayaquil is a matter of great pride to the port city, which in its commemoration built La Rotunda, a heroic sized monument  on the Malecon, a wide walkway along the Guayas River.  Those interested in Spanish colonial history can easily combine a visit to La Rotunda with a short walk to the Museo Nahim Isaias, in which a banker of Lebanese descent compiled a storehouse of Spanish colonial art, most of it on Christian religious subjects.

After stopping in Manta, Ecuador;  Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, and Puerto Chiapas, Mexico; MS Rotterdam pulled into Huatulco, Mexico, which in association with Veracruz on Mexico’s Atlantic Coast and Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast was an important port in keeping Spain’s colonial empire in Latin America together.  Acapulco was the next port after Huatulco on MS Rotterdam’s itinerary.

Small boat dock in Huatulco

Spain sent European goods and crops across the Atlantic Ocean to Veracruz, where they were sold at market for the silver mined and coined in Mexico.  Afterwards, the European goods were sent to Huatulco and Acapulco.  Those that went to Huatulco were put onto ships for Peru, where the goods were exchanged for Peruvian precious metals, furniture and crops.  European goods that went to Acapulco were put on galleons bound for Manila in the Philippines, where the goods and Mexican silver were exchanged for the silks, spices, and ceramics of the Far East.

Fort San Diego in Acapulco

Fort San Diego in Acapulco is located across the street from the cruise pier, making it a popular destination for tourists.  Shaped like an irregular five-pointed star, Fort San Diego had a commanding view of ocean and land approaches to Acapulco. Its cannons were able to protect the treasures of the galleons from pirates and other enemies of the Spanish crown.

In 1813, however, the Mexican revolutionary Jose Maria Morelos was able to capture the fort in Acapulco, effectively bringing to an end the era when the Pacific Ocean was considered a Spanish lake ruled by the Manila galleons.

From Acapulco, MS Rotterdam proceeded to Cabo San Lucas, which most people know for the famous stone arches that mark the point where the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean divide.  In Spanish colonial history, this picturesque port spelled danger because it was a favorite hiding place for British pirates ready to plunder the galleons. 

Tendering to Cabo San Lucas

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese sailor in the employ of Spain, passed Cabo San Lucas en route to Alta California.  He claimed modern-day San Diego Bay for Spain in 1542, naming the area San Miguel.  However, Cabrillo’s discovery was all but forgotten for six decades.  After the pirate Thomas Cavendish made short work of the galleon Santa Ana in 1587, Spain realized it had to do more to protect the Manila-Acapulco route, perhaps by establishing forts in areas where the pirates were likely to strike. 

In 1602, Spain authorized Sebastian Vizcaino to explore the coast of Alta California.  Not recognizing the area that Cabrillo had named San Miguel, Vizcaino gave the bay and the city that would spring up in its vicinity its modern name of San Diego.  Homeport to the MS Rotterdam, San Diego was our final port in a brief, but fascinating, excursion into Spanish colonial history.

Next: Animals in Cruise Ports

‘Man Overboard!’– Drama aboard MS Rotterdam not to be forgotten

March 10, 2010 2 comments

Lifeboat maneuvers to floating object in Pacific during
recovery operation.  Photos: Donald H. Harrison

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By Donald H.  Harrison

-Second in a series–

ABOARD MS ROTTERDAM –Recovering the body of a man who threw himself overboard and avoiding a possible tsunami in the wake of a large Chilean earthquake were unscheduled and unforgettable events during a recent cruise aboard the Holland America cruise ship Rotterdam.

Passenger Walter A____  apparently climbed to a railing near the fantail on the Lower Promenade Deck of the Rotterdam and, according to a witness, cast himself into the sea off the coast of Colombia close to noontime  Friday, Feb. 26,  as other passengers, including his wife Judy, were having their lunch. 

