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LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

San Diego Pandemic Losses Could Reach $12B, Campa-Najjar In Hot Water After Controversial Comments, COVID-19 Is Found In A Funny Place, The BLM Movement Expands To Mexico, And Opera At The Drive-In

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NGUYEN

Above: A sign in front of the Burrito Station in North Park on June 27, 2020, indicating that the eatery is open for take-out during the coronavirus pandemic.

SANDAG has tallied up the total economic losses during the pandemic — and it’s not looking good. Plus, in an interview last week with Defend East County, Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat running for Congress in the 50th District, said he’s not sure if he’ll vote for Biden or Trump. Also, COVID-19 can be found and tracked in sewage, but is there a risk to public health? Next, the new episode of “Port of Entry” podcast looks at the Black Lives Matter movement in Tijuana. And finally, Opera is back in San Diego — but at the drive-in.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego's economy takes a $12 billion hit from Kobe.

Speaker 2: 00:05 The hardest hit San Diego ones are those who are earning the least amount of money in the region.

Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday, edition, New controversies heat up the neck and neck race in San Diego's 50th congressional district.

Speaker 2: 00:30 I look forward to having you as a constituent when I returned you don't mind cause you don't live in the district, but I do live in the district,

Speaker 1: 00:39 San Diego sewage pose a COVID-19 health risk, and it's an outdoor production for San Diego operas Labo M that's ahead on mid day edition. First, the news,

Speaker 1: 01:00 The San Diego association of governments or SANDAG has tallied up the economic losses we've sustained in the first six months of the COVID pandemic and the results are significant. The analysis finds that the San Diego region will be hit with an overall loss of more than $12 billion. This year. I figure that not only wipes out and expected 2% increase in the gross regional product, but erases the region's economic gains for the past two years. Although the loss of business activity affects all of San Diego, the SANDAG analysis finds certain industries and workers have been hit. The hardest journey may is Ray major, chief economist at SANDAG and Ray. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Maureen. Thank you for having me. What kinds of business activity did SANDAG count to create this economic picture?

Speaker 2: 01:51 Well, we took a look at all of the different sectors of the economy here in San Diego. And what we found is that there were some that were hit much harder than others with the COVID impact. And so we were looking at industries like the tourism industry and retail and education, just those three industries account for about 80% of the job loss in the region during this COVID lockdown.

Speaker 1: 02:17 And how many jobs have been lost here during the first six months of the pandemic,

Speaker 2: 02:22 We estimate that there's probably around 176,000 jobs that are lost or can be directly tied to losses due to COVID. And about 140,000 of those are in the three industries that I mentioned previously.

Speaker 1: 02:37 Now you found that the hardest had San Diego ones where those making the lowest incomes to begin with. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 02:44 We had some early information that that was going to be a problem, but now we started to look deeper into the data. And what we saw is that there has been a recovery in a lot of industries. So in the industries that are primarily white, when you take a look at things like the innovation sector, you look at finance insurance and real estate. Pretty much those jobs have come back and people are working remotely. So we see less than a percent difference in terms of employment now and at the beginning of the pandemic. But when you look at workers who earned less than $27,000 per year, so that's pretty much minimum wage employment. We see that the employment levels are still down by 23%. So that really points out to us that the hardest hit San Diego ones are those who are earning the least amount of money in the region.

Speaker 1: 03:33 Seen any improvements in any of those sectors. I've been hearing, for example, that more people are starting to take road trips, could tourism be coming back?

Speaker 2: 03:41 W we do see people taking road trips, and we do see tourism coming back a little bit in terms of people taking local vacations. So you would see people coming down from orange County or LA and staying in San Diego. But our tourism industry is such a large part of our overall industry, uh, economy, that it really has taken a hit because it relies so heavily on business tourism and the conventions that used to come to San Diego and would fill the hotels downtown and the convention center. And those people would go out to eat dinner in the Gaslamp district. And they would go and spend money in the San Diego economy that has pretty much dried up this year. And so that industry is still hit extremely hard. Although local tourism is coming back, people are starting to travel a little bit.

Speaker 1: 04:31 And your analysis also suggests that some of the most effected industries like tourism, like retail might not come back to what we consider normal. Why not?

