(Originally published in the San Diego Reader June 3, 2015)
My friend Pati has lived in San Diego County for 25 years and has never been to Balboa Park. On a Tuesday afternoon in March, I decide to right this wrong by dragging Pati and her son to the fountain, the playground, and the San Diego Natural History Museum. In truth, our outing is less about the travesty of Pati’s sad unfamiliarity with my number one favorite place in the city, and more about my curiosity of what she’ll think of the museum’s then-three-month-old Spanglish experiment.
Yes, Spanglish. When I tell Pati about the exhibit she looks confused. She doesn’t know what Spanglish is, which is funny because she’s a native of Tijuana and has raised both of her children in Chula Vista. This combination, I thought, would make her a prime candidate for Spanglish-speaking, but Pati doesn’t speak much English at all, and she has no interest in doing so. And because her husband (raised in Los Angeles) insists that their two children speak only Spanish at home, Pati also doesn’t get much exposure to Spanglish at home. I do my best to explain it to her in the car on our way up to Balboa Park.
In January 2015, the San Diego Natural History Museum opened Coast to Cactus, a nine-millon-dollar permanent exhibition exploring our region’s biodiversity. The 8000-square-foot exhibit amps up the idea of traditional diorama displays so that, rather than peering over ropes or through glass, museumgoers find themselves immersed in the display — sort of inside the diorama.
Exhibit developer Erica Kelly says, “We’ve kind of strived to create experiences more than lecturing.”