Monterey, and all of California for that matter, cannot be associated historically with the wave of white Anglo-Saxon immigration from northern Europe to the U.S. in the 17th century. Spain claimed California in 1602 and then, Mexico, after gaining independence from Spain in 1821, assumed sovereignty. Monterey was the site of the Battle of Monterey (April 7, 1846) during the Mexican-American War. It was on that date that John D. Sloat, Commodore in the United States Navy, raised the U.S. flag over the Monterey Custom House and claimed California for the United States. California is the most populous state in the U.S. and has always been, not only a diverse state geographically, but also a diverse state in terms of its people. If California were a country, it would be the 6th largest economy in the world and the 35th most populous!
Where did the name “California” come from? It is believed by some, that it was derived from a fictional paradise peopled by Black Amazons and ruled by Queen Calafia, “who fought alongside Muslims and whose name was chosen to echo the title of a Muslim leader, the Caliph, fictionally implying that California was the Caliphate!” Even California’s very name implies a diversity of people, lifestyles, cultures and religions!
Today, as I walked about Monterey, this diversity was everywhere evident. Thai, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Greek, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants abound. I went to the Greek Festival, enjoyed my cup of Greek coffee and baklava as I watched the dancers celebrate their traditions and heritage. I walked by people speaking languages I did not understand. There were gay men walking hand-in-hand. Elderly couples, probably married for half-a-century or more were there too, walking hand-in-hand. There were black, white, yellow, brown, young and old, some weirdly and some scantily dressed, some tattooed, some fat, some thin, Sikhs from India, people from all over the world, and probably there were some illegal immigrants (from the perspective of the Native American, we are all illegal immigrants) some were mobile, some immobile (being pushed in wheelchairs)—diversity everywhere I looked! There were skateboarders, cyclists, walkers, runners, and scuba divers. What diversity! You can’t build a wall to stop this diversity, or turn back the clock of time to some other time when it did not exist. It has always existed in the United States of America. Our very greatness is built on this diversity! With Lee Greenwood, “I’m proud to be an American” in the midst of this diversity. My prayer is that we shall learn how to live with one another as brothers and sisters—as fellow Americans!
|A Sea Lion in the Bay|