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A brewery was born in Barrio Logan back in the 1930s, rising from the ashes of Prohibition, and it served more than beer. Patrons could gape at the murals on the walls and ceiling of the Aztec Brewing Co. tasting room, the product of a Spanish portrait painter who’d been sent on a cultural tour by the king of Spain.

The artist created lavish and vibrant murals full of Aztec and Mayan themes, including one depicting a human sacrifice. “Those were the days of the pleasure palaces and high level of imagination and fantastic decors and Hollywood and big blockbuster recreations,” said a local art appraiser.

The brewery is long gone with only a parking lot in its place on Main Street now. Activists pushed to preserve the art for public view in the 1980s, but it only resulted in the murals being stored away for decades.

In the first of a two-part series in conjunction with KPBS, we look at the history behind the artwork and its cultural meaning.

I asked our arts editor Kelly Bennett, who worked on the story with KPBS’s Angela Carone, why the artwork attracted her eye.

“This story piqued my interest for a bunch of reasons, mainly the historical tie between art and beer in San Diego, something that’s so popular now, and the precedent these murals set for the emblematic murals of Barrio Logan that would come in Chicano Park decades later,” she says. “This collection has languished in storage for more than two decades, which we knew would elicit strong voices — ones we wanted to make sure you could hear. And we knew this story would leave a lot of room for introducing the people and colorful stories surrounding this artwork to you in words, photographs and sound.”

We’ll post Part II of the series Tuesday. Make sure to check the images in the first story and visit for more.

District 7, Shot from an iPhone

A Sophia Loren sandwich. (No, it doesn’t include two big scoops of anything, although it does come hot or cold.) A library behind the skating rink and a pink church next to the cement quarries. These were some of the photo highlights of our reporter Will Carless’s embedding in San Diego’s District 7, which includes neighborhoods like Linda Vista, Allied Gardens and Grantville.

• Speaking of the Allied Gardens neighborhood: Rae Armantrout, a UCSD professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, describes growing up there in a place that’s “an example of the pathology of ‘Middle-America’ at mid-century.”

How Filner Became Filner

Last week wasn’t the best one in the press for Congressman Bob Filner as he runs for mayor.

That is, except for a new profile of Filner in the U-T, part of its “Turning Point” series about the top mayoral candidates. It explores what first inspired him to make a bid for public office. Not surprisingly, it was a moment when he felt “insulted and infuriated.”

The culprit was a San Diego school board that imperiously dismissed his concerns about the closing of his kids’ school. A trustee told him that the board knew best.  

This did not go over well. Filner began working toward a political career that would send him to the school board, to the City Council and to Congress.

Here’s the profile on City Councilman Carl DeMaio’s turning point and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’.

• Filner also made it into Nick Kristof’s Saturday column in The New York Times. It’s a tough story to read about suicide and drug addiction among veterans.

Quick News: Latino Gangs Target Blacks and Suicide Kits from El Cajon

• “A local leader of the Mexican Mafia prison gang ordered Escondido’s rival Latino street gangs to stop fighting among themselves and target black people instead, leading to a surge in such attacks,” the NC Times reports, saying it learned the details from gang members and authorities.

• Authorities say six local residents committed suicide in 2010 with the help of a “suicide kit” hawked by a 92-year-old El Cajon woman, the U-T reports.

You may recall that the feds found a way to go after gangsters by prosecuting them on tax evasion charges. They did that in this case too, and the woman will be sentenced later this month for not filing a tax return.

How Mayoral Rivals Stack Up on the Stump

The U-T takes another one of its light looks at the mayor’s race with a gander at the clothing choices, rituals and one-liners of the candidates.

Dumanis “favors Boss Lady ensembles in camera-friendly jewel tones, which she accessorizes with tastefully sparkly jewelry.” Filner likes to talk about his “mystery pension plan,” while Councilman Carl DeMaio goes on about pension reform. Also: pension reform. And: pension reform.

As for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, he can’t follow the rules regarding speaking time and promises “I will never do anything to make the weather worse.”

He might want to consider some history.

Back in January 1916, a cloud-seeding rainmaker came to town, promising to coax the sky to let loose on a drought-parched San Diego. The rains came. And came some more. Floods washed homes out to sea, turned the San Diego River into a mile-wide torrent and stopped trains for a month. A dam broke in the South Bay and killed at least 20 people.

The rainmaker nearly got lynched and never got paid his fee by the San Diego City Council.

Therein lieth the lesson: Don’t make promises about the weather.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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