Speaker 2: 04:41 When you take a look at something like retail, there has been hyper adoption of internet shopping, for instance. So internet shopping, we were looking at double digit growth each year for the last couple of years, but all of a sudden, everybody started ordering things online and you, you see internet activity or shopping activity out by 200%. And when you see numbers like that, what happens is that you have consumer behavior changing. And so people are now much more comfortable buying things online and having them delivered to their door. There's a certain level of convenience there and safety. Quite frankly, you don't have to go out if, if you are concerned about COVID to purchase these things. And so brick and mortar stores were already suffering because of internet sales. But now we take a look at it and boy, they're going to have a real hard time given the adoption of internet sales in the last couple of months.

Speaker 2: 05:34 In addition to that, you asked about the tourism industry and, you know, for the tourism industry, people have adopted this zoom technology and other ways of communicating than in person. And many of these business conferences that were held in person can now really be held online. And that's a phenomenon that did not occur before March. And now all of a sudden you can hold these conferences online and then you have to start thinking, will a business really send its people across the nation, pay for the airfare, pay for the hotel, the price of entrance into the convention to have their people go live when they can actually do it over, uh, some kind of zoom technology or computer technology. And I think we're going to see a change in business travel. I don't think that businesses are going to want to spend the money to send people plus until it's a hundred percent safe to travel. Many businesses are not going to want to put their employees in a risky situation where they would send them. N****s

Speaker 1: 06:35 Are still going back and forth in Washington over a new stimulus package, could a new influx of cash from the government to help San Diego to shore up. Some of these economic losses,

Speaker 2: 06:46 Absolutely cash infusion would help the local economy. Our estimates of the $12.4 billion that we lost in the region is actually better than it could have been had the government not, uh, infused two to $3 trillion into the, uh, national economy early on in the pandemic. So the, the money that is infused into the economy is spent on consumer goods purchases. For instance, some people pay their mortgages with it, and it really does keep the economy going. So these stimulus bills are necessary. As long as we are in a situation where businesses cannot return to full operations because of state regulations.

Speaker 1: 07:30 Speaking with Ray major, chief economist at SANDAG and Ray. Thank you very much.

Speaker 2: 07:35 You're welcome. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: 07:45 Recent polls show the race for the 50th congressional district in San Diego. East County is neck and neck. Former Congressman Darrel iSay is running against former U S Hispanic chamber of commerce official and East County native. Uh, Mark been a jar KPBS reporter. Matt Hoffman takes a look at both candidates.

Speaker 2: 08:05 I'm trying to teach you the best I can. And I'm telling you to be honest, but that's fine. And I'm trying to keep you honest. The race for the 50th congressional district is heating up. I look forward to having you as a constituent. When I return you don't mind. I can't say the same because you don't live in the district, but I do live in the district. Republican Daryl Eissa and Democrat Amar capita shower have had some tense exchanges during recent forums. He has great ideas, but I want to answer the actual question. I already answered the question. Oh good. You're responding to it. After serving in Congress for 18 years, most recently in the 49th congressional district Eissa is eyeing a return to Capitol Hill. He stepped down in 2018 after regular protest, outside his office in Vista, he was then nominated for a position inside the Trump administration. I make no bones about it as a conservative. The other district that I represented became very, but I stood my ground. My two years sabbatical, uh, has certainly given me an opportunity to rest. So I I'm, uh, I've never been more excited about the job.

Speaker 3: 09:04 The candidates are vying for a traditionally conservative seat once held by Duncan Hunter. The district currently has no representation. Hunter resigned after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds. The district covers much of East County and goes into Temecula. 40% of voters in the 50th are registered Republicans while 30% are Democrats still former Obama white house aid camp, and Azar was able to grab nearly half of the vote in 2018 and is now running for a second time.

Speaker 2: 09:30 Voters need to know that I am a consensus builder. You know, I've managed to piss off both sides of the party, both parties. So I'm doing something right on the things we agree on. I want to go far creating jobs, apprenticeship programs.

Speaker 3: 09:44 [inaudible] sat down with KPBS to talk about the issues while ISIS campaign did not make the former congressmen available for an interview. I said, did address many issues in public forums and debates. One of them was how to help businesses affected by the pandemic. Both candidates agree that the state should not be deciding who gets to stay open and who has to shut down. But I said does not want to see any more forgivable loan programs while camping a jar.

