I'll be in Baltimore for the next few weeks, filming some history stuff, and so I'll try and update this blog weekly. As for now, please check out this video I just put together which deals with the history of human space travel through my past visits to the best museums in the U.S.A.!
So I've finished and have presented to the world a series of linked stories that ultimately lead to the creation and development of San Diego. I'm going to continue the story in my next part that I have titled "Manifest Destiny". However, I'm gonna need time to finish writing part of the first draft. So far, the first section of Manifest Destiny will be from 1602 (Vizcaino's voyage) to 1783 (Treaty of Paris that recognized U.S. independency).
I'm going to be honest: Manifest Destiny is like Before First Contact in that it tells a larger story than just that of San Diego, but of how different peoples with new cultures came together to overtake old cultures. In a way, the different cultures of San Diego (Native, Spanish, Mexican, American) feel more Darwinian-like than anything.
The second section of Manifest Destiny will go from 1783 to 1848, marking the end of the Mexican-American War. It's actually a large undertaking and I'm having trouble organizing the chapters and with writing the first one. As I told a co-worker today, I have the same problem Dr. Dre has, where he is his own worst critic. Every time I read something I wrote before, I want to change it. I don't get it, but it stopped me from releasing my written history stuff for almost two years before I started this blog.
I'm ultimately planning on splitting Manifest Destiny into three chapters; Settlement, covering both the development of San Diego by the Spanish as well as the colonization of the future United States; Revolution, which will cover revolts and revolutions in San Diego and all across the world; and the Mexican-American War, which will cover the conflict from both a local (San Diego) and national perspectives. I've already started writing a first draft for it however, and though I'm still finding a flow to go with, I'm very excited that I get to keep these stories alive for the next generation... or to put it differently... These stories are like potatoes in that I'm happy to keep them hot before passing them down. Once I finish, I'll begin posting them like I did that last part and from that point, it will be up to you to light a fire under your asses to keep these potatoes hot.
In the meantime, I'm happy to post a few updates and feature some of my old work. I've done a lot and believe that I can keep up with the pace. My hope is that in time, I will be fortunate enough to feature other people's work between stories. Today, I'd like to feature a short cruise I took around San Diego Bay back in 2014. There are four short parts to this video, but I'll just feature the first part. Even two years later, I still think it's a piece of work. Enjoy!
Bozeman, Montana - April 5, 2063
Three lines of blue lights appear among the stars, which began to grow larger as the ship lowered towards the Earth. Lower and lower it got, its light now reflecting off of the ground, illuminating the little people nearby, who had gathered to see what was landing.
As it got lower, the ship's features began to emerge. It was red, with blue lights representing three sections. It was also enormous, about the size of the building nearby. Yet, as large and intimidating as it looked, it landed so quiet and gracefully that it hardly made a sound as the legs of the ship met the dirt.
Nobody outside moved, with the exception of some nervous glances. One can imagine the uncertainty felt among the gathered group of people. Seconds later, a small section of the ship slid open and a ramp automatically deployed.There was a yellow light, and after a slight pause, a hooded figure e. Still, nobody reacted.
The hooded man stood at the entrance of his ship for a long pause, possibly to assess the safety of the situation. A thin man in the crowd finally broke the silence, quietly saying , "My god, they're really from another world", before emerging from the crowd and slowly walking toward the mystery guest. Upon seeing this, the hooded man then began slowly descending the ramp. Another hooded figure appeared behind him and stood by.
The two species met face to face. The Alien was dressed in what looked grey and dark green ceremonial robes. He was tall and skinny with funny looking eyebrows, but was otherwise indistinguishable from any other human... at least at first glance. Out of the hundred-thousand things that probably went through the human leader’s mind, one of those thoughts must have been “My God, they look just like us”.
The hooded visitor then looked expressionlessly at the human leader and removed his hood to reveal large, pointy ears. He then raised his right hand and with his fingers, made a ‘V’, with the thumb sticking straight out. Then he spoke… in English.
“Live long and prosper.”
The human, still dumbfounded, raised his hand to return the gesture, but had trouble making the hand signal. A little embarrassed, he chuckled and decided to extend his hand instead and the alien extended his. They shook hands, a peaceful gesture. Seemingly relieved, the human then says to his new friend, “Thanks”.
I’ll admit, the title “Before First Contact” is loosely based on “Star Trek: First Contact”. The pop-culture reference kept returning to me as I researched and wrote these stories. The fictional scene from First Contact seems ideal now, compared to the real life examples given by Columbus and Cortes.
“Before First Contact” is a story about how multiple cultures came together to create something new. People usually view the creation of something new as a positive step without realizing what one has to kill off first to achieve it. In the ideal world of Star Trek, first contact was a positive step. Within a century after the Humans and Vulcans meet, poverty and disease disappear from the Earth and the species goes through a form of social evolution, where the drive of life stems from the constant need to better one’s self. In return, the Vulcans would one day receive a power ally. The Vulcans did not take over the Human’s world, nor did they try to convert the humans to their logical ways. In fact, 222 years later, when the crew of the brand new Enterprise-A risked their collective careers to save Spock – one man – back from the Genesis planet, Spock quipped, “Humans are highly illogical”.
Star Trek however seems to treat this blunt analysis of the human condition as a badge of honor though, right next to a badge that also says, “We are better than our past”.
