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10 San Diego Hispanic Heritage Experiences

A city rich with authentic, cultural opportunities

Vibrant, colorful art, traditional cuisine and a number of ways to experience Hispanic and Latin culture help shape San Diego as a unique destination for travelers looking for an immersive experience. 

San Diego’s proximity to Mexico, long Spanish history and South and Central America ancestry have helped shape the city’s diverse cultural identity. Hispanic and Latin influences can be found in the region’s architecture, gastronomical scene and artistic landscape, and are proudly celebrated year-round through various special events. Visitors to San Diego can experience the city’s rich Hispanic history, culture and lifestyle of the eighth-largest city in the United States.

Barrio Logan Neighborhood & Chicano Park

Located south of San Diego urban core, Barrio Logan is a Mexican-American neighborhood established by refugees back in the early 20th century during the Mexican Revolution and rooted in civic movement. At the heart of the barrio, the Chicano Park is home to the largest collection of Chicano murals in the United States and in January 2017, was designated a National Historic Landmark. Throughout the year, the park plays host to festivals of music and Aztec dance, the largest being Chicano Park Day held in the Spring. Barrio Logan is also the hub of an emerging arts district, with galleries, boutiques, brewpubs and craft coffee shops. The community organizes a Barrio Art Crawl, held every second Saturday of the month throughout the year, for businesses to highlight their passion for arts. A vibrant culinary scene is also an important characteristic of the neighborhood. An iconic Barrio Logan eatery is Las Cuatro Milpas, where locals line up for authentic homestyle Mexican food and freshly made tortillas.

San Diego Missions

San Diego's Spanish heritage is nowhere more firmly rooted than in its dramatically beautiful missions. It was here the missionary monks, led by Father Junipero Serra, began their chain of 21 missions throughout California. Two missions and two assistencias can still be found within the county. Often called the "King of the Missions," Mission San Luis Rey is the largest of all 21 California missions. Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of 21 Franciscan establishments in California, was founded on Presidio Hill on July 16, 1769, by Father Junipero Serra.

House of Pacific Relations International Cottages

The House of Pacific Relations (HPR), located in San Diego's Balboa Park, is a consortium of 'houses' representing 32 countries. The HPR promotes multicultural goodwill and understanding through educational and cultural programs. Currently, 33 countries and territories are represented including Colombia, Puerto Rico, Peru, and Panama. Cultural events and open houses take place on weekends showcasing national traditions, arts, crafts, and ethnic foods.

Cali-Baja Influence in San Diego

San Diego stands in the middle of two very powerful influences: the California fare distinguished for its devotion of using fresh local ingredients and pursuit of constant evolution in its cooking techniques, and Mexico's Baja Med cuisine, a food revolution that began in Tijuana, Mexico and is gaining worldwide recognition for combining traditional Mexican ingredients with those of the Mediterranean. Thanks to the daring chefs who have created a dining experience that speaks to locals, San Diego's culinary landscape blends these two influences into a delicious Cali-Baja scene.

Artelexia store in North Park

Artelexia brings you closer to Mexico through handcrafted gifts, art, and home décor. Through the years the store has nurtured what began as a small farmers’ market stand to what is today a thriving storefront known for its unique handcrafted Mexican imports, creative cultural workshops, and lively community events. Its sister company, Eat.Drink.Cook.Mexico, offers guided travel tours to the owners’ favorite parts of Mexico—Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende—for a day of shopping for the latest gifts and crafts.

Latin Food Festival

California’s largest most attended annual Hispanic culinary celebration includes a festival kick-off party “Mexico Mercado” -- a high energy party hosted by Mexico’s most acclaimed chef, Enrique Olvera, and Gran Tasting – the festivals signature event featuring 150 food, beverage, wine, beer and spirits stations, Cooking Demos, Best of Fest Chef Awards, VIP Tent, and Live Music. ¡Latin Food Fest! celebrates its sixth annual Hispanic culinary celebration in August yearly at Marina Park, San Diego Bay.

Latin Film Festival

Twenty-five years ago, the San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) was born out of a desire to take a stand against the status-quo of cinema, to challenge the reigning and ever-present stereotypes about the Latino experience in movies, and to give Latino filmmakers the power of telling and sharing their stories, first-hand, about what it means to be Latino. After all these years, the SDLFF is proud to remain linked to these ideals, constantly advocating for inclusive, diverse, and progressive cinematic storytelling about the Latino identity. The festival takes place in March, annually.

Annual International Mariachi Festival

This day-long, community-friendly event attracts thousands each year, giving families an opportunity to come together and celebrate San Diego’s Mexican heritage through Mariachi music, colorful traditional ballet folkloric dancing, and a grand celebration of the arts, culture and culinary delights. Come watch Mariachi groups from all over the United States and Mexico perform and compete. The program supports today’s youth in their artistic, individual and educational development.

Dia de los Muertos

There are plenty of Dia de los Muertos celebrations across San Diego. These events honor lost loved ones and culturally immerse guests in traditional and authentic “Day of the Dead” celebrations. Enjoy live performances, culinary experiences, altars, candlelight processions, traditional dance, hand-crafted arts, and authentic neighborhood hospitality.

Old Town

Visitors can witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace at Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” Old Town marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast and also represents San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872, when Mexico gained independence from Spain and took over the area. The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, a theater, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored buildings. Live mariachi performers can be seen every day in Old Town as well as seasonal and special event shows throughout the year.

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