Officially known as La Ciudad de San Diego de Alcalá, it is known by Alta Californios as "San Diego", this city was founded in 1615, five years before the city of Monterey (now known as Montréi. It was settled primarily by pioneers from Mexico drawn in by tales of plenty of land and rumors of riches not yet found since the conquest of Mexico. Until 1770, the town was simply a trading outpost and the next stop after Montréi for ships arriving from Acapulco.
The original town was located along the banks of the Rio de San Diego, but as the city grew, it was moved further south and closer to the shores of the Bahia de San Diego. The original mission still stands in the same location as it has always been, but the national cathedral is now located at the head of the Plaza Nacionál. All government buildings are located around the quadrangle of the Plaza Nacionál.
Sights to See
There are many sights in the capital to take in as a tourist. While times have been tough for most of its existence, the city center has been maintained and is considered one of the most beautiful cities on the western coast of North America.
- Catedral Nacionál de San Diego de Alcalá - National Cathedral of Saint Didacus of Alcalá: A beautiful Romanesque-Mudéjar style church, this building was inagurated in 1850 to comemorate the 10th anniversary of the war with Mejico for independance. A Romanesque-Mudéjar style design was chosen as it was reminscent of the beauty of churches in Castille (particularly the church of San Tirso). This design was also chosen to get away from the styles of Mejico. The original mission church is a neo-classical style adobe building. The cathedral was not finished for twenty years, due to war with Tejas and frequent lack of funds. All official ceremonies are held here.
- Plaza Nacionál - National Plaza: This plaza is not a massive paved square as the Zócalo is in Mejico City. It is actually a great garden, closed off to vehicles, and enclosed by a great andador (closed walk) that borders the plaza. Only the third closest to the National Cathedral is paved, the remaining two thirds landscaped and parklike. This space is reserved for ceremonies and demonstrations. See the section on the plaza for more.
- Arco de Victoria - Arch of Victory: An imposing structure, this triumphal arch in mudéjar style was inagurated in 1850 to compliment the national cathedral. It had fallen into disrepair, but as of 2004, work was begin to rennovate the arch in commemoration of the defeat of Tejas. Originally, the arch was meant as a reminder of victory against Mejico, but it soon came to memorialize all citizens who have served Alta California in battle. With the war with Tejas over in 2004, the arch was reinagurated as a memorial for soldiers who have fallen in battle against Tejas. To honor Mejico's help in defeating Tejas, two smaller arches were installed abutting the main arch with inscriptions describing their significance.
- Museo de las Bellas Artes - Museum of Fine Arts: Considered to have one of the biggest colonial era collections of paintings, this museum features permanent national collections and temporary exhibits of fine arts from around the world. This building continues the mudéjar theme of the other buildings around the plaza.
More to come....
The Plaza Nacionál is considered the grandest plaza in all of Alta California. Two thirds of it is landscaped with paved areas encircling planted beds, large trees, fountains, and bandstands. One third is an open paved area where ceremonies, demonstrations, and the sunday market are held in front of the church.