The witness was another passenger who came horrified upon the suicide as it was occurring. She   immediately reported the event to a deck officer, who in turn relayed the information to the bridge crew, and they in turn notified the master of the vessel, Captain Rik Krombeen.  Within six minutes of the occurrence, Kronbeen ordered the ship to turn around and to begin a search for the victim, he later told this reporter.  My wife Nancy and I were also among the 1,330 passengers aboard the 780 foot- long, 59,885-gross ton ship.

So that passengers would not become alarmed by the ship’s sudden change in direction on its sea day crossing the Equator between its ports of call at Manta, Ecuador, and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, the captain (shown at left)  announced that a man was believed to have gone overboard.  He asked the passengers to watch the waters for any sign of him.  At various times as the ship ran a search pattern, he also asked for complete silence on deck in the event that the victim was yelling for help.

The wife, thinking her 72-year-old husband was trying to nap, brought lunch down to their first-deck cabin, but found that  he was not there.  She called the Front Office and informed the personnel there that her husband was unexpectedly missing.  Cruise Director Joseph Pokorski made two announcements on the public address system asking Mr. A ____ to please call the Front Office.   When Mr. A___  did not respond, it became understood throughout the ship that he was the man in question. Captain Korbeen and Holland America authorities asked that the man’s surname be withheld in this report.

After backtracking to the approximate location where Mr. A___ had gone into the water, the ship’s crew began dropping small buoys in order to determine which way the currents would take them and how quickly.  Meanwhile, a search and rescue airplane, which Captain Korbeen said had been dispatched from Colombia at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard, flew over the area.  

Given that the Pacific Ocean waters were calm and warm, it was estimated that a victim desiring to stay alive could do so for up to 36 hours in those seas.  However, if as suspected, Mr. A___ had the intention of taking his life, the Coast Guard might choose to end the search far earlier.  Whereas a victim who wants to stay alive will wave his arms and yell for help, an intended suicide typically will do nothing to assist his potential rescuers.  Wearing gray and white clothes on an overcast day, Mr. A___ could not be seen from a distance greater than 70 yards away.

Guided by the mathematics of time and currents, the cruise ship and rescue plane (shown at right) proceeded in ever narrowing circles.  Approximately four hours after the incident occurred the airplane messaged that it needed to return to land to refuel.  Accordingly, it had but one pass left, and Captain Kornbeen requested that it fly along a line paralleling the ship’s calculations of the man’s drift. 

The airplane spotted something in the water and reported the Global Positioning System location to the ship.  Captain Korbeen announced to the passengers that he would be going quite quickly to that position and might need to make a sudden turn.  He urged passengers to be prepared to balance themselves.

A lifeboat had been lowered to the Lower Promenade Deck to permit crewmembers easy access when it was time to retrieve the body.  As the crew members clambered into the life boat, security officers directed passengers to move several cabin widths away.  Once in the ocean, the lifeboat maneuvered in such a way as to screen from the passengers a view of Mr. A___’s body being lifted into the lifeboat.   Passengers then were asked “out of respect” to clear the deck so that Mr. A___’s body could be brought aboard and moved to the small morgue aboard the Rotterdam.  Five hours had elapsed since the original incident.While all this was occurring, on-board care teams stayed with Mrs. A____ and with the woman who had witnessed the suicide, offering both women comfort and counseling.  Meanwhile, Holland America’s office in Seattle, Washington, got in touch with Jason, the son of Mr. and Mrs. A____, recounted to him what happened, and arranged for him and his wife to fly to Costa Rica to meet his mother and to help with the formalities for claiming and transporting Mr. A___’s remains back to the United States. 

Mr. and Mrs. A____ had been active cruisers who had liked to post critics’ comments about various experiences at sea on line.  A group of these cruisers were aboard the vessel, and a memorial  service the following morning for Mr. A___ led by an onboard minister was arranged. 

Holland America’s main office gave permission to Captain Korbeen to try to make up as much time as possible en route to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, meaning that instead of proceeding at 19 knots in the evening and overnight, the ship at times reached nearly 25 knots—burning fuel at the rate of more than $70 a minute.  Originally scheduled to come in at 8 a.m., this procedure would have brought Rotterdam to its Costa Rican port at 9 a.m.   However, news came of the great 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Concepcion, Chile, presenting Captain Korbeen with two new challenges – one nautical and one intensely personal. 

