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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

California Governor, Lawmakers Set $9.6B Virus Spending Plan

Cover image for podcast episode

CREDIT: POOL PHOTO VIA CBS 8

Above: Cars line up at the vaccination super station at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Feb. 12, 2021.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have agreed on a $9.6 billion spending deal aimed at aiding some of those hit hardest by the pandemic. Plus, a USD professor and the Democracy Fund Foundation released a report detailing the physical, psychological and economic costs of political violence in the United States. And the new government entity, called San Diego Community Power, will launch March 1 with half of its electricity coming from renewable sources. Then, the first group of West Coast female Marine recruits officially started training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Feb. 10. Plus, KPBS’ “Port of Entry” wraps up its series on cross-border love stories with a tale of kids in need of love, and one woman’s work to turn her own pain into purpose. Finally, academic, author and photographer Caitlin O’ Connell is out with a new book about what we can learn about community from animals.

Speaker 1: 00:00 State leaders agree on a $9.6 billion economic stimulus deal.

Speaker 2: 00:05 Do you want to try and get this money out relatively quickly, at least in terms of how the state does things to the people that need it?

Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition, Social violence and mass shootings also have economic costs.

Speaker 3: 00:29 All of Boston was shut down after the marathon bombing. Again, you know, the estimates are that that costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

Speaker 1: 00:37 The KPBS podcast, port of entry focuses on orphanages in Baja and what humans could learn from animals about the importance of ritual

Speaker 3: 00:49 Midday edition,

Speaker 1: 01:00 A massive $9.6 billion pandemic recovery plan begins working its way through the California legislature today. State leaders and governor Newsome have already agreed on key aspects of the package, which include a one-time $600 stimulus check for the lowest income Californians plus more than $2 million in grants for small businesses. The state legislature is expected to fast track the economic stimulus package with approval coming as early as next Monday, Johnny has reporter Katie or of [inaudible] politics and government desk. And Katie welcome. Thanks for having me, Maureen, who are the people who qualify for the state $600 stimulus checks?

Speaker 2: 01:42 Well, as you mentioned, these are among California's lowest income earners. So people making under $30,000 a year, it also includes the undocumented people who are also low income earners, but who were left out of the original federal funded stimulus plan. And on top of that, it also expands the coverage to people who are enrolled in the CalWORKs programs. Also people who get SSI payments and another, uh, cash assistance programs for immigrants here in California. So really trying to hit more low incomes in the state in total, uh, they'll make a 5.7 million payments to low-income California.

Speaker 1: 02:25 Okay then, and, and the first state stimulus plan for small businesses, if I recall correctly helped only a small fraction of the companies who applied, how was this plan different?

Speaker 2: 02:36 Well, for starters, it's much bigger in January. The governor, um, proposed an additional $500 million in grants to small businesses on top of, uh, ones that had already been in place. This increases that to more than $2 billion and businesses can get up to $25,000 if they have been impacted by the pandemic. And it also allocates $50 million for a cultural institutions like museums and non-profits.

Speaker 1: 03:05 So this multi-billion dollar stimulus plan includes a whole range of payments to various individuals from state subsidized childcare and preschool providers to community college students who need emergency financial aid, which parts of the package I wonder caught your attention.

Speaker 2: 03:23 Well, certainly, you know, I cover childcare a lot. This includes $400 million in federal aid for childcare immediately. It also includes, uh, $850 million in fee waivers for places like bars and restaurants. You know, they have to pay fees to the, uh, Bureau of alcoholic beverage control. Those get postponed for two years, that also includes people who have to pay barber and cosmetology fees. It also restores cuts to the CSU and UC system that have been made in the beginning of the pandemic. So it covers quite a lot of ground.

Speaker 1: 03:59 How does the state plan to pay for this $9.6 billion stimulus package?

Speaker 2: 04:05 Well, as I mentioned, there is some federal money in there, but bottom line, the state is just in a better position than it expected to be when the pandemic hit. And that's because, um, it didn't hit everybody equally. As we see low income earners were hit, especially hard while high-income earners were more easily able to adjust to working at home. Also their stock investments continued to do well, which is a taxes on stocks is something that California relies heavily on. And so we're left with a $15 billion one time surplus, which is paying for a lot of this package.

