San Diego 250: Where California Began; A coming together for the City’s anniversary


On July 16, 2019, hundreds of people came together in Presidio Park, a stone’s throw from the Junipero Serra Museum, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of San Diego and by default “where California began,” as part of “San Diego 250,” a community initiative to create historical and educational opportunities to reflect on the City’s history.

More precisely, it was the day in 1769 when Serra and members of the Spanish expedition led by Gaspar de Portola established the first mission in Alta California (a simple brushwood hut) at this site, close by the presidio (Spanish for “fortress”) they’d already established, and celebrated the first mass in what was to become San Diego.

Five years later, the mission would be moved six miles inland to have better access to river water and stop soldiers from having too-easy access to the native women who lived and worked at the mission. But 1769 was the start of big changes for the Kumeyaay people, whose ancestors had arrived here thousands of years before.

This anniversary gathering was truly a coming together, including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other civic officials; the mayor of Tijuana; the Los Angeles-based Vice Consul of Spain; representatives of the San Diego History Center, which runs the city-owned Serra Museum; and members of the Kumeyaay Nation, which was being acknowledged as a significant part of U.S. history and the California community. The event would conclude with the raising of a Kumeyaay flag.

The celebration began with a VIP reception just outside the museum, while the public gathered in the large lot below, transformed into an outdoor event center with food, drink and historical information booths. Chinese, Mexican, Portugese and Vietnamese dancers also took their turns onstage, representing some of the multicultural communities that make up our larger one. Then, the VIPs joined the crowd for a performance of Kumeyaay birdsongs and a round of speeches.

In his talk, Faulconer referenced the motto on U.S. currency, E Pluribus Unum, Latin for “Out of Many, One.” He said: “What good is it if we don’t live by its ideals? Tonight, we stand together with the Kumeyaay, recognizing their role in our past, but also recognizing that they’re part of our present and our future.”

In her talk, Angela Elliott Santos, head of the Manzanita tribe of the Kumeyaay, asked for a moment of silence to consider the suffering her people have endured for the past 250 years and pray that the raising of the new flag would herald a new era.

And then came the historic moment: the raising of the Kumeyaay flag alongside the American, Mexican and Spanish flags on Presidio Hill. The City of San Diego was finally honoring its deepest roots.

Visitors to Presidio Hill can view the four flags and reflect on the history of this site and its surroundings.

And stop in at Junípero Serra Museum, the 90-year-old landmark, designed in 1929 by William Templeton Johnson, the architect who also designed the original La Jolla Public Library (now the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library), La Valencia Hotel, San Diego Natural History Museum and San Diego Museum of Art.

IF YOU GO: Junípero Serra Museum is at 2727 Presidio Drive in Presidio Park, San Diego. Summer hours through Sept. 2, 2019: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but closed 1-1:30 p.m. daily and also Tuesday and Thursday. Free admission. (619) 232-6203.

• SAN DIEGO 250: For a schedule of events commemorating San Diego’s 250th anniversary, visit