There was a possibility that the Chilean earthquake would generate dangerous tides in the bay of Puerto  Caldera, Costa Rica.  The water might come into the bay and then just as quickly go out, leaving a ship entering the bay without sufficient water to proceed or pushing it in the wrong direction. In consultation with local authorities, Kornbeen decided to wait in ocean waters outside the port until it could be determined what the tidal effects were.  As it turned out, the tidal effect was insignificant, and Rotterdam reached its berth at 9:32 a.m.

More pressing was a problem on board the ship.  A young woman who worked in the gift shops was from Concepcion, Chile, and she was unable to reach anyone by telephone.  For three days, she frantically tried to telephone home, but was unsuccessful.  She later learned that her own apartment had been destroyed, and so had that of her brother.  Luckily, her brother was staying with their parents during the earthquake—and the home of their parents had survived the earthquake.  Although both the employee and the brother had lost their homes, the important matter was that all her family members were safe.  

The young woman debated whether she should try to fly home immediately, but her family urged her to remain on board.  Concepcion was in chaos, and there was little she could do at home.  On the other hand, the money she was earning aboard Rotterdam would be of benefit to the family.   When fellow crewmembers learned of what had befallen their shipmate, they took up a collection to help the family.

Sometime after Mr. A___’s body was taken off the ship, his son Jason posted a note on the Intenet site of the cruise critics expressing his gratitude and that of his family to Holland America for its compassion during a most difficult time. “My dad, Walter was the individual that went overboard on the 26th off the Rotterdam,” he wrote.  “Dad was a very strong individual that lived life to its fullest.  He had become progressively more ill and knew that there was little he could do to change it.”  Of his mother, Judy, he wrote that the ships personnel “became her guardian angels. She would like to personally thank each and every crew member that assisted her in her time of need.  Holland America went above and beyond the call of duty in taking care of both her and my wife and I.”

Jason said after flying to Costa Rica, he met with his mother and  Care Team members who were “invaluable guides for us in Costa Rica as we underwent the long, arduous process of working our way through the government bureaucracy that stood between us and getting dad home. It took us five days and they were our ever present friends and guides. They were our moral and physical support. They helped us figure out how to get dad from the mortuary to the funeral home, how to get his body cremated, how to prepare the required embassy paperwork, arranged transportation, meals and lodging for the entire ordeal.  They cried with us and laughed with us.  They are our heroes.”

It was not only the family that was grateful to the cruise line.  At a “Life at Sea” presentation in which passengers had the opportunity to question the captain, cruise director, hotel manager and chief engineer on a wide range of subjects including precautions against gastro-intestinal infections, elevators that weren’t working, on-board movie selection, and even the status of the karaoke machine, one man rose to say, “during the tragic event we had, I must compliment you captain and your crew the way you picked up that body.”

There was spontaneous sustained applause from the audience that filled the main floor and balcony of the show room.
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Next in the series: Warding off the GIS virus

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Luis Liberman Ginsburg elected vice president of Costa Rica

February 10, 2010 1 comment

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (WJC) — A Jewish former banker has been elected as vice-president of Costa Rica. Luis Liberman Ginsburg, 63, was running mate of Laura Chinchilla, whom voters in the Central American country elected on Sunday by a wide margin as their new president, and of Alfio Piva, who will also be a vice-president.

Liberman’s parents immigrated to Costa Rica from Poland before World War II. He is the grandson of a mohel (a circumciser). Lieberman told the Israeli news service ‘Ynet’ that his being Jewish had not affected his candidacy. He said Jews were very active in Costa Rican politics, and Jewish ministers had served in previous governments. Liberman said that Costa Rica under Chinchilla would be less active in the Middle East and its foreign policy would focus more on Latin America while maintaining good relations with Israel, which he described as “excellent”.