Speaker 2: 10:06 The idea that we're going to throw another trillion to three and 3 trillion, uh, borrowed money, uh, in order to keep people at home. I think that is foolhardy. It is inconsistent with what the, what I'm hearing small businesses are telling me. They just want to reopen, but I'd like to do when I'm in Congress is make sure that these loans for small businesses are going to those who are employing people and need it. The most

Speaker 3: 10:29 Governor Gavin Newsome recently issued a bold executive order to tackle climate change. All new cars sold in the state will have to be zero emissions by 2035. But camp at ajar says the state has energy issues and points to recent rolling blackouts.

Speaker 2: 10:43 You need to make sure that our energy policies meet the demands. Right now. We don't have the supply, especially in those peak hours. When the sun is setting, people are going home, we've done a good job with solar and wind and biofuels to have energy development, but we're not good with the storage yet.

Speaker 3: 10:58 I said, agree. Storage is a problem and wants to see investments in energy alternatives like nuclear and pump storage.

Speaker 2: 11:04 We need to have be more innovative. We need to have large storage capability, or we need to keep other systems on board. We're prematurely shutting down nuclear, which is of course zero emissions

Speaker 3: 11:16 Candidates have sparred over healthcare and how to lower costs for Americans.

Speaker 2: 11:20 We have to reduce the cost of healthcare, not try to subsidize insurance. The basic goal is competition, tort reform, FDA reform. These are the three things that will work. I don't believe in single payer. It's just the opposite.

Speaker 3: 11:36 [inaudible] did support Medicare for all while running in 2018, but now he says it's not affordable. And he doesn't support single payer healthcare,

Speaker 2: 11:43 Private insurance. If you want it, half of Americans habit, but then create competition to lower cost and increase the quality of care. Introduce a national Kaiser nonprofit plan. Give people the opportunity

Speaker 3: 11:54 To buy into Medicare a little bit earlier through the end of June, I saw formerly one of the wealthiest members of Congress has raised $8.2 million of which nearly 6 million was donated or loaned by Eissa himself. During the same time camping as our has raised just over $3 million.

Speaker 1: 12:11 Joining me is KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman and Matt. Welcome. Hey Maureen. Now in recent days, new controversies have emerged in the 50th district campaign. Both candidates have had Facebook live discussions with Justin Haskins, the leader of the defend East County group. First of all, can you remind us what this group is and the kinds of actions they've been involved in,

Speaker 3: 12:35 Right, Maureen? So it was a group that was formed after may protest in the Mesa. Those are some racial injustice protests. We saw some, some looting. We saw some buildings that were burned down. I mean, this group was formed. They say sort of to protect their community, uh, from, from these looters, from some of these writers, but some of the group have espoused some right wing conspiracy theories made some racist statements. And they've also called for violence against some of these protesters. Now I will say that that's not everyone in the group. And the, and the leader, Justin says, look, we have 22,000 people in here. Some people are angry and they're gonna post some things that they shouldn't, but they say that the group is not about violence. And he says that he disavows white supremacy,

Speaker 1: 13:09 A Republican Darryl Eissa seemed to give the group his whole hearted support in his discussion with Haskins, his comments supported militia groups and their right to defend their communities. Tell us.

Speaker 3: 13:21 Yeah. So I, so was talking about the antifascist movement known as Antifa talking about the black lives matter movement. Um, say that, look, these groups sort of take away people's rights and they empower, uh, sort of, uh, some of these bad actors, uh, that we see some of these, some of these criminal elements, um, when he's talking about some of the looting that we see and sort of, he's saying, look, when, when this is happening, um, when law and order breaks down, there needs to be people there to sort of defend the communities. And he expressed support for their sort of vigilantism. You know, he said that they were a very important part as law and order was breaking down. And yeah, he later said, look, a militia is a personal right. And, uh, it's, it's their right to, um, when their community is, you know, under some sort of duress to sort of take charge if their government fails them or it's, they're able to take arms

Speaker 1: 14:05 Now, perhaps more surprising is the whiskey and cigar Facebook live meeting between Haskins and Democrat Amar camp in a jar. What are some of the comments that came out of that meeting?

Speaker 3: 14:15 Yeah. So there was a lot of comments in that meeting that someone described as really pandering a lot and sort of moving away from some of the base that are, that our Mars built just first of all, the confirmation process for a Supreme court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, um, saying that, look, we need to know, can you do the job? That's what matters the most? He sort of said that he wouldn't have gotten the way of his confirmation. Um, had he been a Senator I'm also talking about, had he been a Senator, he supports the current justice, uh, Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation, you know, sort of saying, look, she's qualified as a justice. And look, we have a Republican Senate and the Republican Senate is going to confirm her. Um, and those are some things that are really angry. A lot of people now he talked about who he's going to vote for president.