Speaker 1: 04:43 And to be clear, this state stimulus package is completely separate from the Biden economic stimulus, which is still being hammered out in Washington, is California planning on getting funds from that proposal. If it comes to pass,

Speaker 2: 04:57 It's hard to say right now, you know, uh, the house proposal at the moment calls for States to get $350 billion States and local governments, I should say a $350 billion in aid. We'll see if that remains, when the final package gets, um, gets hammered out. I do think just in general, the state is expecting more money from the federal government under the new Biden administration. And in fact, um, earlier a couple of weeks ago, the state announced that it has $1.2 billion from the federal government that came as part of their December relief plan, that they were able to pass on to counties, uh, for things like vaccine, uh, preparation and administration and, and COVID testing and tracing. So there is more money coming into California. I'm just not, we're not sure yet if there will be anything in this next COVID relief package. And if so, how large it will be.

Speaker 1: 05:51 Is there bipartisan support for the state stimulus package?

Speaker 2: 05:55 There is uncertain elements of it. For instance, the small business, uh, proposal is something that Republicans are already cheering. They have lobbied for more help for small businesses. It remains to be seen if they are on board with, you know, for instance, extending, um, direct cash payments to more Californians. And I'm sure we'll hear more about that in the debates about this package, as it moves forward,

Speaker 1: 06:19 How quickly do state legislators want to see these checks in the hands of California's neediest?

Speaker 2: 06:25 Well, they're hoping that for those who, um, get the state, the earned income tax credit and for the undocumented people who might qualify for the $600 tax payment that they could get those shortly after they filed their 20, 20 tax returns, um, people who receive CalWORKs and might get this direct benefit, could see, um, checks coming in mid April. So they do want to try and get this money out relatively quickly, at least in terms of how the state does things, uh, to the people that need them.

Speaker 1: 06:53 I've been speaking with a reporter Katie or of [inaudible] politics and government desk. Katie, thank you. You're welcome.

Speaker 4: 07:08 A new report from the democracy fund takes a close look at the human and economic harm caused by acts of political violence and the aftermath of a riot or upheaval communities incur significant economic costs, not only grief and trauma, but also damage to property in lost revenue. The report also looks at the strategies to prevent respond to and support recovery from hate crimes, terrorism, extremism, armed protests, and excessive use of force by law enforcement. The author of the report, Andrew Bluhm, executive director of the Kroc Institute for peace and justice at the university of San Diego joins us with more. Andrew, welcome.

Speaker 2: 07:49 Thank you for having me. We

Speaker 4: 07:51 All know that political violence indeed violence of any kind is destructive and can be costly besides the human costs loss of life and injury. What are some other costs that communities face after a violent incident?

Speaker 2: 08:04 As I was putting together this report, one of the things that really struck me is the cost of, of psychological harm and trauma. Um, after the El Paso attack at the Walmart, for instance, over 400 people applied for support, most of which, uh, applied for help with psychological problems. So really that was one thing that struck me is the scope of, of trauma throughout the whole community. After some of these attacks

Speaker 4: 08:37 And your report analyzes what the costs are, how does knowing what violent events like the January 6th insurrection actually costs Washington DC help society as a whole?

Speaker 2: 08:47 Well, really one of the core purposes of this report was, was to document some of those costs. So we could see investing

Speaker 3: 08:56 In prevention was actually a good investment. You know, if you see how, how costly these events are and also how, you know, cost effective, some of the interventions can be, you know, we really hope funders businesses, community leaders will be galvanized to invest in the kind of prevention strategies that can be used. Um, so we don't experience this kind of violence.

Speaker 4: 09:24 And tell us about some of your findings, you know, that economic damage can be extensive. I know, right?

Speaker 3: 09:29 Yeah. And one of the things we found was, you know, we, we see the property loss, um, you know, we see damages to buildings, but that's, that's actually a very small percentage of the damage. The real costs, uh, economic costs are lost revenue folks that can't go to work. You know, all of Boston was shut down after the marathon bombing. And, you know, the estimates are that that costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business revenue

Speaker 4: 09:58 And the report cites psychological damages as well. Give us some examples. How do you measure those?