Approximately 3,000 Jews live in Costa Rica.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Jewish Charger Antonio Garay strives to help bring San Diego a Super Bowl championship

January 13, 2010 7 comments

San Diego Charger Antonio Garay and sportswriter Joey Seymour.
Any question which one is which?

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Sometimes you’re not always going to get the best out of every situation, but you’re supposed to strive for the best and maximize your ability.” – Antonio Garay

By Joey Seymour

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers are on the precipice of history this season. Not only are they the hottest team in the National Football League having won their last 11 games in a row, but there is an unfamiliar buzz around the Charger universe . . .  that “this” is the season. Even though the team has captured the AFC West title the previous three years, there was always some worry – some doubt – that the lightning bolts would fall once they left the comforts of competing in their lackluster division (and face mightier AFC foes in the playoffs). Unfortunately, those concerns came to fruition each season.[i] Yet, this year, with a healthy core team still intact having experienced the heartbreak of past playoff loses; the Chargers could very well bring San Diego its first major championship. If they do, they’ll do it with the aid of an exceptional talent recently added to the roster, defensive tackle, Antonio Garay.

Garay was traded to the Chargers in December, ironically by this weekend’s opponent, the New York Jets. At 6-4 and 330 pounds, Garay is an imposing figure with a surprising amount of speed and quickness. Antonio’s story is one that does not immediately interest those in the sports realm. He has never been caught-up in a scandal, he does not wear flashy clothes or perform overly dramatic celebrations after big plays, and he doesn’t take to the internet to broadcast himself 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, dig a little deeper, and the tale of this incredibly unique athlete begins to surface.  And, it is one that could very well be just as interesting, for all the right reasons.

 Born on November 30, 1979, the first of three children for Marsha and Tony Garay, Antonio was brought into a family of incredible diversity and love. Marsha Garay is devoutly Jewish, who taught Antonio and his siblings, brother Daniel and sister Francesca, from an early age about their heritage and the importance of understanding their religion. Of his mom, Antonio stated, “My mom is very proud, knows where she came from, and respects everything about her religion. Every holiday we celebrated, she explained the importance [of them] to us. Even though I am diverse, first and foremost, I am Jewish. It’s a big part of myself and my family.” It is an ambition of Antonio’s to visit Israel soon and wrestle in the Maccabi Games.

His father’s side is a mainly Catholic family with a combination of Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, and Jamaican backgrounds. Marsha and Tony were both two sport athletes at Hofstra University in New York. Tony wrestled and played football and Marsha was a softball pitcher and captain of the tennis team. On a fateful afternoon, Marsha twisted her ankle while playing tennis and Tony came to her rescue, that event, according to Antonio, “is when the fairytale began.”

Tony had a minor stint in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, and New York Jets, after being touted by sports writers as one of the best defensive linemen in the country in 1971.

“My father, he’s like my best friend. I was a kid [who] had support from two parents that were college educated and two sport athletes. I’ve been very fortunate. There were things that were done and said through their careers and they made sure to guide me to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow.”

While growing up in the small town of Rahway, New Jersey, Antonio knew that he was going to be a football player from an early age. However, his Mom enrolled him in soccer. “My mom had me playing soccer. One of my biggest attributes is that I’m pretty fast. The last two games I’ve been running down on kick off’s. You don’t really see anyone my size running down. In soccer, I played left wing and right wing. Everyone used to be like, ‘who’s that big fat kid running?’” The fact was, Antonio was too big at his age to play in junior football, yet the passion for one day competing on an NFL field burned inside of him.

“My best friends used to have Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders [jerseys], for me, I never got into, wearing and supporting. The one person that I did like was Greg Lloyd. I never had posters up. I was never a super fan. When I was younger, I was [always] thinking about ‘who I was going to play for’ and ‘which one of these guys was going to be a teammate.’ I was always very goal oriented. I would write down [everything], ‘how many plays am I going to make this week?’ When I was younger, in order for me to get to college, I [had] to do well in school. I just became very goal oriented.”  

