arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter tiktok youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage in San Diego

A spotlight on top Hispanic change-makers here

From our cultural and culinary communities to our sports scene, San Diego’s history and heritage are deeply intertwined with the influences and achievements of Hispanic artists, athletes and other standouts. And these important figures have enriched our community immensely over the decades.

In recognition of those great contributions, here’s a look at present-day Hispanic luminaries in a variety of realms who continue to make waves here in America’s Brightest City.

Rafael Payare San Diego Symphony

Rafael Payare

Music Director, San Diego Symphony

The Venezuelan-born Payare is an internationally renowned conductor who is now in his fourth season as the San Diego Symphony’s Music Director. Among his many career milestones, Payare presided over the opening of the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the symphony’s stunning outdoor venue on San Diego Bay. And under his leadership, the symphony will make its first-ever concert appearance in Tijuana, Mexico, in November 2023.

Roxana Velásquez

Roxana Velásquez

Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO, San Diego Museum of Art

Since she took over leadership of this venerable Balboa Park museum, the Mexican-born Velásquez has played a key role in the institution’s rise to prominence as one of the top art museums on the West Coast. She has brought in high-profile exhibitions as well as led the acquisition of nearly 1,000 artworks, significantly increasing the size and range of San Diego Museum of Art’s collections.

Bread and Salt Mural Panca

Paola Villaseñor (aka Panca)

Muralist

Hailing from San Diego’s South Bay and now dividing her time between the U.S. and Mexico, Panca — born to an immigrant family — is known for her colorful murals that frequently feature fantastical faces and whimsical, eye-catching elements. Among her most notable works in San Diego are “SMILE,” a 48-foot mural highlighted by playful facial features and spanning an interior bridge at the New Children’s Museum; and the towering painting of a melting ice cream cone (complete with distressed-looking face) that graces the side of Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan.

Melanie Barcenas SD Wave FC

Melanie Barcenas

Forward, San Diego Wave FC

A San Diego native and soccer prodigy, Barcenas made history at age 15 when she took the field for the San Diego Wave, becoming the youngest-ever player to see action in the National Women’s Soccer League. It was just the latest groundbreaking moment for the Mexican-American athlete, who also was the first high-school player to sign a “name, image and likeness” (NIL) deal, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine at age 9. In 2023, Barcenas’ team is also embracing Hispanic heritage with a new line of Wave merchandise inspired by the city’s Latino community and showcasing the artwork of Chicano Park in Barrio Logan, the San Diego’s oldest Mexican-American neighborhood.

The Wave’s home venue, Snapdragon Stadium, also celebrates Mexican Independence Day and Hispanic Heritage Month with special September events.

Petco Park Padres Hispanic Event

San Diego Padres

The Padres, San Diego’s MLB team since 1969, have a rich history of fielding Hispanic talent both from the U.S. and other countries, and three of the team’s biggest present-day stars — Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. — are all of Dominican heritage. The team celebrates its multicultural makeup with its colorful City Connect uniforms, which pay homage in part to the vibrant colors of Baja California. The Padres also celebrate Hispanic heritage during the month of September with multiple events.

Ricardo Breceda

Ricardo Breceda

Sculptor

Ricardo Breceda’s arresting, larger-than-life sculptures of horses, sea serpents and more are a vibrant sight near San Diego County’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where the Mexican-born artist maintains an outdoor studio that’s open to the public. Over the past 25 years, he has created some 130 of the metal sculptures, many of them depicting mythical or fanciful creatures. His most well-known work is a 350-foot-long sculpture of a serpent, which is layered with more than 1,000 metal scales.

Mario Torero

Mario Torero

Muralist

A legendary local muralist who pairs activism with art, Mario Torero has been painting and creating since the early 1960s. Torero, who is of Peruvian heritage, is a founding member of Centro Cultural de la Raza and of Chicano Park in Barrio Logan, and was deeply involved in the struggle to preserve what is now a celebrated home for murals. Torero’s art has in turn been preserved by the Library of Congress, which purchased 20 of his works for its collection of Chicano art.

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Team Building

Show Your Badge and Save at Triton Charter's Bar!

Triton Catamaran Charters
Valid: Sep 4, 2023 - ongoing

Sail with us on a ticketed charter and get 10% off your bar tab when you show your badge! 

Museums

Active Duty Military Free Admission

San Diego Air & Space Museum
Valid: May 9, 2024 - ongoing

Active duty military personnel with a valid military ID enjoy complimentary admission to the San Diego Air & Space Museum. Military dependants also qualify for discounted admission. Please mention...

Activity

75-minute Naval History Bay Tour Only $15***

Maritime Museum of San Diego
Valid: Jul 12 - Sep 2, 2024

Join us at the Maritime Museum of San Diego for a high-speed 75-minute narrated Naval History Tour! The US Naval Vietnam-era PCF 816 Swift Boat Listed In National Register Of Historic Places is...

Events to check out

Event

Bike the Bay

Aug 25, 2024

San Diego's finest annual cycling event across the Coronado Bridge and around the bay! Ride the bridge, Bike the Bay for the 17th annual ride on Sunday, August 25, 2024! Cruise around San Diego Bay...

Event

San Diego Bayfair

Sep 13 - Sep 15, 2024

San Diego Bayfair's World Series of Powerboat Racing - a family festival tradition for more than 40 years speeds to the finish line. The 2023 event has been postponed to September 13-15, 2024.

Event

Del Mar Racing Season

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Jul 20 - Sep 8, 2024

San Diego horse racing takes place where the "turf meets the surf" at the Del Mar Racetrack. Fans flock to the track each summer to wager on their favorite horses during the popular, annual Del...

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China
Germany
Great Britain
Japan
Mexico
Korea
Switzerland
Brazil
France
Australia
Canada
USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans
Albanian
Arabic
Belarusian
Bulgarian
Croatian
Danish
Deutsch
Español
Estonian
Filipino
Finnish
Francais
Georgian
Greek
Haitian-Creole
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Indonesian
Irish
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Latvian
Lithuanian
Macedonian
Malay
Maltese
Nederlands
Norwegian
Persian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Serbian
Slovak
Slovenian
Swahili
Swedish
Telugu
Thai
Turkish
Ukranian
Vietnamese
Yiddish