Speaker 3: 10:04 You know, there's different ways that researchers have, have measured those. I mean, for instance, after the Virginia tech attack, um, they interviewed students and students were experiencing symptoms of PTSD post traumatic stress disorder. And it was over 400 students that were just on campus during that attack, not even directly impacted. And so that's one way. And another really interesting finding in the report is they looked at emergency rooms after the horrible events in Charlottesville. And so many more individuals were visiting emergency room was psychological symptoms. So they could see that spike happening kind of in real time in the emergency rooms, after those violent attacks.

Speaker 4: 10:52 And what did you learn about our own local communities and the impact? Uh, there was the Habbat of Poway incident, for example,

Speaker 3: 11:00 You know, that's a very interesting example. You could see, you know, how the ripples of that attack moved out through our Jewish community here in San Diego. And in the report we talk about not just individuals who experience the attack or witnessed the attack, but the community that's targeted, whether that's the Jewish community or a migrant community and how that trauma is experienced at a very visceral level by the community being targeted. And you could see that, you know, in the Jewish community here in San Diego County

Speaker 4: 11:38 Court addresses what can be done to prevent or mitigate political violence. You argue that investment in six areas is key. Tell me about those

Speaker 3: 11:47 Really what, what all of that means, what those six things mean sort of together is that this is not a problem for just one part of society. It's not just a law enforcement problem. It's not just, uh, a social services problem. Um, what the research has shown is when all parts of society are working together, you get the most effective strategies

Speaker 4: 12:10 And the area of social trust. Uh, it seems to be a particular problem today. How do we address that issue?

Speaker 3: 12:17 There is no cookie cutter, uh, recipe, uh, for this kind of, for this kind of problem. But there is, you know, there is research that shows if you bring, you know, people from different backgrounds, people from diverse backgrounds, uh, into dialogue with each other, into contact with each other, and particularly if they're solving problems together, uh, you will go, uh, an increased level of trust. Um, the report also talks about the importance of police community relations. You know, obviously that's a very fraught topic right now, but I think, you know, the black lives matters protests. The George Floyd incident has really surfaced that issue in a way, um, that allows us to get to the heart of some of those problems. So what are the ways we can bring police and community together to work in a shared way on solving problems? You know, some of that is, is dialogue. Some of that is holding police accountable to some of the changes we want to see, but that's that kind of between a community and its institutions and its government and institutions. That's another really important part of social trust.

Speaker 4: 13:30 And, you know, another issue that we see, especially with the rise of extremist groups and conspiracy theories is that there's this prevalence of outright lies and misinformation everywhere. You know, what can we do when there are people who don't believe the facts,

Speaker 3: 13:45 Um, in every community, there's going to be trusted leaders that people will look to, uh, to understand what's going on. Um, that could be faith leaders that could be community leaders that could be, um, government leaders. But so that's one, one way is ensuring trusted community leaders are empowered to provide accurate information. Um, the report didn't go as much into the kind of online environment. Um, there's, there's great work being done on how we create, um, less misinformation and online spaces. So obviously that's a key aspect of the challenge as well.

Speaker 4: 14:28 I've been speaking with Andrew Bluhm, executive director of the Kroc Institute for peace and justice at the university of San Diego. Andrew, thank you.

Speaker 3: 14:37 Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Speaker 4: 14:46 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann on March 1st,

Speaker 1: 14:52 Five cities in San Diego County. We'll be getting a bit greener, a new government agency formed to speed up the transition to renewable energy. We'll officially start serving customers, KPBS. Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen has more on how San Diego community power is impacting the energy business director. Montgomery here directed to Dina.

Speaker 5: 15:16 Yeah. Like most everyone else. These days, the governing board of San Diego community power meets via zoom at the start of each meeting, they pledged to a picture of the American flag on their screens with Liberty and justice. SDC P is a community choice energy program. It's not quite a utility. It doesn't own power lines, but soon it will be responsible for purchasing wholesale electricity on behalf of customers in San Diego, Chula Vista and Sanitas Lamesa and Imperial beach on March 1st, it will start powering city buildings like libraries and police stations. It'll start serving businesses in June, followed by homes in 2022,

Speaker 6: 15:56 Frankly, most people probably won't even notice that we're here.