Speaker 3: 14:53 He did vote for Biden in the primary, but during this interview with Justin, he said, look, my vote is open. And he said, you guys think I'm going to vote for Biden necessarily, but I want to see how they perform in these debates that are coming up. Now, I do want to say Maureen, that after we pressed him on some of these questions, he did walk back a lot of this, especially who he was voting for president, I'm saying over the weekend, there was a 99% chance that he was voting for Biden. And then we saw just a couple of days ago, um, him posting on social media saying I have voted for Biden. Uh, so he's walking back. Some of these comments that he's making. Um, he also did tell Justin that, uh, he wanted to investigate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, uh, for their potential role, um, in investigating president Trump. Um, and that's something that Justin, uh, really, really pressed him on. He said, he'd be open to, um, investigating everybody. Um, not, not just that, but also president Trump.

Speaker 1: 15:39 So Canva Nadar is apologizing for his conversation. Why is he doing that? What kind of flack is he?

Speaker 3: 15:45 Yeah, so capital R has got a lot of flack from a lot, a lot of activists in the community. A lot of these groups who have been out there protesting were sort of defenders County might be counter protesters. And they say that they have a lot of experiences where they've, um, you know, either, uh, physically harmed them or they've said statements to them that they believe are, are, are just racist. And a Mark companies are saying, Hey, look, I did not know this before I sat down with the group. Um, I knew that they, um, had, you know, raise some suspicion or something, but he said he didn't know that they had, you know, threatened people's lives. Um, and we're seeing him posts, you know, a lot of apology videos. I know he's meeting with groups in the community, tried to just say that he was going there to try to reach across the aisle, but he does point out that some of these comments he made, maybe he did go a little bit too far.

Speaker 1: 16:24 No. Another controversy involves company jars accusations against Daryl Eissa. Now Darryl, I say it has an estimated fortune of several hundred million dollars and camp. And Josh says that, I said took up PPP loan of $100,000 or more for his business. Those loans were meant to shore up small businesses during the pandemic. So does, Eissa say he took the loan.

Speaker 3: 16:49 This whole issue had been talked about during forums between the two candidates, but it really came to a head on campus or put out a TV ad basically saying that a company owned by Eissa got a PPP loan. Um, and that Eissa also at one point donated $150,000 to his campaign, which was the amount of the PPP loan. And basically that ad said, look, you know, I say, shut out businesses from critical money. Um, and he funded his campaign with tax dollars. Now Eissa completely pushes back on that. He does admit yes, a company that he owns did get a PPP loan for $150,000. But no, none of that money was ever given to his campaign. He says he didn't cut in the liner or jump up, jump ahead of anybody to get this money. And I would say Maureen too, something to keep in mind is that ISIS has this too. He's given millions of dollars to his campaigns. Um, and he sort of says, you know, for Marta pick out one transaction where yes, he did give $150,000 to his campaign. Um, and one, a business he owned also happened to take $150,000. PPP loan is just disingenuous. And I think the point that Omar's making is look, you are worth a lot

Speaker 4: 17:50 Of money. You did not need the PPP loan in general. So really Maurine, if you really sort of read between the lines here, there is some truth here. So I said,

Speaker 1: 17:57 You take $150,000 PPP loan, but the business that he owned, the company that he owned, they didn't get a PPP loan. And then that company did not transfer money directly to his campaign. Eissa personally has given millions of dollars to his campaign. He just says, it's very unfair for a March to sort of, uh, try to

Speaker 4: 18:13 This correlation when there is not one that exists.

Speaker 1: 18:15 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman and Matt. Thank you. Thank you to see debates between [inaudible] and Daryl Eissa tune into K USI at nine 30 tonight and NBC seven Saturday at 6:00 PM. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh. Sewage is being tested in San Diego and other places as a way to understand how widespread COVID-19 infections are in the region, KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson says that raises a question about whether the presence of the virus in sewage is a public health risk.

