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El Corazón de San Diego

By Nate Abaurrea, 04/07/21, 8:15PM PDT


Here in the Spring of 2021, art with a message feels more vital than ever, from passionate protest to vibrant celebration and everywhere in between.

Home is where the heart is. The heart and soul of an artist is exactly where the art is. And some of the most soulful art imaginable is created right here in San Diego. 

In 2020, when positivity was hard to find, I had the great pleasure of coming across a local artist and graphic designer named Josué Baltezar, and his brilliant piece entitled “Corazón de San Diego.”

At first glance, this particular piece displayed a powerful message of duality. Even in times of great despair and loss, what exists within our hearts can set us free. A sense of home can give us pride. Our pride can take us to places where the heart beats with an eternal energy all its own.

Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower hovers over the various valves and veins in Josué’s Corazón, like a superior vena cava looking out on the local scene, as the Coronado Bridge guides the eyes from atrium to atrium at the intersections of science, spirituality, and cultural geography.

“I love this city and all the opportunities it has provided,” Josué shared with me in a recent conversation.

“I was born in Mexico City, but I grew up in Chula Vista. San Diego is my hometown. That heart is a visual representation of what this place means to me.”

As soon as I found out Josué was donating 50% of his proceeds to the ACLU of San Diego, I copped a shirt and a print of my new favorite design. 

“I’m always inspired by communities coming together in difficult times,” Josué said. “With so many ugly things happening right now, from racial injustice to disregard for our climate future (the list goes on and on), it’s uplifting to see people and organizations making positive impacts.”

The impact of Josué’s art doesn’t stop at that one piece. In addition to the ACLU, his work has helped raise money for organizations such as Border Angels, March for Black Womxn SD, and Otay Mesa Detention Resistance.

Corazon de San Diego

“Being able to combine art with a message is a privilege,” he continued. “It’s all about making a difference in the place we call home.”

Here in the Spring of 2021, art with a message feels more vital than ever, from passionate protest to vibrant celebration and everywhere in between.

As SD Loyal were set to take on 1904 FC in a pre-season friendly in late March, the first match-up between San Diego’s two professional soccer clubs, I knew there was only one shirt I could rock for the occasion.

(The match taking place in the scorching sunshine of Chula Vista, with the desert mountains of Northwest Mexico visible in the distance… it just made the Corazón de San Diego shirt and its one-of-a-kind design all the more fitting.)

SD Loyal’s Vice President of Operations, Ricardo Campos, ever the visual art enthusiast, saw the shirt and immediately asked, “Who made that?”

“My homie Josué,” I responded. “He’s a dope artist out of the South Bay.” 

“Josué Baltezar, right?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“Nice. He designed our new schedule poster.” 

Well how about that!? Now the whole entire San Diego fútbol familia is about to get hip to his artwork. (Can I call myself a hipster Josué fan?)

I can call myself something of a journalist, I think, or at least someone who writes things and occasionally talks to other humans. When I recently spoke to Josué, the excitement for his latest partnership was palpable. 

“I love being able to collaborate with a great organization and new part of our San Diego community,” he said. “Everyone that I’ve met at Loyal has been super kind, and they gave me real creative freedom for this project.”

“Last season, SD Loyal took a stand,” he continued. “They showed that they are more than just a soccer team. I’m excited to root for a team with values that align with mine, a team that wants to be an integral part of our community, and with a championship mentality.”

The schedule-poster itself incorporates the club’s colors of Torrey Green and vibrant shades of sunset orange, with action-shot illustrations of Loyal players Corey Hertzog, Elijah Martin, Alejandro Guido, Charlie Adams, and Collin Martin, along with Manager and U.S. Soccer great Landon Donovan, and local canine-cult-hero, Bum the Dog.

The poster is a proper display of the diversity that makes this club and this region beautiful. Black, Brown, White, LGBTQ, multiple nationalities, and a World Cup hero… all represented in the six-person ensemble. 

For a proud Mexican American artist and lifelong soccer fan, the future of SD Loyal brings a sense of hope for the underserved. 

“They say talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” Josué noted. “All of us have so much potential, but not all of us have the same opportunities.”