Speaker 5: 15:58 Cody Hoven is SDC PS, chief operating

Speaker 6: 16:01 The officer. If they look at their bill, uh, they'll see a new line item with our name on it, uh, for the cost of generation of power,

Speaker 5: 16:10 Hoping their bills will be lower than under SDG and E but the biggest change STCP will bring is a massive boost in clean energy. 55% of its electricity will be carbon free compared with SDG and is 31%. Customers can also opt to pay a little more for 100% clean energy Chula Vista city council member, and STCP board members. Steve Pedea says, this is the central mission. Accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.

Speaker 7: 16:39 It impacts everything including public health. It impacts penetrating costs for businesses, industrial commercial clients, and of course, residential clients. But most of all, uh, it allows folks to really begin to reduce that footprint a lot sooner and a lot more broadly, uh, by offering that choice, um, and incentivizing that market

Speaker 5: 16:58 San Diego community power has fought hard to get to this point and STG hasn't exactly been an ally. The utilities parent companies spent years lobbying against SDC PS creation just last year. Who've been recalls her decision to hire a law firm, to double check SDG his rates.

Speaker 6: 17:16 Um, and I was little nervous to hire this firm and, you know, do I didn't need to spend this money? And we're a startup. So we think about every dollar we spend and right off the bat, they dug deep into the rates and found an $85 million, um, error math error that rate payers would have otherwise been charged.

Speaker 5: 17:31 That SDG was set to overcharge customers by $85 million STG. And he fixed the mistake before anyone was charged and who VIN doesn't think it was intentional, but she says it does show the utility can make mistakes.

Speaker 6: 17:46 To me, it really showed the value that we bring to the table of just making sure that repairs are, um, are protected and that we're checking, we're checking things for them.

Speaker 5: 17:55 SDG says it's committed to working with STCP and to a future with 100% clean energy right now STCP is busy preparing for its phase one launch next month. But as it grows to serve more customers, it plans to do a lot more than just buy electricity. Matthew Vassell lockets is co-director of policy for the nonprofit climate action campaign. He sees the potential for a host of new programs,

Speaker 3: 18:19 Incentivizing rooftop, solar for low-income communities, finding ways to really get our energy system back in our own backyard so that we don't have to deal with the power safety shutoffs that happened when the back country's on fire. So the more that we can start building local infrastructure incentivized by STCP with our own revenue, the better off we're going to be in terms of building out our 100% clean energy future

Speaker 5: 18:43 And says aside from offering cleaner and cheaper energy, the new power agency hopes to be more transparent and accessible than SDG

Speaker 6: 18:50 Businesses. Residents can come to our board meetings virtually now or in person. Um, they can talk to their elected officials and share what they think about their rates, about programs that we can offer about what we're doing well, what we should be doing better. So we hope to make energy a much more open concept for people and, and let them engage more than they probably have in the past.

Speaker 5: 19:12 The pressure is on to get things right when it's fully up and running STCP will be the second largest agency of its kind in California and people across the state will be watching to judge its success.

Speaker 1: 19:25 Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, and Andrew. Welcome.

Speaker 5: 19:30 Hi Maureen. Thanks.

Speaker 1: 19:32 The fact that San Diego community power is actually getting underway in two weeks may come as a surprise, even for people who followed the creation of this project, did the pandemic slow it down or is it right on track?

Speaker 5: 19:46 I don't think that the pandemic slowed down the lunch, the biggest impact, uh, that the pandemic had is probably just that they've saved money on office space almost a year and a half after their creation, all of the staffers still working remotely. And, um, they just, their only physical presence is a PO box. Um, but the launch I think is pretty much right on schedule

Speaker 1: 20:05 When it starts supplying power to public buildings. Next month, you report that 55% of that power will be carbon free. Where is the power coming from?

Speaker 5: 20:15 Well, I was hoping that, um, they might provide a list of actual physical generating stations, where they were signing their contracts, you know, getting their power. But as of the last interview that I did with the chief operating officer, they were still putting some finishing touches on those contracts. So they weren't quite ready to announce, um, before the ink is dry. Um, but they did say that there'll be contracting with a solar farm in San Diego County, um, that they're getting some wind and other renewable power in Riverside County. So, you know, a good mix of, uh, generating stations that are relatively close by.

