BALBOA PARK'S CULTURAL COTTAGES A message from our President
As the President of the House of Pacific Relations, I hope to preserve the organization’s non-political, non-sectarian nature. For the past 80 years, the City of San Diego has fostered a near utopian
multicultural organization known as the House of Pacific Relations (HPR). According to its bylaws, “The purpose of the House of Pacific Relations, International Cottages and its members is to create
a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill among the various national and ethnic groups represented in the community.” The bylaws go on to say that, the HPR will present programs of an
educational, civic, cultural, and artistic nature to create a greater appreciation of the cultural heritage of the diverse national or ethnic groups among the membership of the HPR. Over the years, the HPR
has become a bastion of peace, hope and tolerance to me and to thousands of other San Diegans while the rest of the world has been embroiled in conflict and mutual distrust. Unlike many other organizations,
no group that meets the criteria set forth is excluded from membership. As is our lady justice, we are blind to race, creed, color, religion, national origin and political affiliation.
Our esteemed organization was conceived during the darkest days leading up to World War II as a way to foster pacific (as in “peaceful”) relations among the many splintered ethnic groups during the 1930s.
These groups included members of cultures from the Axis and Allies who were bitter enemies. Despite the hostility between the nations before, during and after the war, these cottages were able to peacefully
coexist as non-political and non-sectarian cultural organizations. Coexisting in this manner in a small corner of the park, volunteering side by side, they shared their cultures -- music, dance, art, and food --
with each other and the community at large thereby increasing tolerance mutual trust and respect within and without the organization.
The message is the same today as it was in 1935. The HPR has grown over the years increasing from about 15 to the 33 different cultures that are represented today. Over the years, various Houses have
formed and disbanded. Nonetheless, each has been able to share and learn with each other, leaving behind the political differences of their cultural heritages. With this mission of creating cultural understanding,
we welcome cultural groups that spring from war-torn and strife-ridden corners of the globe as well as those from more peaceful areas.
Recently, there has been some criticism in the community of the fact that some “Houses” are not actual countries. This is understandable as many people equate a culture with a political entity, but it unfortunately
misses the point. The “Houses” have no affiliation with the countries or regions for which they are named. They represent not the political entities, but their cultures. All are welcome in the HPR so long as they
abide by our bylaws.
As an example, the HPR is currently celebrating its newest member, House of Korea. In order to become a member House, the House of Korea went through a rigorous process. Prior to applying for membership
the group had to be organized as a non-political, non-sectarian, not for profit group for at least 6 months and their bylaws had to comply with the bylaws and rules the HPR is governed by. The House was
then on probationary status for one year, before it became our newest member House. This is the same process all of our current and former member Houses have followed.
This year we are hoping to break ground on nine cottages. This will mean that nine Houses that are already members of the HPR will be able to build cottages and get a physical presence in the park.
Each member House had an opportunity to participate in the effort to convince the City of San Diego to allow new cottages to be built, to raise the funds to build the new cottages, and to bring their
collective dream to fruition. Since there are no public or taxpayer funds being spent on the houses, some of our Houses decided that their membership was too low to try to make such a large investment.
The nine latest Houses to construct Cottages will spend hundreds of thousands of their own money to help continue this 80-year tradition for the next generation.
Let us stand united on the principles upon which this organization is built, “understanding, tolerance and goodwill among the various national and ethnic groups represented in the community,”
and reject the expedience of politics. Let each House and Cottage be enjoyed for its contributions to the organization and to cultural diversity. Please join us any Sunday in the park to enjoy the music,
taste the food, see the dancers, and experience the cultural diversity, harmony and cooperation that is the HPR.
Eugenie A. King
President House of Pacific Relations.