Where I Go: Atop San Francisco’s ‘Redwood Empire’

For Nearly 30 Years, I’ve Come to the City’s Highest Natural Point to Orient Myself

At 938 feet above sea level, Mount Davidson is the highest natural point in San Francisco. And for nearly 30 years, since I was a child, it has been my point of return.

I was born and raised here, in this peninsula of unceded Ohlone land developed into a golden imperial city—the redwood empire—that now holds brightly colored homes and skyscrapers amidst its dramatic hillsides.

Mount Davidson is the first place I would visit anytime I moved back from elsewhere—Washington, Malmö, Lahore. And it’s where I go when a million things are …

Zócalo’s 2020 Summer Reading List Suits a Time Devoid of the Usual Escapes | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Zócalo’s 2020 Summer Reading List Suits a Time Devoid of the Usual Escapes

From Why We Started Calling Ourselves 'America' to Brains With a Mind of Their Own, These 15 Books Examine Essential Questions About Who We Are

We at Zócalo have always been contrarians when it comes to what constitutes a summer reading list. Our idea of a perfect “beach read” has never been your usual summer …

Where Tulare Lake Once Was, a New Telling of California’s History | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Where Tulare Lake Once Was, a New Telling of California’s History

Jesse Amble White’s Photographs Show Modern Landscapes That ‘Push Back at the Moment’

All but one of these photographs of California by Jesse White come from California Exposures, a book that he and I, his father, did together. Like all photographs, they don’t …

The Forbidding Little Adriatic Island Where Quarantine Began | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Forbidding Little Adriatic Island Where Quarantine Began

From Its 14th-Century Roots, the Ritual of Self-Isolation During Plagues Offers Insights on Our Current Situation

The island of Mrkan, one of over a thousand islands off the Dalmatian coast, is both idyllic and grim. Its precipitous pale cliffs, set against the turquoise Adriatic Sea, make …

Why Monterey’s 250th Birthday Bodes Well for California’s Future | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why Monterey’s 250th Birthday Bodes Well for California’s Future

The Peninsula City Has Long Embodied the Golden State’s Ability to Be a Hideaway That Welcomes Both Immigrants and Ideas

Monterey turns 250 years old next month. And the rest of the state should claim the date as its birthday too.

California is an orphan of a state, …

Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including ‘Do Not Be a Fool’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including ‘Do Not Be a Fool’

But When Cortés’s Soldiers Arrived Carrying a Novel Virus, the Empire First Succumbed to Smallpox and Then Fell to Spain

Every civilization eventually faces a crisis that forces it to adapt or be destroyed. Few adapt.

On July 10, 1520, Aztec forces vanquished the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men, …