Speaker 1: 20:49 And what do we know about the breaks? Are they lower than SDG and E

Speaker 5: 20:53 STG? Hasn't actually published their final rates for the customer class that, uh, San Diego community power will start serving, but, uh, San Diego community power has, uh, set their rates and they crunch the numbers to predict what SDG needs rates are going to be. And according to that, the, the baseline product, this 55% clean energy product, they predict to be about 6% cheaper. It's important to note, however, that actual electrical generation is a portion of your bill. The last bill that I go to, I checked it. It was about 24% of the total bill. And most of what you're paying is actually for the distribution and the delivery of that electricity through the grid. Um, so the overall savings they predict, um, with that baseline product would be about 3%, um, to the, you know, the final dollar and cents on your bill. But one thing to note on the rate comparison late last year, SDG, and he submitted a formula to the public utilities commission under their formula.

Speaker 5: 21:51 The rates would have actually dropped for SDG E right at the time when San Diego community power was launching and that would have caused an under collection, meaning the rates would not that long thereafter have to spike in order to make up for the difference. San Diego community power felt like this just wasn't a fair competition. There was sort of artificially lowering the rates and only temporarily. So they protested the public utilities commission, ultimately sided with them and approved an alternative where the rates are more stable on both sides and San Diego community power can reasonably compete on the price.

Speaker 1: 22:26 Okay. So when the community power agency expands to businesses this summer, will it be possible for businesses to stay with SDG? And if they want to,

Speaker 5: 22:36 Yes. San Diego community power plans on sending out to mailers prior to the actual launch, um, with, with those customers, and then two more afterwards to inform them of what the change is, what it means. Anyone can opt out that's required by state law. Um, and they can stick with San Diego gas and Electric's, uh, portfolio of electricity. Uh, the hope is really, you know, the model with this community choice thing. And the hope is that the two sides will compete for customers by, you know, trying to offer cheaper rates, maybe more renewable energy, better customer service, things like that.

Speaker 1: 23:11 And what about the connection between San Diego community power and the electric grid in terms of, is the idea that cities in this agency will be able to avoid rolling blackouts and other electricity disruptions that affect other parts of the County?

Speaker 5: 23:27 Well, the, a lot of those rolling blackouts don't come from say a failure at a generating station. They're more to do with the grid. And that is still, uh, even under this new system will still be SDG and E's domain. However, some folks further down the line do a future in micro grids where you have a sort of a self-sustaining network of power lines and power generators that might cover, uh, it exists in, in, in some ways already on say a college campus, a campus might have solar panels, a fuel cell on campus and natural gas generators in all of the, the power they generate stays on that campus. And they're able to basically be off the grid. Um, the idea, you know, is that maybe some time further down the line cities or even neighborhoods could replicate that

Speaker 1: 24:19 Also down the line. It seems like this new agency is looking forward to developing more access, to alternative energy sources, like electric charging stations, rooftop, solar, how does the San Diego community power agency plan to pay for that kind of expansion?

Speaker 5: 24:36 Sure. They'll pay for it with the rates that, that people are paying. So, um, they'll start collecting revenues after their launch next month. Uh, and then, you know, because of efficiencies or savings that they've managed to achieve with their, um, power contracts that they negotiate, um, they expect to have some money leftover and some of that will probably go into reserves, but then there's, there's a bit of extra money that they can choose what to do with and, and the expectation. And what we've seen with other community choice programs in California is they will offer more, uh, you know, say an extra incentive for rooftop solar, or, um, small scale energy generating stations within the community. So it is local power it's close by and you know, that's, um, that's what they're hoping to do.

Speaker 1: 25:24 Okay then, well, I want to thank you, KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen. Thanks a lot. My pleasure, Maureen, for the first time Marine recruits, who are women started training at the Marine Corps recruit Depot in San Diego last week, the Marines are the last service to separate men and women at bootcamp. The Corps is under a congressional mandate to ind segregated recruit training KPBS, military reporter. Steve Walsh has been following the new recruits

Speaker 8: 26:07 After two weeks of isolation under protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19 the first company to include female recruits officially stand at attention. The first in the a hundred year history of bootcamp in San Diego, they assemble outside the doors Mark through this portal walks the future of the United States Marine Corps drill instructor, staff, Sergeant Iyisha Zan was brought in from Paris Island, South Carolina, to be part of San Diego's first team of female drill instructors. Parasite Lynn has trained female recruits in separate units since the 1940s on their first days, as job was to put both male and female recruits through their paces.

