I certainly hope everyone has recovered from the full schedule of events over this past weekend. First off, from Susan Young of Volunteers Without Limits: “Hi Kat, Can’t believe we are almost to the end of February already, seems like it we just got through the holidays! This has been a very sad month for San Felipe, so many friends lost. Yet the work goes on. This coming Wednesday, the 29th will be Volunteers Without Limits bi-annual fund raising event at the Pavilion and we are planning a great evening called Simply Baja. There will be Tequila, Wine, Cheese and Chocolate samplers for tasting. Flamenco music and dancers to entertain and a delicious meal for our guests enjoyment. Of course, there will also be a silent auction to benefit the food bank and aid to children with disabilities. We hope everyone will join us to support this good work for the people of San Felipe. Date: Feb 29th Time: 4pm-8pm (dinner 5:30-7:00) Tickets: $18 (presale) $20(at the door). Kat, would really appreciate if you can post a reminder for your readers. (flyer attached). Many thanks, Susan.”
For those of you who ventured out to Rumors this past weekend to sing Karaoke with Nan and Mac can see their photos here. This is a note I received from a reader who I won’t name but I feel it’s worth reading, regarding social networking: “It’s pretty hard to think of SF in a positive way when you read the group posts. Just continual bitch, bitch, bitch about everything. It’s as if the cable guy, PUD, AT&T etc.. people were always perfect back in the states. It’s as if all of the doubting Thomas’s of the world moved to San Felipe and are bitching on line. Billions of people around the globe are feeling the pinch of the economy and this worldwide crash was not caused by one developer in San Felipe. The beauty of the sea and mountain views, the people, the flora and fauna, the air you can’t see, seems to have been lost in the glow of the computer screen. I’ll bet not one of these people decided to move to San Felipe so you could piss and moan day after day about your wifi connection. When the end is near and you reflect on your life will you be remembered for your positive contributions or……. How about posting about the desert blooms from the recent rains, or the kids making due with a nearly flat soccer ball, or the couple that were oblivious to you and the rest of the world having found the true love we all look for as you passed them on your walk….Life is short and getting shorter – so eat and enjoy dessert first, and turn this machine off and go for a walk.“ As I always say, it’s something to think about.
As you know, Bruce Barber, a long time resident of San Felipe and a good friend, will be writing on Wednesdays. Some of his stories were written a while back and some are new, but most certainly they are true and great reads. I wanted to post this story he wrote about Olivia, the woman who was just killed in a car accident coming back from Mexicali. I will save Bruce’s preface for his story scheduled for Wednesday, but I did want everyone to read about the life and dedication of someone who made a huge impact on San Felipe, so here is Bruce’s interview with Olivia, twenty years ago. Now, in the last 20 years, Club Las Amigas and the Rotary have helped put many kids through school, but this story tells it all and thank you Bruce for sharing:
Olivia Valdez Castellanos
Dateline: 23 February 2012:
The following article was written 20 years ago. It is offered now as a memorial for a loving couple who are no longer with us: Sergio succumbed to prostate cancer last year. His loving wife, Olivia, was killed day-before-yesterday in a tragic automobile accident while returning to her home in San Felipe. Each of them and both of them are a significant part of this distant desert community’s history. Long live Sergio y Olivia!
Olivia Valdez Castellanos
By Bruce F Barber
When I asked for this interview I had no idea what I was getting into. I met this charming woman a few years earlier when my wife and I were invited to a luncheon hosted in her home. As a result of that and three subsequent meetings, I developed a nagging feeling I was missing something… it was one of those things I couldn’t put my finger on but a feeling demanding I learn more about her. Thank Heaven for intuition!
The first of four children born to Carlos and Estella Valdez, Olivia was raised in her family’s home town of Tijuana, Baja California. Owing to the absence of a bona fide high school, however, she departed home at age 15 to live with an aunt in Alhambra, California where she attended Mark Kepple High School. Two years later, her mother asked her to rejoin the family as they prepared to move to Guadalajara where a superior school system included both a high school and a university.
Upon arrival, to her chagrin, she learned the Guadalajara High School would not accept credits earned in Alhambra and she was required to repeat those two years before advancing to graduation. But, after registering at the University of Guadalajara, she applied for and was accepted in the College of Architecture where, seven demanding years later, she received her doctorate. It would help if you could envision a woman born with a love for the smell of wood and a keen sense of accomplishment through construction. It would also help if you could envision a woman dedicated to entering a man’s world with skills and contributions to match theirs.
During her college years, the family returned to Tijuana to enjoy Christmas as it should be, with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. But, as fate would have it, she also spent a weekend in San Felipe during one of those Christmas vacations… and fell in love.
First her studies, then her degree, her doctorate and, a thousand phone calls later? (San Felipe’s telephone lines were installed in ‘76), marriage to Sergio Siqueiros, the man of her dreams. What’s more, because he was a lawyer assigned to San Felipe by a Federal bank, they made there home here, and she hung out her shingle.
