In recent days there has been a new attack on the Hispanic heritage of the United States, this time in San Diego (California). Councilman Joe LaCava has introduced a proposal to remove the symbols referring to Spain from the city’s coat of arms. According to LaCava, “the current coat of arms erases the history of the indigenous people who occupied this land long before us and glorifies those who stole it”.

San Diego is a city of about 1.5 million people today with a strong Hispanic heritage going back several centuries. Both the coat of arms and the flag reflect this heritage. The coat of arms features the names of the city, the state, and the official motto of San Diego: “semper vigilans”, which means always vigilant in Latin. It also includes three very characteristic elements: the caravel, which refers to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1542; the bell, in reference to the mission founded by Fray Junípero Serra, which was the origin of the city; and finally, the columns of Hercules, which recall the ancient territorial jurisdiction of Spain. Tomorrow, 15 April, marks 107 years since the adoption of the coat of arms.

The mission of San Diego de Alcalá was founded in 1769 by Fray Junípero Serra and was the origin of the current city of San Diego. However, as its symbols explain, the Spanish presence goes back even further, as the first European ship to make landfall on the West Coast of what is now the United States was that of the expedition led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.

Apart from the coat of arms, the flag of San Diego has the colours red and yellow, which were chosen in reference to Spain. It also includes a reference to “1542”, the year explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first entered San Diego Bay.

This is yet another example of how Hispanic cultural heritage is under attack in the United States in recent times. The Hispanic Council will continue to work to disseminate the Hispanic cultural heritage of the United States and to prevent its distortion and manipulation.