Speaker 6: 26:54 Some people would, haven't gotten yelled at at all their whole life. They need to understand the difference. You're going to move. When I tell you to move, you're going to do what I tell you to do

Speaker 8: 27:01 Right now. Congress is telling the Corps. They have five years to end gender segregation at Paris Island and eight years at San Diego. They'll leadership is hinting that after holding out the Marines will try to beat Congress's timetable. Say it laid out the task for these women, with the bluntness of a drill instructor,

Speaker 6: 27:20 They have something to prove. They're the only females that is training right now. This is the first female platoon. So they are going to be going against all their brothers inside of that whole company. So they have to show everyone that they are worthy to be here.

Speaker 8: 27:34 19 year old, tad Totaro is from Hawaii, but she grew up in the Marshall Islands. She's starting to understand the significance.

Speaker 6: 27:42 I had no words at first, but now I take pride in that. You know, not many people get this opportunity here today.

Speaker 8: 27:49 Critics have charged that keeping men and women separate just as they become Marines has created larger issues for the Corps. In 2013, Elizabeth Fitzgerald commanded a company of female Marines at Paris Island. She has since left the Marines. She says during her time at Paris Island, a male instructor ordered their recruits to look away as the female recruits past that sterile believes the lack of integration led to chronic problems like online scandals, where active duty Marines were caught sharing and commenting on photos of female Marines.

Speaker 9: 28:22 All of our leadership traits, our leadership principles, our values, all of those are the foundation is laid right at boot camp.

Speaker 8: 28:29 Only about 9% of Marines are women, the lowest percentage of any service. They're also the youngest service on average, 70% are 24 years old or younger. Fitzgerald says it's not the young recruits, but they're leaders who struggle with integrating women at bootcamp.

Speaker 9: 28:47 The younger generation, I feel like never has an issue with the change. It's always stems from top leadership

Speaker 8: 28:58 In San Diego. The first female recruits were largely focused on the moment. 19 year old Gabrielle Latchford of Valparaiso, Indiana had just been given her gear

Speaker 6: 29:08 A little nervous, but nothing that I didn't expect. So her brother had been in Marine. We're going to learn a lot about ourselves. So we probably didn't learn before. We're going to build up our leadership skills and just overall build up our personality

Speaker 8: 29:22 Commanders at bootcamp, say this is still officially a test, but for now very few changes were required to train this first class as these new recruits men and women embark on the 13 weeks, it takes to become a us Marine, Steve Walsh, KPBS news, [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 29:51 Hilda Pacheco. Taylor has raised millions of dollars for orphanages in Mexico. She started a non-profit back in 1994 called Corazon Vida, which sends money to 10 orphanages across Tijuana, and then Sonata per checkout. Taylor isn't just some disconnected do gooder for her. The issue of orphan kids in Mexico is deeply personal because before she came to live in Southern California, she lived in an orphanage in Sonata. In this episode of KPBS is border podcast, port of entry, Pacheco Taylor tells host Ella Lillian Thall about how she turned her personal pain into power and purpose.

Speaker 10: 30:37 So Hilda eventually worked your way into a great job at a consulting firm in orange County. She got married, had kids of her own, but a nice house. She was living a pretty successful Southern California life, but in 1993, her life took a sharp turn in a new direction because she got the urge to go back to Mexico, to see the orphanage. She came from

Speaker 9: 31:11 Almost like wanting to go back home, you know, but I had no idea what I was in for. I was just, it was just supposed to be a visit. I had no idea. I remember, you know, coming in and we wanted to do something special for the kids. Like do a little, you know, bring some candy or something. And the first thing that I remember was that, you know, the place didn't look as nice as it did when I was there.

Speaker 10: 31:40 Hilda says the buildings were just totally broken down. Everything was shabby and just sad

Speaker 9: 31:47 And, um, became partly around 11 in the morning. So soon it was lunchtime. And when we went into the dining room and saw what they were serving for lunch, it just, it hit me really hard because I, I saw that they had something like beans and potato chips or beans and something very, very simple like that. And the director was saying that that's all they had to, to feed the kids that day.

Speaker 10: 32:34 It turns out that the American missionaries who ran the place when Hilda was there had retired and when they left, so did most of the U S donors. So things were dire.

