90. Even at the beach in San Diego,
You can't avoid Spanish history
California Road Trip #9
Some of my friends have been asking if - amid all the historic sites in my travels - I have taken some time to go to the beach. After all, this is California!
And so I started asking people in San Diego where I should go. “What’s the best beach around here?” I kept asking. And wouldn’t you know it? The answer was always the same: "Coronado Beach."
Even if I wanted to get away from my Hispanic heritage, I could not do it here!
Naturally, you might assume this beautiful beach was named after Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the Spanish conquistador who led a 1540-42 expedition through today's Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas (a trail already followed in 2014 by the Great Hispanic American History Tour, see: Searching for Coronado's Quivira).
But nah! This Coronado has a different Spanish story.
It was first explored in 1542 by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his men, as they discovered and claimed the bay and this entire region for Spain. They called it all San Miguel.
Nevertheless, the next time Spanish ships came this way - 60 years later - explorer Sebastian Vizcaino changed the name from San Miguel to San Diego de Alcalá, and he drew a map of the outer-bank peninsula that created the bay. On that map, he named that peninsula "Coronado," which means "the crowned one" in Spanish.
This is the reason why Coronado, now a resort city in San Diego County - across the bay from downtown San Diego - is also known as "The Crown City."
Geographically, instead of an island, Coronado is a peninsula held together and connected to the mainland by sand banks called the Silver Strand. But amazingly, from the time Vizcaino wrote it on a crude map, the name "Coronado" lived only on Spanish maps for another 167 years, until Spain decided to return to colonize the area in 1769.
Nowadays, it is considered one of the best beaches in the United States. Unfortunately, I went on a day when the temperature was too cold to go in the water - at least for the Florida boy!
Its huge and historic Victorian beachfront resort, Hotel del Coronado, which has hosted royalty, celebrities and presidents since it opened in 1888, still stands out as a symbol of another time, and as State and National Historic Landmark.
Next, The Great Hispanic American History Tour will go back across the bay to San Diego, look for the correct exit ramp and visit a park that is under the highways.
It's called Chicano Park, and its murals - painted on the highway columns - tell the story of the Mexican-American experience. Stay tuned!