In high school, Garay was not only a dominant force on the football field (All-State and Blue Chip All-American), but a track star running the 100 and 200 yard races and throwing the javelin. However, it was his skills at wrestling that earned Antonio a great deal of praise and recognition.

Wrestling has been an institution in Garay family since 1955 when his uncle, Louie Garay, won the New Jersey state championship. Two years later, Carlos Garay, another uncle, finished second in the state and in 1966, Antonio’s father finished third. Antonio was the New Jersey state champion in his weight class, 275 pounds. He never lost a match during his high school years (1994 – 1998).

Beyond his athletic accomplishments, Garay maintained his goal of performing well in his classes. The strong support of both his parents in his competitive and educational endeavors fueled Antonio to succeed. He was offered scholarships from 25 different schools, but he elected to accept the offer from Boston College.

In Boston, Antonio continued to wrestle until Boston College dropped the wrestling program his senior year. He finished 4th in the NCAA championships during his sophomore year and remains the only NCAA All-American in Boston College history. It was also at Boston College when Garay’s seemingly inevitable path to the NFL began to waver after a few horrific injuries. During his junior year, in the first play of the first game of the season, Antonio sprained his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). His season was over. The next year while playing against Notre Dame, Garay suffered a season ending spine injury.

Antonio could have utilized his degree and walked away from football and the risk of any further injury or focused on wrestling and competing in the Olympics. However, the NFL dream continued to push him to rehab, train harder, and focus on the upcoming 2003 National Football League draft.

On Sunday, April 27, 2003, the Cleveland Browns selected Antonio Garay in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The years of preparation, studying, focusing on school – and not being deterred by the pressures of youth and ignorance – led to that glorious moment. Garay was a Brown for two seasons (2003 – 2004). He tore his ACL in a game against the Baltimore Ravens and once again found himself on the mend. The inauspicious tag of, “injury prone” began to be attached to Antonio, yet, in 2005 he was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad.

In 2006, during the Bears Super Bowl run, Antonio was active for seven games. Unfortunately, he was deactivated for the Super Bowl, which the Bears lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007, Garay was having an impressive season, and then on Thursday, December 6th, 2007 while playing against the Washington Redskins in prime time, Redskins Offensive Tackle, Chris Samuels made an illegal chop block that broke Antonio’s leg and shattered his ankle. Samuels was fined $12,500 for the hit and has been referred to by many in the league as “a dirty player.”

While discussing the injury, Antonio noted, “When I broke my leg, it was a chop block from Chris Samuels. I’ve broken my leg before; I knew right away it was broken. I knew I was going to have a journey ahead of me. Unfortunately, I was going into my free agent year and not many football teams are in the market for a D-Lineman with one leg.”

Antonio would spend all of 2008, essentially starting over again. Beyond rehabbing the leg and ankle, Garay had to find a way to drop the “injury prone” stigma that had seemingly become his legacy. He refused to let the dream die. He wanted to come back stronger, faster, and healthier than ever before.

“I was just real motivated. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I loved football. I knew I wanted to play football. I knew I had a lot more to give to football. Sometimes guys just stop, they feel like they’ve accomplished everything they could. Deep down inside, I felt like there was a lot left for me to accomplish. I heard a lot of people [over the] course of 12-13 months, ‘you had a good run, we’ll support you, but if you don’t get an opportunity, we’ll help you out.’ Some people felt I should get a job. Some people said ‘go back to school.’ In the back of my head, I knew I’d be cheating myself. If I wanted to play football, I [had] to make sure I devoted everything to football. It really was just kind of a mindset that I would will myself to get an opportunity, no matter the cost.”

Prior to the start of this season, Antonio was signed to the practice squad of the New York Jets, his home town team. Garay was thrilled that he’d be playing so close to home. “Over the last year I was out with a broken leg. I got very close with everyone, not that I wasn’t close before, but I’m saying, we were going to family events all the time, bat mitzvahs, bar mitzvahs. [While in College and with the Browns and Bears] I wasn’t able to go to all the family events. Being in New York, basically right over the bridge from everyone, it was accommodating for them and for me, to get to see them all the time. It was definitely a great thing; it was definitely something I will always remember.”