Speaker 9: 32:46 And the Mexican director that was there started telling us that they hadn't paid the staff. The few staff members that were left had not paid them in six months. And they kept cutting their electricity because they couldn't pay the electricity. So then they would run around trying to get donations to pay that

Speaker 10: 33:09 When Hilda heard that she decided right then and there that she had to do something.

Speaker 9: 33:18 I said, if other people were doing it for me, I'm going to do it for these kids.

Speaker 10: 33:25 Hilda says it wasn't even a choice for her. This was her home and it needed help

Speaker 9: 33:33 Pair it to, you know, any, any other person that grew up in an, in a normal household, in a normal home, realizing later in life, what your parents did to support you. You know, the fact that your parents had to work and sacrifice so that they could pay for rent and food and, and care so that it was very similar to that. For me,

Speaker 10: 33:56 Hilda had no idea how she was going to get the money. She just knew she had to get it. Hilda went back to orange County and the very next day started talking to her coworkers. And really everyone she knew telling them about this orphanage down in Mexico that needed help. And at first she wasn't getting a ton of traction. One thing she kept hearing was that people would rather help kids on this side of the border.

Speaker 9: 34:33 And then we would, I would get people that would say, why isn't Mexico taking care of their own kids?

Speaker 10: 34:39 Yeah, eventually though Hilda found her superpower up until this point. Hilda had spent her entire adult life ashamed of her past. And in part, because she lived in a place like orange County where glitz and glamour are everywhere. She had gone out of her way to hide her past.

Speaker 9: 35:04 I didn't know how people were going to react and I didn't know how they were. I didn't want them to see me any differently. This was an all English speaking company and I was only a Spanish speaking person. I spoke English, but with a heavy accent and I wasn't as fluid in my speaking. So I already kind of had that as a little bit of an issue in trying to assimilate and be part of the team. And in, in back of my mind, initially, it was thinking, okay, if I tell them that I grew up in an orphanage, now they're going to see me as, you know, something less, you know, in, in a sense. And that was my fear,

Speaker 10: 35:41 But she finally did work up the courage to share her personal story. And immediately she saw how she could turn her pain into power

Speaker 9: 35:56 To tell them about my past, my background and about the fact that I grew up in an orphanage. I hadn't told anybody that I was in a, you know, obviously a new country learning a new language and trying to assimilate and definitely not wanting anyone to feel sorry for me. So it was always nerve wracking. I could never get through my story without crying, but it was really the best thing that I could have done because right away, everybody wanted to hear

Speaker 10: 36:48 From that point on, it was an easy sell. People started really wanting to be a part of Hilda's personal mission to get the orphanage back up on its feet. What have you learned about how sharing your story allowed you to do so much more,

Speaker 9: 37:06 Sometimes being vulnerable. It opens you up a lot more to receive what you're supposed to receive. And sometimes it takes that.

Speaker 4: 37:15 And that was Hilda Pacheco Taylor, founder of Corazon, DaVita talking with port of entry hosts, Alan Lillian thought to hear the full episode, get port of entry online at port of entry, pod.org,

Speaker 10: 37:28 Wherever you listen to podcasts,

Speaker 4: 37:41 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen cabinet, elephants have a multi-step greeting ritual, including to put their trunks in one another's mouth. It's their way of shaking hands. But what can we take away from knowing about animal rituals like that one academic author and photographer, Caitlin O'Connell, who also happens to be a San Diego and is out with a new book that explores this it's called wild rituals, 10 lessons. Animals can teach us about connection community and ourselves. Caitlin. Welcome. Thanks so much for having me in general. What can we say? What can we take away rather from understanding rituals that take place in both human and wild animal societies?

Speaker 10: 38:24 The reason I wrote this book was I was so struck by how important ritual is to the rest of the animal kingdom that I realized there's a lot of

Speaker 11: 38:36 Ritual that we tend to neglect. And I think, you know, I started writing this book before the pandemic, but I think the pandemic has made us realize what we're losing by not being in person with each other, by not being able to smile at each other, because we all have to wear a mask to stay safe and hugging or shaking hands. Those are really important greeting rituals that sometimes we take for granted, even in our own households, you know, looking at each other in the eye and in the morning, you're rushing to our coffee machine and kind of, uh, get my coffee. But just that simple moment of looking at your partner or family member loved one in the eye and saying, good morning seems so obvious, but it's often just overlooked. And I wanted to bring back the idea of how important simple rituals are in our lives. So I focus on 10 that I see on a daily basis in the wild with elephants and other animals. And, uh, I thought it would help us look in the mirror more closely and, and realize the importance of ritual in our lives.

