On May 23, 1981, Dina Moore Bowden died peacefully in her sleep in Palma, Mallorca, Spain, at the age of 87.
Born in northern California, Dina was taken as a three-month-old infant to the Hawaiian Islands, where she lived with her family on a sugar plantation until she was twelve. Returning to California, she became a student of violin, and after graduating high school continued her musical studies in violin and voice in Vienna.
After her marriage to Englishman George Bowden, a voice coach and writer, they lived in New York where their son George, Jr. was born. The Bowdens spent every summer with Dina’s family in California.
In the course of travels in 1932, following years of intense work in the life of musical New York, the Bowden trio arrived in Mallorca. They were enthralled when they first learned that Father Junípero Serra was born in Petra, Mallorca. Dina wrote to her family in California, “The realization that we Californians were now on an Island from which this civilization emerged was a tantalizing subject for thought. It aroused a keen awareness of the significance of everything we saw in Mallorca in relation to California.”
The Bowdens quickly succumbed to the charm of Mallorca, and decided to settle there. They had a house built at Portals Nous in the Mallorcan architectural style they admired. Dina soon devoted her life to renewing and strengthening the age-old links with her home state of California. She helped organize, and became president of the Amigos de Mallorca, and was largely responsible for the building of the beautiful Museum and Center of Studies in Petra, near the little house where Father Serra was born. Official ambassador for California, Dina greeted and escorted visitors from California to Petra, and hosted many celebrations at the Bowden home at Portals Nous.
In 1948-49 Dina brought an Exhibition of Mallorca Artes and Crafts to libraries and museums throughout California to acquaint people with the culture and history of the Island. Included was an exhibit at the Serra Museum. This was the beginning of a long, close friendship with the San Diego History Center. Dina paid the Society a second visit in 1962.
In 1978 and again in 1980, I was privileged to represent the San Diego Historical Society on official visits to Mallorca with David McKenzie Smith, chairman of the Library and Archives Committee and Board member. The Society’s plans to reinterpret the Serra Museum with more emphasis on Father Serra and his birthplace excited Dina, and she crammed our suitcases with antique costumes, fabric and exhibit pieces. Dina decided that the Society should also receive her library of rare books on Father Serra, and the albums carefully detailing her active life in Mallorca. She devoted most of her time the past three years organizing the collections to send to us. Shortly before her death, she wrote telling us that the collections were on their way, and how thrilled she was to learn that a room in the Serra Museum, exhibiting her donations, will be named after her.
The San Diego History Center has lost a great friend. But all Californians will be forever enriched by Dina Bowden’s contributions to us for they have strengthened our cultural links with Mallorca—the native land of our state’s founding “Father”—Junípero Serra.
San Diego Historical Society