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7 San Diego Hispanic Heritage Experiences to Add to Your Bucket List
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7 San Diego Hispanic Heritage Experiences to Add to Your Bucket List

As we celebrate Hispanic heritage month, we highlighted the San Diego Hispanic Heritage Experiences you should check out.

Roubina Al Abashian

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5 min read

October 06, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

San Diego, the “Birthplace of California”, is significantly influenced by the Hispanic culture thanks to its large Hispanic population and close proximity to the Mexican borders.  The Hispanic culture is embedded in the history, culture, food, art, and traditions of San Diego. This undeniable influence is celebrated year-round through numerous events and occasions, but especially during Hispanic Heritage Month which is marked between September 15 and October 15 every year.

Whether you make it to America’s Finest City during Hispanic Heritage Month or any other month of the year, you’ll have an array of places to visit and activities to do that highlight the culture and traditions of the Hispanic community. Colorful streets, beautiful art, delicious cuisine, and much more await you in every corner of the city. Immerse yourself in the culture we all love by adding these awesome Hispanic Heritage Experiences to your San Diego itinerary.

General Emiliano Zapata was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1920. His statue can be found in Chicano Park.

1. Barrio Logan and Chicano Park

Barrio Logan, formerly known as Logan Heights, is a lively neighborhood in San Diego, dipped in Mexican-American history. It is the heart and soul of the Chicano community in the area and is located just South of Downtown San Diego. With its origins dating back to the early 20th century, it is one of the best places to celebrate the Hispanic heritage in Southern California.

Chicano Park, on the other hand, is the centerpiece of Barrio Logan. The park, now a National Historic Landmark, is the best representation of a community coming together for the betterment of its conditions. Once a beachfront neighborhood, residents lost the beach to the Navy and defense industries during World War II, and 20 years later their neighborhood was torn into two when the I-5 highway was built through it. While the community was promised a park in return, residents realized that the promise would only come true if they stood together, and that’s what they did. The formation of the park was signed in 1971 and murals began appearing all across its seven acres, two years later. Today, the park, which sits underneath the bridge that links San Diego to Coronado Island, is one of the best representations of Hispanic heritage art and Hispanic culture in San Diego.

Tour the well-preserved historic buildings and museums of Old Town San Diego and get a feel of the 1800s.

2. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

San Diego being the birthplace of California is common knowledge by now. But, did you know that it all started from what we now know as Old Town San Diego State Historic Park? Every inch of this famous historic park oozes history, especially its well-preserved historic buildings and museums. Here, museums, shops, and restaurants sit within old brownish-red colored houses built by Mexican settlers in the 1800s, taking you to the olden days of the city. As you tour Old Town San Diego, make sure to check out the 19th-century adobe ranches, the schoolhouse, and the graveyard. But if you’re a thrill-seeker, your first stop should be the Whaley House, one of the spookiest abandoned mansions in California, where you might hear footsteps, cries, and giggles coming from people long gone.

3. Centro Cultural de la Raza

Whether you’re visiting San Diego during National Hispanic Heritage Month or any other day, Centro Cultural de la Raza is one spot you shouldn’t miss. The cultural art center is fully dedicated to presenting, preserving, and encouraging Indigenous, Chicano, Mexican, and Latino art and culture. Housed in an old water tower in Balboa Park, the center features exhibits, as well as theatrical, musical, and dance performances by people of Hispanic background. Inside the water tower covered with bright murals, you can also join arts and crafts classes and increase your understanding of Latinx culture.

One of the highlights of Presidio Park is the Junipero Serra Museum, where the history of California is showcased in beautiful detail.

4. Presidio Park

The first permanent European structure in California is the Presidio Real de San Diego, or simply Presidio Park. Construction first began in 1769 at the hands of priests and soldiers arriving from New Spain (Mexico), and it didn’t stop for at least a few decades. Though initially built to protect the colonists, the Presidio went on to serve as military headquarters and is now a space to walk through the city’s history. The historical landmark sits atop a hill overlooking Old Town San Diego and features 40 acres of open space, breathtaking views, and memorials. It’s also home to the Junipero Serra Museum, which exhibits Spanish and Mexican artifacts and highlights the customs and history of Latinos in California.

Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park is a can’t-miss, colorful, and lively spot you’ll want to visit.

5. Visit Latinx and Hispanic Businesses

San Diego’s rich Hispanic heritage has shaped the city’s identity. Every neighborhood and every corner of the city is full of color and life, and that’s what makes San Diego extra special. As you walk down the streets of America’s Finest City, you’ll find hundreds of Latinx-owned businesses that will make shopping extra fun. Make sure to check out the quaint shops, restaurants, art centers, and wellness spots while you spend a day in San Diego. And don’t forget to make the best out of your dining experience as the Cali-Baja scene here is unmatched. The combination of California cuisine and Mexico’s Baja-Med style food will have your taste buds tingling.  

6. Attend the San Diego Latino Film Festival

For 30 years the San Diego Latino Film Festival has been a staple in the lives of Latinos in the city. In fact, it has been a staple in the lives of every film lover in and out of San Diego. The main purpose behind creating this festival was to give a voice to the underrepresented talents in the Latinx community and to fight the ever-present stereotypes. Big names like Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfonso Cuaron, and Diego Luna, among many others in the film industry, have attended this now-popular festival. If you’ve got an undeniable love for the big screen, you know which festival to keep an eye out for.

Join the locals in celebrating the ones you loved during the Dia de Los Muertos festivities.

7. Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos With the Locals

There’s not a single holiday that highlights the Hispanic culture in San Diego better than Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). This traditional Mexican holiday honors the lives of relatives, friends, and loved ones who have passed away. Between October 31 and November 2 every year, Dia de Los Muertos festivities take place all across San Diego. Different events offer altar blessings, arts and crafts, performances, and good food all across the city - from Sherman Heights and Old Town San Diego to Oceanside and Chula Vista 3rd Avenue. Pick your favorite event and celebrate your loved ones long gone.

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