Speaker 4: 39:45 If it helps us to look in the mirror, does it help us create an increased compassion?

Speaker 11: 39:50 Definitely because if we realize that we're all this extended family, really, we're all social animals and all of these rituals are important. If they're important to other animals and to us, then that makes us more interconnected and compassionate, you know, seeing other animals going through grieving rituals is a really stunning reminder of how similar we are and how we have the same needs emotional needs.

Speaker 4: 40:20 I described a part of an elephant ritual earlier, but can you give me another example of an animal ritual that you write about in the book

Speaker 11: 40:28 Or, you know, the whole idea of greening is really to disarm, uh, another individuals and maintain peace. So for example, two black rhinos coming into a waterhole to drink they're very aggressive and very territorial, but the first thing they do is basically leave their swords at the door. They come up to each other and put their horns face-to-face and then kind of do a little bit of a, a jousting motion back and forth with their horns. And then the, all of the anxiety is just released and then they can drink and peace knowing that they did this. So it's a very interesting thing for an elephant is a very trusting thing to place a trunk in another's mouth. The other, the other elephant could bite off the tip of his trunk. So by doing that, it's a very trusting and very similar to the handshake cause it's like, I see you, uh, I respect you, uh, in, in the original act of the handshake is thought to show the other person that they're not carrying a weapon so that this very disarming aspect to a greeting ritual that keeps the peace aside from the bonding aspect of it.

Speaker 4: 41:46 Connection and community are two aspects of daily life. That so many of us are struggling to get a handle on these days. Just one, is it about animal rituals that can help us strengthen our understanding of that?

Speaker 11: 41:58 Yeah. Connection is a really important one. And, and, um, I drive this home in my group rituals chapter it's thought that we developed group rituals in order to facilitate hunting. In our early days, we had to hunt the giant sloths and the mammoth. And there's no way that one person could do that by themselves, but by engaging in ritual, in order to build trust in a hunting party, these kinds of behaviors developed. So what is a group ritual and you think of a marching band and synchronized swimmers, they all are doing something, a repeated action that's recognizable and, or, you know, a religious right, repeating a prayer or singing together. These actions stimulate the amygdala and other areas of the brain to focus their attention on that one thing. And that also facilitates long-term memory and what these simple actions of moving your arms in a synchronized way with other members of the group creates a bonding and identity within that group and makes you feel stronger and empowered and having this group cohesive nature. Uh, so we all have these rituals and the same mechanism for creating that strength in the group. Um, but it's very important to keep that in perspective so that we make group rituals a positive thing and not a negative thing.

Speaker 4: 43:28 So then what is the impact of not being able to engage in these rituals?

Speaker 11: 43:33 Well, I think we're all feeling the isolation from the pandemic, um, being in physical contact, tactile contact in just being in presence and not over zoom, you know, zoom, at least you get to see each other's faces and facial expressions, but the non-spoken ritual aspect of being in the same room, there's a hormones like oxytocin, which is called the bonding hormone that occurs between a mother and a baby or two loved ones, or even you and your dog. When you gaze at each other and are in physical proximity, you gain these hormonal benefits. And those benefits really help facilitate stronger relationships. And we're really suffering from not being able to be together,

Speaker 4: 44:25 Have any thoughts on how we can continue to perform some of these rituals right now when we need to stay six feet away, uh, from people who don't live with us.

Speaker 11: 44:34 Well, that's an excellent question. I think one of the things is that I think a lot of us tend to get a little lazy and not want to have to deal with this. Um, and so we just turn further into ourselves as opposed to saying, you know what, it's still important and we have to be six feet apart, but at least we can be together and it takes more energy to figure out how to stay connected, but it's all the more important to do so now, because we're all suffering from this,

Speaker 4: 45:06 I've been speaking to Caitlin O'Connell, who was out with a new book, wild rituals, 10 lessons, animals can teach us about connection community and ourselves. Thank you so much, Kaitlin.

Speaker 11: 45:17 Oh, thanks so much for having me.

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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.