May 15, 2009

San Ysidro celebrates 100 years of border legacy

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

San Ysidro is turning 100, and the border community is celebrating with a big party, the type of party they used to host years ago during the Mexican Independence day, or Fiestas Patrias, celebrations here.

As a part of the Centennial Celebration is the sharing of historical photos collected from the residents. Pictured here is the 1945 3rd grade class of San Ysidro Elementary..

The celebration will be on Saturday, May 16, with a festival to commemorate San Ysidro Day, in honor of San Isidro Labrador (or Saint Isidore the Laborer), patron saint of this community located in southern San Diego.

“Here, every year the day of San Isidro is very special, but this year, in which we are celebrating the centennial, is even more special,” said Manuel Paul, who grew up in San Ysidro and is now superintendent at the San Ysidro School District.

At the festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Larsen Field, 455 Sycamore Ave., performers include Vilma Díaz, La Voz Original de la Sonora, Tiranos del Norte, and Explosión Norteña. Also, several local groups will perform, such as Rayo Norteño de Joe Serrano, Los Ingratos, Mariachi Diamante, and Joel Higuera y sus Compas.

Organizers expect some 5,000 people at the festival, which will include food, prizes, contests, kids’ zone, and car shows.

The festival is part of a series of events to commemorate the centennial of the foundation of San Ysidro, which includes a fair and parade in august.

With these events, it is reaffirmed that San Ysidro is rich in border culture.

Whether it’s the women who ride the trolley to go to their housecleaning jobs farther north, the retailers who cross the border from Tijuana to buy merchandise at the swap meet, or the merchants and money changers on San Ysidro Boulevard, this community has a lot of vitality.

San Ysidro border used to be a much nicer and easier commute.

So much so, that 9,000 years ago, way before it was founded like we know the community today, San Ysidro was an area that was in constant movement, just like right now.

What is now San Ysidro and Otay Mesa was visited by Indigenous groups of the Kumeyaay Nation that lived and continues to live throughout San Diego County and Baja California.

Their purpose: To find the metavolcanic rock they used to make their knives, metates, and other tools.

That tells us that 9,000 there were no borders for these peoples. They would go back and forth from far regions such as Tecate and Ensenada to what is today San Ysidro looking for food for their families.

The Día de San Ysidro Festival celebrates this legacy.

“We’re celebrating this community’s heritage,” said Amy Gunderson, member of the Centennial Committee and staff member at Casa Familiar, a local social services agency that is co- sponsoring the festival. “We’re celebrating San Ysidro.”

Joe Serrano, leader of Rayo Ñorteno, will perform at the event to thank San Ysidro, a community where he and his wife settled after getting married, where his children grew up, where he developed as a musician.

“I consider myself Mr San Ysidro,” said Serrano, who lived here for more than 20 years.

He has so much love for this community, that during the 1980s, Serrano recorded several songs in honor of San Ysidro, including Mi pueblito San Ysidro. He said he plans to perform the song during the festival.

“I want everybody to know about San Ysidro, about its people, about all the good here,” Serrano said. “Those of us, who know San Ysidro, are very proud.”

The Dia de San Ysidro Festival will be on Saturday, May 16, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Larsen Field, 455 Sycamore Ave. Entrance is free. To learn more, call (619) 428-1115 or visit

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