by Josh Figueroa
When I came home from my freshman year at Lewis & Clark College last summer, I was fortunate enough to be given official employment as a weekend interpreter for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. The job of an interpreter at the SBTHP is to effectively and knowledgeably articulate the history of not only the Presidio and its surrounding sites, but also of the whole process of early Californian Spanish colonization.
Although I had been actively volunteering for the SBTHP since my freshman year of high school, I found out that there was still plenty to learn. In just a few days on the job I was introduced to more history on the site than I had ever previously known; the role of the Chumash in the construction of the Presidio, the political motivations for the geographical positioning of Presidios all throughout California, the historical chronology of the fall of the Presidio, and much more. Initially it all seemed like a lot to take in, but as I studied, one subject seemed to effortlessly tie into another, and with the help of my extremely knowledgeable co-workers, I was up to speed in no time.
As an interpreter, I improved my skills in both talking to new people and being able to accurately communicate with those same people. Additionally, I learned a lot more about my home than I thought I would. The Presidio was the first major Spanish installation in the area in 1782, and it was really the Presidio that the city Santa Barbara grew out of. I have a poster copy of the original Presidio blueprint hung up in my dorm room and whenever I look at it I think about how amazing it is that from that one small diagram drawn up about 230 years ago, my entire home was eventually created. When I became a weekend interpreter after coming back from my first year at college, it felt really good to not only gain a new appreciation for Santa Barbara’s history, but also to be a part in preserving its history for future generations to share that same appreciation.
Josh Figueroa volunteered at SBTHP for several years while a student at nearby Anacapa School. We are pleased that he still comes back to visit, and even help out on his breaks from Lewis and Clark College.