Solar Calendars Around the World – Interview with Santiago Casal

Cultural-Astronomy-700x7001-150x150Santiago Casal, Founder and Project Director of the Cesar Chavez Solar Calendar in the park, gives an interview about solar calendars around the world on the podcast site 365 Days of Astronomy. The podcast gives background to the inception and vision for the site.   The interviewer is Nancy Alima Ali from UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab.  It was done yesterday, June 18.

The podcast is titled Agriculture, Ecology, Awe and the César Chávez Solar Calendar.  The site has a link where you can listen to the podcast.  Here is the summary from the 365 Days of Astronomy website:

Title: Cultural Astronomy – Agriculture, Ecology, Awe and the César Chávez Solar Calendar

Organization: Multiverse, Space Sciences Lab, University of California at Berkeley


Description: Santiago Casal, founder and project director of the César Chávez Solar Calendar talks with Nancy Alima Ali from UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab about the connections between agriculture and solar calendars. Topics discussed include solar alignment sites from around the world, the legacy of César Chávez as a labor activist for farm workers, a description of the César Chávez Solar Calendar in Berkeley, how learning lessons from ancient cultures can help us answer the call of the ecological age, and the importance of reconnecting to our collective sense of awe.

Bio: Nancy Alima Ali, M.Ed., is a Coordinator of Public Programs at Multiverse at the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. For over 15 years, Ms. Ali has been active in both formal and informal education as a classroom teacher, college instructor, museum educator, curriculum developer and program manager. Ms. Ali has a particular interest in exploring the ways in which multiple worldviews contribute to our understanding of the cosmos. She blogs about the intersection of astronomy and culture at

Guest Bio: Santiago Casal is the Founder and Project Director of The Solar Calendar – A César E. Chávez Memorial in Berkeley, California.  Santiago’s career spans 45 years as a university administrator and faculty member in Sociology at Antioch College, diversity consultant, award winning public radio producer, designer/builder, and community leader.  As an avocation he has travelled the world to study over 30 ancient archeological sites many of which have solar/celestial orientations and calendars build into their architecture.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2015, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at


Welcome and introductions – Santiago Casal

Summer solstice – what it is, when it happens

Solstice sites that Santiago has visited around the world

Santiago’s introduction to solar alignments at Uaxactun in Guatemala

Tracking of rising and setting points of sun along horizon over the course of a year

César Chávez Solar Calendar in Berkeley, California

Purposes of site: build a solar and lunar calendar based on ancient design concepts, honor life and legacy of agriculture labor leader César Chávez, establish an outdoor learning space, create a space for contemplation

Description of solar calendar

Determining the solstice and equinox alignments of solar calendar; long-term observations

Connection between agriculture and solar calendar

Social, political and cultural purposes of calendars

Farm-workers who are dependent on seasons for survival

César Chávez and Delores Huerta as champions for farm workers

Chávez as labor leader, vegetarian, animal activist, raise awareness about chemicals in crops and ecological concerns

4 cardinal directions & virtues exhibit at César Chávez solar calendar – hope, determination, courage, tolerance

How solar calendar is used with the public and community – individual or private rituals and ceremonies, group gatherings at solstices and equinoxes

Celebrations which have roots in agriculture; change based on cultural and personal needs (example of Christmas)

Advice for listeners who might be interested in creating their own solar calendar

At most basic: put a stick in ground and watch shadow at solar noon over the course of a year

César Chávez Solar Calendar website:

Constructing a new site so keep revisiting

Hopes and dreams for future of César Chávez solar calendar

Interdisciplinary focus – how things are connected

Back to the call of ecological age

Ancient civilizations – why did they thrive, why did they collapse and what can we learn from their collapse

Harmonize culture to the perceived order of the universe

Importance of calendar to harvesting and agriculture

Can we build an installation that represents what we stand for as people on the planet – social justice, attention to sustainable ecology

Call of ecological age – interconnectedness, culture is in transition from highly technological wasteful culture that is disconnected from environment to greater sense of intimacy with nature

UC Berkeley professor Dacher Keltner’s research on awe

Awe as ultimate collective emotion because it motivates people to do things for the collective good, collective rituals and celebrations, sense of awe or wonder helps us connect to others

Cesar Chavez Solar Calendar can help people develop a greater appreciation of awe

Summary and conclusions

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy

The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by NUCLIO. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at This year we celebrate cosmic light as light is our info messenger in the universe. Join us and share your story to celebrate the International Year of Light. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

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