The year was 1977 (San Felipe had but two paved streets) and our newlyweds, who ultimately brought two fine sons into the world, witnessed the creation of the Malecón, the Muelle, and the water plant. In fact, for those who remember, the Motel Cortez restaurant had burned to the ground shortly before her arrival and was just then being rebuilt.
A seaport community, Olivia saw it with an architect’s eye knowing its growth was assured. But, owing to Sergio’s contact with men of the shrimping fleet, the newlyweds were to learn, all that glittered was not gold. That is, not only was there no high school in San Felipe, only those parents who could afford it sent their children to Mexicali schools. And so it was that this dedicated couple developed a plan they presented to state officials in Mexicali.
Sergio and Olivia Sigueiros are the man and woman responsible for COBACH, el Colegio de Bachilleres del Estado de Baja California—our local high school!
In response to their impassioned pleas, the authorizing members of the state government, told them “Yes,” they could teach in San Felipe… so long as each of the other professional men and women living there taught, too. Not only did San Felipe’s professionals teach…
a. They began with thirty students in one classroom, at night, in a local grade school where they remained for three years. Subjects taught by each of the Dedicated Dozen were identified according to their degrees. Olivia, for example, an architect, taught mathematics and English.
b. They moved to the 2-room facility still standing at the east side of El Toro II restaurant where they taught, at night, for one additional semester.
c. Then, relocating to the Secondaria, they occupied three classrooms, still teaching at night, during each of the following five years.
d. And, to put this in perspective, they spent a total of eight years teaching San Felipe’s high school kids WITHOUT PAY.
During the last week of September, 1985, the State of Baja California opened the doors to the newly constructed COBACH where Ingeniero Ignacio Rodriguez was seated as its first principal, seven of the twelve professionals were accepted as bona fide Teachers, and the dream this aspiring couple had dared to have so many years before was realized: San Felipe was consolidated into the high school fold… and its teachers began receiving pay (although they did not receive credit for their eight pioneering years).
From the dozen professionals responsible for so many youngsters’ education, the seven who were allowed to continue at COBACH included Sergio and Olivia, Ingeniero Ignacio Rodriguez (the man responsible for the construction of the Muelle) who, three years later, became the school’s second principal, Licenciado Juan Rubio, Dr. José Sandoval, Dr. Lino Rodriguez and Dr. Benitez. But, Olivia told me with a twinkle in her eye, the physical stature of these proud men and woman was so slight, they became known by their students as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!
Arquitecta Valdez Castellanos told me of a dream she had during those early days when she and Sergio would stroll along the shore: She envisioned it lined with lights proudly displaying a pueblo they could be proud of. As I sat there in her office (she became Directora de COBACH in 1998), she identified members of their first COBACH class whom I knew as Monica Carrasco, the immediate past Delegada de San Felipe; Jorge Sterling, the present Delegado, Francisco Sosa, a local judge; his wife, a local architect. And the list goes on for now, among her twenty-five-member teaching staff are others including a psychologist, an English teacher and a Computer Sciences teacher.
Computer sciences? For the past six months, in particular, COBACH has been phasing in computerized control of many teachers’ chores including, but not limited to, attendance, testing, scoring, and grade point averaging. Can you imagine how its founders must feel?
During the last week of September, less than ninety days from now, COBACH will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary—La Quinceañera—which, I was warmly told, will hopefully include every available member of Las Amigas.
Las Amigas?, I wondered. The school’s first graduates were the Class of ‘79. From it, and every subsequent graduating class, none but a few attended college… until 1987, that is, when Las Amigas began its scholarship program.
As a direct result of Las Amigas’ college-level scholarships, peer pressure burst upon the San Felipe scene forcing other qualified students to college. As the years rolled by, the number of COBACH graduates attending college increased dramatically—boarding a bus to Mexicali one day in 1994, Director Valdez could not find a seat because they were filled with former students… on their way to UABC (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California).
Today, thirteen years later, seventy-five percent of all COBACH graduates enter college during the August/September time frame with another fifteen percent entering in February. Director Valdez, her staff, their students, their alumni and each of these children’s families want the entire San Felipe community to know how thankful, how happy, how deeply indebted they feel towards San Felipe’s Club Las Amigas and the contributions this independent organization has made to San Felipe’s children and, therefore, its future.
In closing, I asked this visionary woman whose dreams had been fulfilled, what she might wish for the future. She thought for a moment… and told me, “I wish my sons would one day come here—stay here—and put forth their energies to help make this town grow.” At this minute one of them is studying in Ensenada and the other in Mexicali: One to become an architect; the other a civil engineer.***
Have a peaceful and enjoyable Monday and I’ll be back tomorrow with some new photos and hopefully, some new scoop. Thanks for stopping by.