Speaker 4: 19:02 UC San Diego has already used the waste stream to identify local COVID-19 outbreaks. Each dorm has its own sewage system can pray. There is an atmospheric chemist at the school who's working with school officials to develop early COVID warning systems. Sampling air is one way sampling sewage for the virus is another. Since we can't test everybody all the time, that's a way that we'll we'll do that very frequently. And so if it starts to go up in the sewage of a particular dorm, then we can figure out how to test an isolate. The students in that dorm, the sewage testing has already led to two people who were coronavirus positive, but not showing symptoms. The virus was found in sewage coming from several campus buildings, the same receptors that take it to the long, the gastrointestinal tract they're there as well. So the virus grows in the GI tract and is shed.

Speaker 4: 19:55 And then the stool Richard schooly is a distinguished professor of medicine at UCLA. He says, researchers look for RNA parts of the virus that persist in the waste stream. The presence of that genetic material can serve as an early warning. Beacon of an infectious outbreak analysts are not looking for active viruses, capable of infecting another host. And it's not clear that they would find them to be infectious. The virus has to be present as a full viral particle, surrounded a very delicate basically bubble of the church. And so the kinds of things to get done in sewage treatment plants are just the kinds of things, as far as doesn't like, but in untreated sewage, the virus could potentially survive school. He says high concentrations of airborne particles of the SARS COVID virus got into a Hong Kong apartment complex back in 2003, it came from a pool of sewage stored beneath the building, the particles spread through plumbing in this well-documented case. And then to residents, this was not treated sewage water was the apartment complex was called the garden complex. And, uh, the best evidence we have is that the virus Eris loss from the sun treated sewage pool, uh, and, and air currents was able to spread through the air. But the virus is unlikely to survive in the San Diego waste stream.

Speaker 5: 21:17 Haven't adapted very well, um, to survive outside of the host. However, some may possibly get through that are still viable. Meaning contagious.

Speaker 4: 21:26 Shawna Lawrence is the city of San Diego's director of public utilities. She says wastewater moves through the city systems to a treatment plan where a lot of things happen that the virus doesn't like

Speaker 5: 21:38 Our processes. What we're very careful of is to make sure it's not just one layer, but there's multiple layers of treatment. So if for any bizarre reason, something happened in one of them, there's still additional treatment plant processes that will take care of it.

Speaker 4: 21:53 Lawrence says recycling wastewater involves even more treatment. And when the city's pure water project is up and running, wastewater will be turned into distilled pathogen, free water, but not all wastewater gets treated before it enters the environment. San Diego has endured billions of gallons of sewage tainted cross border flows. Since COVID-19 hit the region in spring and UC San Diego's Richard Schooley says there is reason for concern, potentially public health risk for a lot of pathogens and untreated sewage water. Whether it's going to kill one, a river or from the Mississippi river school, he says sunlight and dilution can go a long way toward reducing the risk of a virus like COVID-19. But he says, treating the waste water is the best step to protecting public safety. Eric Anderson, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 22:53 One of KPBS radio's most popular podcasts is stepping up this season with a new name and a slightly new approach to storytelling. Our only here a podcast focused on San Diego's unique position as a border community and how that shapes our stories and our culture. Now only here is getting a new name port of entry and it's new season of 14 episodes has just started journey may his port of entry host Alan Lilienthal and Allen. Welcome to the show. Hey, thank you for having me. Why change the name of the podcast from only here to port of entry? Well, there's a few layers

Speaker 4: 23:33 Here's to this answer for one, we were part of a podcast accelerator program with PRX in Boston, and we learned so many things from writing to hosting to sound design, just, we picked up so many skills that we wanted kind of start

Speaker 6: 23:46 Fresh and put all these things. We learn to really show people that this is really a new, just a new way of doing this podcast. That's one for the second. From the beginning, we didn't feel like only here was necessarily the most emblematic of what the show is as a name. I think only here can be a show about anything really and everywhere, no matter where you're from, there's something that only happens there, right? So we wanted something that really, that really captures that boarder spirit that we put into the podcast and anyone who lives crossing the border knows what the port of entry is like. It's a part of our daily reality. And for people who don't cross the border, the port of entry kind of represents a portal into, into a new world that you might not be so familiar with, right? When you cross the border through the port of entry, you're entering a new land. And, and with the storytelling that we do in this show, we kind of want to, we are, we see ourselves as kind of a guide into, into stories and people's personal stories people's lives that maybe you wouldn't have been familiar with before. Um, so we really just wanted to, to let the audience that has been with us since only here know that this is really a new show and we're putting a, we're putting a lot of love into it.

