San Diego History & Culture
San Diego is considered “the birthplace of California” and home to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first in a chain of 21 up the El Camino Real. Claimed for Spain by Cabrillo in 1542, it was first put on the map by Sebastian Vizcaíno, who in 1609 charted the Pacific Coast seeking safe midway harbors for the galleons that traveled between Manila and Acapulco — a critical trade link for the Spanish crown. The Presidio of San Diego was founded in 1769, marking the first permanent European settlement in present-day California. Growing away from its historic city center after the Civil War, a new downtown flourished on the waterfront. San Diego became a principal port for the U.S. Navy and remains home base for the Pacific fleet. Across the harbor sits the landmark Hotel del Coronado—“The Del,” to locals—a Victorian head-turner that’s entertained celebrities, royals and dignitaries alike.