Celebrating Hispanic heritage in San Diego
San Diego’s history is deeply intertwined with Hispanic influences including artists, athletes and others.
Hispanic Heritage Month is under way through October 15 and recognizes the contributions the American Latino community.
San Diego Tourism Authority is celebrating by showcasing San Diego based luminaries in the arts, sports music and more.
Music Director, San Diego Symphony
The Venezuelan-born Payare is an internationally renowned conductor who is now in his fourth season as 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 outdoor venue on San Diego Bay. Under his leadership, the symphony will make its first-ever concert appearance in Tijuana, Mexico, in November 2023.
Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO, San Diego Museum of Art
Since she took over leadership, the Mexican-born Velásquez has played a key role in the institution’s rise as one of the top art museums on the West Coast. She has brought in high-profile exhibitions and led the acquisition of nearly 1,000 artworks, significantly increasing San Diego Museum of Art’s collections.
Paola Villaseñor (aka Panca)
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 with fantastical faces and eye-catching elements. Among her most notable works in San Diego are “SMILE,” a 48-foot mural 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) on the side of Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan.
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 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. She 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. The Wave’s home venue, Snapdragon Stadium, also celebrates Mexican Independence Day and Hispanic Heritage Month with special September events.
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 September with multiple events.
Ricardo Breceda’s 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 open to the public. Over the past 25 years, he has created 130 of the metal sculptures, many of them depicting mythical or fanciful creatures. His most well-known work is a 350-feet-long sculpture of a serpent, which is layered with more than 1,000 metal scales.
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. 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.
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