Speaker 1: 24:58 So what other changes have you made to port of entry what's different?

Speaker 6: 25:01 Well, for one, we are really embracing more Spanish. It's still very much an English podcast, but whereas before maybe we went out of our way to translate all the Spanish. We realized that being a border show Spanglish is really the mother tongue of a lot of people here, including me and a lot of our listeners. So we wanted to really embrace what this region has made of, which is more Spanish. That's one second, Emily, as a sound designer, myself, as a host and Kinsey as a writer producer, we've gotten, we've just really picked up a lot of new skills through this accelerator. And you'll be able to hear that in the way these episodes are crafted, um, is just a new level for us. And we're really proud of it. And another thing is we're really the episodes before were kind of standalone each episode was its own story. Whereas now we're really focused on creating the Matic arcs with our seasons, with our, with, with a show. So when we're releasing episodes, they'll belong to a kind of a cluster that are categorized by, by themes so that we can kind of have some more consistency to the stories we're telling.

Speaker 1: 26:14 Now last year, the podcast had some very successful episodes. One about the border church in particular. I remember were you surprised at the popularity of this podcast

Speaker 6: 26:26 To be completely honest? I don't. I try not to think about any of that too much from the music I make to this podcast. Um, I want to focus on the process of making it and really make the best thing possible and not necessarily worry about how popular or unpopular it is, but it's very nice and it's very humbling to know that it resonates with people and to see it, to see it just really touch, move people. Uh, so that's, that's been a beautiful thing. Um, I guess I wasn't surprised because I think there is a hunger to, to demystify the border and to hear border stories that are more authentic and real. We're so inundated with, with these kind of broad strokes and black and white headlines about what the border is, that both from people who are locals and people who are not from here, we want to really be able to touch it and understand it from a personal perspective. Um, so I think in a time when the board is being so spoken about in national media, I think we just want something real. So no, I'm not surprised. I think, I think it's the perfect time for something like this.

Speaker 7: 27:38 You brought an excerpt from the new port of entry season. Can you tell us about it? Set it up for us?

Speaker 6: 27:45 Yeah, absolutely. We're right now, our first season is part of, of a series on politics and race. And we wanted to do a story on how the black lives matter movement is actually crossing the border. Um, obviously it's been gaining a ton of momentum around the world, but in Tijuana there, it creates, it's an interesting intersection because in Tijuana there's a lot of sociopolitical forces at work within the black lives matter movement. It's an intersection of migrant rights and black rights. Uh, and that's been a fascinating thing to both learn about and see, see it flourish. So with his first clip, you're going to meet some of the people who are responsible for birthing the black lives matter movement. And [inaudible] someone like John Denny, Louis, who is a Haitian migrant, who now calls the Quanta home. And you'll also hear from Jay who is a migrant from Cameroon. And she really has a, just a heartbreaking story. And they've put, they've just put their weight behind this movement because they really believe in it. And it's, it's been fascinating for me to, to learn about. And it's an honor to be able to tell their stories and to give them a platform to tell their own stories.

Speaker 7: 28:51 Good afternoon. I am Dennis. I was born in Haiti

Speaker 6: 29:01 When I talked to John, Dennis, Louie. He was sitting on his bed in his apartment in Tijuana. His 10 month old baby girl was busy, climbing all over him. As we spoke in Haiti, then he's made life as a traditional dance instructor and performer and his wife ran a restaurant in the city. Life was hard, but okay, but sustaining their okay life eventually got too hard. Haiti was still reeling from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck in 2010. So when hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, it was just totally devastating. Dennis and thousands of other Haitians packed their bags and headed first to Brazil, then to the U S border. Some of the Haitians journeys were difficult and dangerous and involved long treacherous hikes through jungles without clean drinking water. But Dennis was lucky to have enough money to fly directly from Haiti to the Quanta. He planted declare asylum in the U S but when he got to the border, everyone he talked to told him he'd be detained and deported. If he tried,

Speaker 5: 30:12 I choose Mexico because I don't, I don't want to breeze off. I'm still here.