“I’m hopeful that artists and communities from all over San Diego—from Oceanside to Otay, Encinitas to San Ysidro—can continue to collaborate on projects big and small.”

Josué also sees our Cross-Border Community as an integral part of this artistic vision. 

“I’m excited to see more and more collaboration in art and sports between San Diego and Tijuana,” he said. “I live ten minutes from the border. Even though both sides of that border have many similarities, SD & TJ can be worlds apart, especially for those on the Mexican side that cannot cross.”

“One goal that my friends and I have is to organize a soccer game that’s played on both sides of the border—half the field in Mexico, and the other half in the US. It would show two worlds coming together, through soccer, and it would show how borders are a pretty ridiculous thing. It might be unfeasible, but it also just might be possible.” 

Despite the literal and figurative roadblocks in play, that lofty dream is indeed possible, as long as we put our collective heart behind it, aided by artists, activists, athletes, and folks from all walks of life. It could be done.

The Cross-Border Community of San Diego and Baja California is a cultural and geographical phenomenon, an incredibly unique place in the world, capable of creating magical things.

More importantly, the Cross-Border Community is our home. And as we all know by now… home is where the heart is.



As a special postscript, here are five SD Loyal fixtures I’m looking forward to on this 2021 USL schedule.

(1) April 30th: Regular Season Opener @ Phoenix Rising

I’m hard pressed to find a better way to sum up my excitement for this one than to simply quote Loyal striker Jack Blake. When the Nottingham native first caught wind of the schedule, and cast his eyes on the opening fixture, he offered the following to describe his emotions: 

“Two words: F***ing. Buzzing.” 

Corey Hertzog sprinkled some additional spice on the budding Western rivalry with this rather direct statement:

“I hate Phoenix. I’m looking forward to all four of those games.” 

Hot damn! Rising v. Loyal to kick off 2021… Let’s have it! 

(2) May 29th: Home Opener vs. Las Vegas Lights 

SD Loyal vs. Las Vegas Lights on a Saturday night at Torero Stadium. LIVE soccer in San Diego, with ever-grateful, adoring fans taking it all in. 

Flat circle fútbol rewind. Déjà vu all over again. GOAL! Charlie Adams!

“Weren’t we just here? WTF just happened? Is it still March 7th, 2020?” 

This is simply a series of legitimate questions that will likely be asked on the 29th of May. I don’t have all the answers. I just write the column. 

See you there. Godspeed. 

(3) June 29th: SD Loyal vs. Oakland Roots 

Two clubs dedicated to social justice. Two cities that mean the world to me. The first ever match between the two teams, Loyal in their second season, while the Oakland outfit ventures into their inaugural USL campaign here in 2021, after being founded back in 2018. 

Loyal and Roots will play three more times before the end of the regular season, two of them in the month of September at Oakland’s Laney College, and the final match-up in late October on the campus of USD. 

Along those Josué Baltezar lines of intertwining art and soccer, I’m already planning out my musical selections for that first SD v. Oakland affair. 

Expect plenty of Tower of Power and Too Short in honor of The Town, balanced with a heavy dose of Rosie and the Originals and at least four plays of the new Daygo anthem, “Southeast Summers” by San Diego’s own Ryan Anthony, Mitchy Slick, and Golden Globe Winner Andra Day.

Torero Stadium on June 29th… Ain’t no other place I’d rather be.  

(4) June 5th, June 19th, and July 24th: More Loyal vs. Rising

Thirty years before Jack Blake was “f***ing buzzing” about playing against Phoenix Rising, his fellow countrymen, members of legendary new-wave group Depeche Mode, told the world they “Just Can’t Get Enough.”

That was 1981, with divine synth-pop dreams of USL 2021. “Loyal vs. Rising you say!? Play it again! I just can’t get enough.” 

(Apologies for the synth riff now stuck in your head for the next five or six months. It’s just that… when I see you, baby…)

(5) July 3rd: SD Loyal vs. Sacramento Republic 

It’s the first Warren Smith Derby of 2021! If Loyal win, we all hoist a beer to the Club President and Co-Founder of San Diego’s USL team. If Republic win, we all hoist a beer to the former Club President and Co-Founder of Sacramento’s USL team. And if the match ends in a draw… ¡Salud!