Shining (Candle) Light on Santa Barbara History

Trust for Historic Preservation to Perform Reenactments

In order to provide community members with a new perspective and experience of local historical events, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is hosting its first Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight event on March 1.

Participants can embark on free candlelight tours throughout the buildings of the Presidio and witness firsthand living history vignettes portraying the lives and conversations of past government officials, soldiers, and residents. Los Soldados de Real Presidio de Santa Barbara will perform a military drill and lower the flag in front the Presidio chapel to start off the event, then retreat to the El Cuartel area where they will play cards, strum guitars, clean their muskets, and reenact the recreational lifestyle of soldiers. Soldiers and other members of SBTHP will also direct guests toward other living history events taking place throughout the evening.

“People can walk up on their own, spend as much or as little time at each sight, and go at their own pace,” said Karen Anderson, director of education for the trust.

Dr. Jarrell Jackman, executive director of the trust, said he was inspired by similar candlelight tours and activities he experienced at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc, events that he felt could be just as successful and atmospheric at the Presidio.

“It’s a really interesting perspective at nighttime because it’s under-lit,” explained Jackman. “You can get more of a sense of time and place.”

Jackman will portray Lieutenant Felipe de Goicoechea — the comandante of El Presidio who supervised the construction of its fortifications and living quarters — in the comandancia room. He will also reenact conversations the comandante may have had with fellow historical persons, Felipe de Neve, the Spanish governor of Las Californias, portrayed by local historian Michael Hardwick, and Lieutenant José Francisco de Ortega, the first comandante of El Presidio, portrayed by one of his descendants, Jose Martinez.

As a 1st Thursday event, Jackson expects several hundred people in attendance for Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight, especially since it’s an event never before offered.

“We’re trying to do some more living history to make it more interesting,” Jackman added.

Early California dancing will also be performed by local dance troupe Las Fiesteras in the chapel along with early California music by Luis Moreno and Company, allowing visitors to hear and see the performing arts of early Californian settlers. There will be cooking in the cocina of traditional early Californian food in the form of albondigas soup, a dish Anderson says is directly referenced within Lt. Ortega’s memoirs. Some reenactors will process Sonoran wheat in the northeast corner of the Presidio near the vegetable garden. Edith Ogella, along with some companions, will present handcrafts in the room adjacent to the chapel, providing a window into traditional domestic activities.

Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight is a free event that will take place on Thursday, March 1 from 5-8 p.m. at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, located on 123 East Canon Perdido Street.


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