Speaker 6: 30:21 Then he's instead got a permit that allowed them to work and live in Mexico. His wife came a few years later and when they had a baby, all three of them got permanent residency here. Then he says the Quanta has been mostly good to him, but he has had his share of struggles at one of his first jobs in the city. His boss refused to pay him his full salary, knowing full well he'd have a hard time as a migrant taking any legal recourse against him. And recently his classmates at a local university cut him out of a group project and he ended up not getting the credit he deserved. He says, he's often made aware of his status as a second class citizen in Mexico through lots of microaggressions that add up over time. Then he says racism and discrimination are in the Quanah and everywhere in Mexico. But the worst part he says is that most Mexicans just won't admit it.

Speaker 5: 31:28 [inaudible] [inaudible] I guess, as I see [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 31:53 When migrants and activists in the chrono saw the black lives matter movement happening in San Diego and other cities across the globe, they got inspired to bring the movement to the border activists. And the Quanah actually worked with black lives matter leaders in San Diego to make it happen. One of the goals was to bring attention to the Haitian migrant who died in police custody in January police still haven't even released the man's name. It's risky for migrants to get out on the streets and protest for their rights, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Not to mention the fact that many of them don't have legal status and are at risk of deportation by Mexican immigration officials, but they were willing to take that risk. And at noon on Saturday, June 14th then is Jay and about 50 other people showed up at a chop at a Plaza near the Sandy, see that a port of entry where migrants go to sign up for asylum. From there, they marched to Plaza, Santa Cecilia, the same Plaza where the Haitian migrant died in police custody earlier this year At the protest, Jay chanted and dance, and then grabbed the microphone, hooked up to a large speaker. She wanted to share her story because like Denny's, she says not enough people are talking about Mexico's racism.

Speaker 8: 33:27 I do it. I'm there. Yes, of course I can do it. I will have to organize the first two martyrs ear in the speech. Yes. I make my speech that he yours because my people too much long time, long, long time, he didn't want to stop it. Okay. We want to say enough is enough

Speaker 6: 34:17 Suffered very much in your life. And you've been through so much. What, what gives you strain will give will keeps you

Speaker 8: 34:25 My children love of my children. [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 34:43 Just like Jay. Then he says he was willing to get out on the streets in the middle of a pandemic, not for himself, but for his kid. He says he wants to start the work now to help make a better world for her.

Speaker 8: 35:07 [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] you should expect them.

Speaker 9: 35:48 That's an excerpt from the new season of the KPBS podcast, port of entry. I've been speaking with host Alan Lillian Thall. The podcast is produced by Kenzie Moreland. The director of sound design is Emily. Jen Koski. You can subscribe to the series now by visiting port of entry, pod.org, or just search port of entry in your favorite podcast app.

Speaker 9: 36:24 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh live opera is back, but with a twist, San Diego opera will be staging Labo M in the parking lot of the Pacheco arena, San Diego next week, KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with the opera's director could tour a stick in about how COVID and an outdoor venue are changing the production Katurah. So this opera season is going to be very strange because of COVID and San Diego opera has come up with a means of putting on a production this year, which is going to be outdoors. So talk about the particular challenges of this, the outdoor challenge, which I know is very new for San Diego opera is not particularly new for me as a director. So I wasn't worried about that as much. I just, my checklist had to change in terms of what I was asking, but the bigger challenge come with with the, the, the onstage COVID protocol, more, one of the biggest ones being that each singer needs 120 square feet of their own, wherever they are on stage, meaning that they cannot be any closer than 15 feet from the person that they are singing towards and no closer than four feet on either side.

Speaker 9: 37:46 That challenge changed the entire way that I, that I had to think about what the piece that I was putting together. So that that's actually been the bigger one. There's other things in terms of social distancing between me and my assistant and between me and the lighting designer. Whereas in a lot of times in tech rehearsals, I'll be able to come up and whisper in somebody's ear, a note or something that we can change on the fly. We just aren't going to have that ability and we'll be on walkie talkies, but that sort of close contact that is so integral to putting a piece together quickly is just not something that's going to be available to us. And so we've had to really rethink how we communicate with each other in this tight schedule that we have. You mentioned, you've worked in outdoor spaces before, but is this the first driving opera done?

