“The Cabrillo Festival is nations coming together that were associated with the first European coming to the West Coast and, basically, the birth of the city of San Diego,” said Idalmiro Manuel da Rosa, Cabrillo Festival vice president.
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was a 16th-century Portuguese navigator working for the King of Spain who was sent on a mission to the West. When Cabrillo landed in Point Loma on Sept. 28, 1542, he originally named the area San Miguel in honor of St. Michael’s Day, which was to be celebrated the next day.
“Back in those days, there were a lot of navigators who worked for both countries [Portugal and Spain], based on their experience,” da Rosa said. “It is believed that Cabrillo was a Portuguese navigator who went to work for the king of Spain and came to the western side of the United States.”
Shortly after he left what would become San Diego, Cabrillo died of an infection on the islands outside Santa Barbara. In honor of his discovery of the West Coast, Sept. 28 is recognized as Cabrillo Day in California.
The local festival will be held over two days at Cabrillo National Monument and Ballast Point, which is located on Naval Base Point Loma. It will feature a host of events on both days, with Saturday’s lineup centered on Cabrillo National Monument — including a commemorative ceremony at 4 p.m. with a keynote address by Dr. Antonio Costa Moura, consulate general of Portugal in San Francisco.
“We always try to improve the festival. We feel it has potential to grow,” da Rosa said.
Saturday, Sept. 25 is also National Public Lands Day, which means admission to Cabrillo National Monument is free during the festival. Saturday night, the celebration shifts to the United Portuguese S.E.S. Hall in Point Loma for the Cabrillo Discovery Celebration Dinner-Dance, which costs $40 and begins at 6 p.m.
“It’s a good, fun day of celebration for people to come out and enjoy,” da Rosa said.
The highlight of Sunday, of course, is the re-creation of Cabrillo’s arrival in San Diego. Costume-clad explorers will sail into Ballast Point at about 1 p.m. aboard the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s “Californian” cutter.
“They’ll be sailing in on the boat and ‘Cabrillo’ will actually land on the beach and declare the land found for the King of Spain,” da Rosa said. “He will speak in Portuguese, working under the flag of Spain.”
The reenactment is part of an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday that includes Aztec, Spanish and Portuguese dancers, Kumeyaay Bird Singers and a performance by the Portuguese Filarmónica of San Diego. The cultures of Spain, Portugal, Mexico and America will be integrated into the open house.
“It is a nice, grassy, open area,” da Rosa said. “There will be some vendors over there and ethnic foods.”
This year’s edition of the Cabrillo Festival promises a weekend full of activity. And da Rosa said he expects the festival to continue growing in the coming years, including the building of a replica “San Salvador” — the ship Cabrillo sailed in on — by the Maritime Museum. Continued growth is the key goal of the Cabrillo Festival organization, he said.
“Our goal is to really fortify this organization and make it more appealing to visit Cabrillo National Monument,” da Rosa said.
For more information about Cabrillo Festival or to learn more about Cabrillo himself, visit www.cabrillofestival.org.