By Anna Daniels
Maria Garcia recently release her long awaited book based on the award winning San Diego Free Press series The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights. The site of the book release—the historic Marston House—was no accident.
On Saturday, December 10, over fifty people gathered at the Marston House garden where decades earlier San Diego businessman and philanthropist George Marston and his daughters Mary and Helen held fundraisers for the settlement house.
“La Neighbor: A settlement house in Logan Heights” is a richly detailed account of the unique evolution of the progressive era Neighborhood House in the working class, largely Mexican American community of what is now known as Barrio Logan. Maria bases her book on extensive interviews, some of which were conducted in the early 1970s, supplemented by research into personal archives maintained at San Diego State University and newspapers dating back to 1914.
Like other settlement houses that existed across the country in the early part of the twentieth century, Neighborhood House was established to help immigrant residents assimilate. It provided classes to learn English and acquire employment skills. It also provided well baby clinics, home health nurses, and food distribution. Sports and sport teams were wildly popular, as were cooking classes and camping trips.
Larger historical events—the Great Depression, the Mexican Repatriation, World War II and the Chicano movement in the late 60s shaped the Logan Heights community and the services provided at Neighborhood House.
Maria’s intimate, richly nuanced examination of Neighborhood House sprang to life on the grounds of the Marston House. Men and women now in their eighties and nineties whom she interviewed for the series attended this special event. It was clear from Maria’s subsequent remarks in which she shared details from different interviews that the event was an opportunity to gather together as many of these people as possible to thank them for their contributions to San Diego history. George Marston’s grandson George was also in attendance and received recognition.
The majority of books distributed that day were all hand inscribed by Maria. Included in the book are “Recuerdos”, hand written letters, newspaper clippings and other ephemera that were not part of the SDFP series. The book is handsome, with quality paper, easy to read type and an attractive layout. Val Tuck provided the book cover and Tom Kaye prepared the original material for publication.
Maria writes in the Introduction:
The following stories speak about the lives of a forgotten and overlooked community. They worked, they voted, they raised their families and most of all, they are part of the history of San Diego. My respect for those whose shoulders we stand on has quadrupled since I began this journey. My love for those whose heart and love of family made them evaluate the roles they would play in this community has given me a better understanding of the pride they feel in their accomplishments.
Our congratulations and gratitude to Maria for this seminal contribution to San Diego history. Maria continues to add more details to our history through her SDFP monthly column Latinos in San Diego and in her weekly radio broadcast Vecinos on WSRadio.com