Speaker 9: 38:35 It is the first drive in opera. Yes. You know, I know that there've been a couple of other companies around the world right now. Who've been experimenting a little bit with derive in opera and, and, uh, it feels really exciting to be one of those, maybe three companies, you know, and I just think there's something so fascinating about, about the, the idea that a we can do live performance, which is something that so many of us in the business were just afraid was going to take so long to get back. But also just, I think every time you watch a show from a different perspective, it changes the way you see the show. And I, what I'm really excited about is just what the storytelling feels like in this type of venue. Yeah. It's a first, it's an absolute first for me and for all of us on stage and for all of us backstage too,

Speaker 10: 39:20 With these new COVID restrictions in terms of how close people can be, this particular opera would seem to be a challenge because there are a lot of moving parts and, and people on stage all the time. So how did you go about tackling that?

Speaker 9: 39:35 There's a couple of things. One is we needed to get the opera down, so that to a, an amount of time that could be done in one sitting so that people weren't trying to deal with intermission and that there weren't as many people who were needing to use the bathroom facilities for instance. So we've gotten it down to, uh, I believe right now we think it's at 86 minutes. Uh, we'll, we'll get into music rehearsals and we'll know a little more about that. But 86 minutes means that we had to cut the chorus. Then the chorus going away was sad, but necessary both from a spacing point of view, we do not have space for 120 square feet for every chorus member. It's just, it's just impossible. But also just it's the easiest way to get the timing down to a point where we're simply looking at the experiential moments of these characters all put together. And I think actually as much as I miss the core sequences, I missed the act to craze that happens at the beginning. There's something about really honing in on these intimate moments between characters that I think is going to allow both us as performers, then the creative team and the audience to take a deeper look at each of these people, uh, as, as their stories told. So that's been sort of an exciting silver lining in, in putting this piece together the way we've had to do it.

Speaker 10: 40:54 Yeah. I was going to ask if having the combination of having to rethink it in terms of how you produce it and stage it, but also, you know, rethinking it from the point of view that you've been in quarantine. We have a pandemic, there's all this stuff going on. I'm wondering if you found new layers or different themes that popped for you more this time.

Speaker 9: 41:15 Yeah, definitely. I, you know, the storytelling itself has changed. The story is the same, but this is a piece that is about loss and it is about missing somebody or just the possibility of missing somebody. And I found it so poetic that we as performers, the performers all have to be in these little pods. They have to be 120 square feet of space around them. They're protected from each other. They can't get anywhere near each other. And I feel like we're all sort of like that right now. We were all unable to touch our loved ones, unable to hug each other, unable to get close. And so there is a mirroring that's happening and I've actually taken the story in that direction. I, uh, I decided in thinking about it, that, that instead of trying to pretend like we're doing it normally, Labo M was originally a series of short stories written by a man named non-renew measure.

Speaker 9: 42:09 And he, he actually wrote him. It's a lot, there's a lot of autobiography in it. And he wrote himself as, as Rudolf, uh, who is also of course, in, in the opera. So I actually have Rudolfo, we're setting it in his study 10 years after the death of Mimi. He's writing these stories and because of the nature of memory, which I love, I love this moment that you can dive so deeply into a memory and hear everything and smell things and feel things, but you can't actually touch what happened, it's it doesn't exist anymore. And so I'm allowing these people who came through his life to appear and disappear as the memories, as fragments, as the memories sort of course through him. But he's in his study reliving this and Mimi, because she is conceivably, the only one who has passed away, Mimi is both a memory and also a ghost.

Speaker 9: 43:05 And so she can exist in real time in his space. It became this whole give and take about how do we deal with memories that are so deep and so hard to process on a certain level. When we think about the death of someone that we love very much, that's, there's a certain amount of moving through and letting go that has to happen. And sometimes we need permission from are the ghosts of our past and from our memories to, to move forward. And I feel like when I started reading the text, that's so much of it is about working through this trauma and guilt that he feels for how he, he was dealing with me, me at the time and not being able to really, truly accept her illness. And I just thought, what if Mimi could be there and could tell him, you know, it's okay and, and allow him to release her. And so we're playing with a whole different idea of this storytelling. It's the same story. We will see the same wild histrionics, the same characters, but from being conjured from a man who is looking back on a time that was both joyous and troubling for him in his past. All right. Well, I want to thank you very much, and I am looking forward to this drive in version of love poem. Yeah, me too. Thank you so much. It's great to talk to you.

Speaker 8: 44:31 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 44:34 That was Beth Armando speaking with Labo. M director could touristic and San Diego operas drive in production of Labo. M starts October 24th.

Speaker 8: 47:44 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.