El Mercado De La Guerra
At De La Guerra Plaza, Downtown
through a colorful Mexican market to feast on Spanish and
Mexican-American foods, shop for crafts and souvenirs and enjoy live
entertainment all day and into the evening. This festive street
fair is located downtown in De la Guerra Plaza (across from City Hall).
El Mercado as its known in Spain and
Mexico, or "the marketplace" in cities throughout the world, has been
the center of village and city life. The focus of gathering for the
people in Santa Barbara, however, had been the Presidio, as the town had
During the many fiestas prior to the first Old Spanish Days Fiesta in
1924, booths were set up in various locations in the city. Merchandise
was sold and food and entertainment provided. These centers came to
serve as the marketplace for the fiesta.
This custom has continued and become an established part of Old Spanish
Days. Until 1949, the mercados took on a variety of personalities; in
1949 however, the foundation for the present mercado was laid. Rosario
Andrea Curletti was in charge of the mercados that year and insisted all
things having to do the mercado be authentic. Robert Hoyt, a well-known
architect designed and constructed the booths reflective of true mercado
puestos and helped determine the rental to be charged in order that the
mercado be self-supporting. For the first time each booth was sponsored
by a non-profit or religious organization of the City of Santa Barbara
and the revenue earned was to be used for their organization. The food,
beverage, candy and merchandise sold was limited to the items that would
be found in a mercado of the Spanish and Mexican California period.
This tradition has continued over the years. The booths at Mercado Del
Norte and Mercado De La Guerra are still sponsored by local charitable
organizations and the proceeds still support their programs. The form of
the booths has been standardized and updated over the years, not only
for convenience but also to meet city health and safety ordinances.
Entertainment is offered throughout the day and evening to provide an
even more festive and enjoyable atmosphere.