San Diego Taiwanese Cultural Association
Author: Wang Tang
The San Diego Taiwanese Cultural Association (SDTCA) was established in 1975. It is a non-profit social organization, and the majority of its members are people of Taiwanese origin who currently live in San Diego, California. The Association’s mission is to promote understanding and appreciation for Taiwanese culture, customs, art, music, literature, history, and language. This goal is both long-term and broad, but speaking in realistic terms, this goal has manifested as the association’s three most important yearly events, which it has held since its foundation: (1) The Lunar New Year’s Banquet, (2) The Taiwanese Cuisine Garden Party, and 3) the Mid-Autumn Festival Banquet.
(1) The Lunar New Year’s Gala: The annual Lunar New Year Banquet is highly anticipated by all members of the association, young and old. At the banquet, everyone gathers together to eat, drink, play, and enjoy world-class programs. Aside from the big lottery and exchanging New Year’s greetings, the best part is simply getting to chat about who got married and who gave birth; people talk endlessly and are in high spirits. Another very important part of this time is the handover from the old president and directors to the new ones. SDTCA uses the Board of Directors system, where Directors serve for two years, while the President and Vice-president each serve one. This system prevents the Board from becoming an “eternal congress,” and ensures that the association’s President changes practically every year. Though the SDTCA bylaws do not stipulate that the Vice-president should become the next President, the percentage of Vice-presidents who have continued on to become President is over 80%.
(2) The Taiwanese Cuisine Garden Party: In May of each year, the association holds a Taiwanese Cuisine Garden Party in conjunction with the North American Taiwanese Heritage Week. SDTCA invites people from all communities, organizations, universities, churches, or anyone with an interest to attend the event. The well-known Taiwan Center Taiko Drumming team also comes to perform. There are foods of all kinds, both hot and cold: oil rice, chicken rolls, glutinous rice dumplings, Taiwanese meatballs, stew, fishballs, grilled sausage, aiyu jelly, grass jelly, red beans, taro, and shaved ice. These hometown flavors cure homesickness.
(3) Mid-Autumn Festival Banquet: When the moon is full, people reunite with their families. The performances for the Mid-Autumn Festival include singing, dancing, and comedy shows in traditional, modern, Taiwanese, and Western styles. The short drama performances are also highly anticipated by everyone, and the auditoriums are often packed full. There’s also a Taiwanese language guessing game, which aside from the excitement of winning, comes with prizes like bento boxes, mooncakes, fruits, and mineral water. Six years ago, another meaningful project was added: the presentation of the Cenzone Tech Inc. Scholarships. Each year, there are five to seven award recipients, all of whom are the outstanding children of members of SDTCA and are current undergraduate students. The prize is $2,000 per person. Thus, in recent years, the Mid-Autumn Festival Banquet has been very crowded and boisterous.
For the first twenty-two years after the SDTCA’s establishment, the association had no fixed meeting spot. When we hosted events, they were usually held in the auditorium of a local school or church that we had rented out, and meetings were held in the President’s house. On February 28th, 1997, the San Diego Taiwanese American Foundation/Taiwan Center (referred to as the Foundation hereafter) was established (the historical significance of this date does not need to be repeated here). On this day, a large venue was rented as the fixed location for future events and activities, and the San Diego Taiwanese community finally had a “home” that belonged to us. Inside this home, SDTCA also established a formal office. Two years later, SDTCA and the Foundation moved to a larger location together and stayed there for 10 years.
During these 12 years as tenants, a few insightful people from the Foundation were constantly thinking about how they could establish a permanent home for the Taiwanese people in San Diego, since living under someone else’s roof is not a long-term solution. This group of kind and charitable predecessors not only vigorously advocated the importance of having such a “home,” they also led by example, donating their own money to create the “Build a Center Fund.” That was a truly moving time, as those with money also put in effort, and those who could put in effort also donated money. Our common goal, the San Diego Taiwan Center, was achieved through the mentality of slowly building it from the ground up, one brick, one tile, one penny, and one inch at a time. The new Taiwan Center was officially inaugurated on August 7th, 2009. A list of the names of these predecessors can be seen on the wall of the main entrance to San Diego Taiwan Center. Since the list of names is very long and it only continues to grow longer, the characters are very small, and you have to get very close to see the words.
SDTCA currently rents an office in the new Taiwan Center. The cost of rent is extremely inexpensive, a testament to the courtesy that the Foundation has shown to SDTCA. SDTCA uses the office to edit its monthly newsletter, as well as to store data and documents that it has accumulated over the years. The relationship between the Taiwan Center and SDTCA is like a fish and water; they complete each other and are mutually beneficial. Another unknown privilege is that SDTCA can use other parts of the Taiwan Center for no cost.
SDTCA has two other important duties: (1) to publish the monthly San Diego Taiwanese Cultural Association newsletter, which is edited on the last Saturday of every month and is sent to print the following Monday. Currently, approximately 330 copies of the newsletter are sent out on the Wednesday of that week. We have used this system for many years, and many of the association members have learned that if they can’t wait for the newsletter to be sent out, they can pick up a copy when they come to the center for the Senior Luncheon, singing, dancing, or Bingo activities. This helps save mailing costs too, killing two birds with one stone. SDTCA also has an electronic file of all of its newsletters on its website, taiwancenter.com. First, click on the SDTCA page, then click on “previous articles,” and then you can see every issue of the newsletter starting from June 2002 up until the present. (2) Every other year, on the odd-numbered years, the SDTCA issues a Member Directory, with a correction list that is issued on the even-numbered years.
SDTCA’s main operating budget comes from the annual household membership fee of $30, and the fees that companies pay to advertise in the monthly newsletter. Additionally, all of the workers are volunteers. Starting an operation is difficult, but maintaining one is also hard. The San Diego Taiwanese Cultural Association is 42 years old this year. It is currently financially stable, sufficiently manned, and invincible to foreign troubles. SDTCA also has the full support of the Foundation, and I believe that it will definitely be able to become a “venerable 100-year old man.” As to whether it will be able to “live for tens of thousands of years,” we’ll just have to wait and see!
The Crowd at the San Diego Taiwanese Cuisine Tour
A group photo with volunteers and planning committee members for the Taiwanese Cuisine Tour
Source from Wang Tang 12/2017
Translated from 41. 聖地牙哥台灣同鄉會簡介