An example of this is the concept of the Prime Directive, the idea that space faring worlds should not interfere with non-space faring worlds. Captain Picard once claimed “The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules; it is a philosophy ... and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”
Of course, his hero, Captain James T. Kirk broke the Prime Directive many times. Then again, we ARE talking about fantasy.
In reality though, first contact between Europeans and Native Americans was the opposite of what happened in the movie. First contact between the Spanish and the Native Americans was mostly confusing, destructive and bloody. Once the Spanish learned of the new world, they came in droves, destroyed the native’s home and way of life and enslaved them. Most were converted, tortured, raped, killed or otherwise died of disease. In reality, the Spanish received the wealth of the Americas, off the backs of the Americans, while the Americans received nothing. It would be like the Vulcans enslaving the war mongering Humans to mine and ship Earth metals to the Vulcan's home world.
Even when one watches Star Trek, many examples of first contact going wrong can be seen. Surely, peaceful first contacts were even rare in that universe?
So what is separating our fantasy from reality? Intention could be one thing. The Spanish cared more about conquest and power than of curiosity and exploration. Before embarking on his first voyage to the Americas, Columbus had already negotiated with Spain to be governor of whatever he found. Once he found land, he took it over, opened mines, and if anyone got in his way, he had them executed or mutilated. We humans are pretty cruel to each other.
In the minds of the Spaniards, the good intentions of civilizing the natives by converting them to Christianity meant that their old ways of living had to be destroyed. To Columbus, the ends justified the means. Yet then, Columbus purposely prevented missionaries from converting a great number of natives because back then, only non-Christians could be indentured.
On the other hand, the natives were not necessarily a peaceful people. The natives of the Caribbean were at constant war with one another and the Aztecs treated their neighboring tribes rather cruelly. The Spanish would prove to be just as cruel, but they used the native’s behavior as an excuse to control their lives. The Spanish saw the natives as children who needed guiding, when in fact, the Spanish were running around just as blindly as the natives. Remember that Columbus did not even wish realize that he had landed on another continent. The Spanish were not as enlightened as they had thought. I guess another lesson would be that not everybody is ready to change. Even after Vulcan first contact, there seemed to be humans who wished to live a simple life. For instance, Picard's ancestors planted grapes in France.
Cabrillo’s voyage up the coast of the Californias, did not have any major battles. His log indicates that he tried to stay out of trouble with the natives in the region, despite his own death. That does not make Cabrillo morally superior to Columbus or Cortes – Cabrillo did participate in the battles for Tenochtitlan and enslaved many natives to help build his ships – But maybe the voyage itself began to signify a change in mentality, at least on his part. Nevertheless, as the top man, he acted differently from Cortes and Columbus. There is no telling what Cabrillo would have done had he survived the voyage, Columbus also treated the Natives with some level respect on his first voyage. What would have happened if he came back to future San Diego on a second voyage?
Probably the same things that have yet to occur in our story: Exploration, colonization, conversion and rebellion. The Spanish Empire and the faith behind it were larger than just one man was. Had Columbus, Cortes or Cabrillo never been born, the details and names of the events would have been different, but I am sure the Americas would have suffered the same fate.
At the present, there are no more continents on Earth to “discover”, but we are beginning to focus our efforts on scientific endeavors such as space exploration. At first, the interest seemed to be of genuine curiosity. In 1967, nations signed the “Outer Space Treaty”, which was the foundation of international space law. The Treaty specifically bars nations from claiming celestial bodies or installing weapons of mass destruction on them. For instance, it allows NASA astronauts to visit and explore the moon, but does not allow them to install missile launchers on it.
Now though, the drive for space exploration seems less out of curiosity and becoming a motive for profit. In 2012, an organization called “Mars One” announced its intention of landing humans on Mars and starting a colony by the year 2027. That sounded great until I also learned that there would be a reality TV series linked to it, and that the astronaut finalists are believed to be the ones who donated the most amount of money. The CEO of the company defended the idea by claiming it would result in a constant flow of the vast sums of money needed to man the mission, but what happens if people start tuning out like they did after the first few Apollo moon landings? Last because of problems that still need to be worked out, scientists were skeptical that astronauts would survive for more than about 67 days on the surface. As of now, the project is on hold.
But what does seem feasible is asteroid mining. It is believed that the first person or company who figures out how to successfully mine asteroids will become the first trillionaire. In late 2015, President Obama signed a law allowing for the mining of asteroids.
So are we going back on our 1967 treaty? Probably, but it seemed inevitable that someone would figure out a way to monetize space. It seems to be the only way to motivate any kind of exploration. Columbus, Cortes, even Cabrillo were all driven by profit and the natives of the Americas paid the price in land and blood.
The fictional Vulcans weren’t motivated by profit or power. They were simply passing by our solar system when they detected a warp signature. To dwell on why they chose to make first contact with humans without a motive of profit or power seems a bit… illogical given the true historical perspective. Perhaps we need to install a Prime Directive for ourselves, but would we really have the integrity to follow it?
Maybe I'm being a bit too negative in my assessment. Besides, if it wasn't for companies like the Virginia Company or the Plymouth Company, we might not have had the United States. Then again, what is the United States, but something new created from the ashes of something old?
I guess everything changes with time. Cultures and empires, just like life itself, lives, grows, changes and dies. The destiny of San Diego history will be realized by the death of old cultures and the birth of new ones, like the United States. Come back soon for Part 2: Manifest Destiny.
End of Art Fusco's History: San Diego - Before First Contact