New York never called Antonio up from the practice squad and on December 9th, they traded him to San Diego. “Once I found out I was coming here, I knew I’d have a good opportunity. I have a pretty strong relationship with the coaching staff. Ron Rivera was my defensive coordinator in Chicago. Don Johnson was my D-line coach. For them just to want me here, the stars [have] aligned.”

So far this season, Garay has played in two games for the Chargers, having recorded an assisted tackle vs. Tennessee in week 16 and three tackles and an assisted tackle against the Redskins during the final game of the regular season. Regarding the match up this weekend against the Jets, Garay said, “They’re a talented team. When I was a part of the team, I was thinking, we were going to win the Super Bowl. Now I’m a Charger through and through. Now that is my mentality. We have one goal. We have to take three steps to it and this Sunday is the first step.”

Thirty members of the Garay crew will be in attendance at the game, “This is probably the most family and friends I’ve ever had at a game, it’ll make me feel like I’m at home. I’ve never played a professional game where I felt like I was at home. I’m pretty excited about going this weekend.”

As for the Chargers making it to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV, Antonio said, “Our chances are pretty good. Even though they’ve had some heartaches in the playoffs, that core group is still here. They’ve been together and had a chance to grow. They know what this city is expecting from them. Guys like me, who haven’t been in San Diego, can feed off everything. You can feed off the older guys and know that everyone has to carry their own weight. Anything can happen in the playoffs.”

For the 2010 season and beyond, Garay believes, “I’m in this for the long run. I don’t have a set number. Right now, I’m probably in the best shape of my life. My legs are fresh. My body is feeling good. Junior Seau is a perfect example. He was in this system and has continued on. I actually think I’m a lot better than some of these younger guys. Only time will tell. Right now, I’m just trying to take advantage of every moment. There will be certain moments that will lead up to that defining moment, that’s what I’m hoping for.”

“I like everything about [San Diego]. I like the people, the fans. Everyone is so personable. The organization itself, the guys on the team, everyone has made this a very easy transition for me. I think starting this week; it’s a sign of great things to come.”

Beyond football, Antonio is in the process of creating a foundation that will work with kids in his community to prepare them for college, by instructing them on all their options for continued education as well as providing a safe haven for studying and avoiding the dangerous pit falls that tend to detract students from achieving their fullest potential.

Finally, even though he is 100% committed to football at this moment, Antonio has not completely ruled out representing the United States in wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Garay still has a lot to prove to San Diego fans before he is mentioned alongside Sid Gilman and Ron Mix as the greatest Jewish Chargers, but he is certainly the prototypical role model for any student athlete with aspirations of finding success in their athletic field of play.

As we all cheer for Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates, Jackson, Sproles, Merriman, and yes, even Kaeding, this Sunday, keep an eye out for #71. He’ll have his hands full with the number one rushing team in the league, but let there be no doubt, Antonio Garay will leave it all on the field this weekend for himself, his family, his teammates, and every Charger fan counting on him and the team to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to San Diego.  

Connect with Antonio by visiting his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Antonio-Garay/251498588675 


[i] 2004: The Chargers lost to the New York Jets in overtime, 20-17, after Nate Kaeding missed a game winning field goal from medium range, during Wild Card weekend. 2005: Did not make the playoffs. 2006: Lost to the Patriots 24-21, after Marlon McCree intercepted a Tom Brady pass and attempted to advance the ball. He was subsequently stripped by Patriots Wide Receiver, Troy Brown. The McCree turn over led to the go ahead Patriots score. Nate Kaeding missed a field goal that would have sent the divisional round game into overtime. 2007: Lost to the Patriots in the conference championship game 21-12. 2008: Lost to the Steelers, 35-24 in the divisional round.

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 Joey Seymour, Sports Historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives.” Now Available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com