After a three year hiatus, La Fiesta has returned to downtown Santa Barbara with a full lineup of cultural dances and a spotlight for nonprofits in the area.
"We had no Mercado de la Guerra in 2020 and 2021 so it really is a joyous occasion," said Maria Cabrera, La Presidenta of Old Spanish Days 2022.
While it has been nearly a century since the first Old Spanish Days celebration was held back in 1924, some say this year's event could be the start of a new tradition.
"It is our first year participating in the Fiestas and we just want to be part of the community," Delilah Santos told KSBY. She is a member of the local nonprofit Light of the World. Their booth will be at the Mercado this week selling barbecued chicken to raise money for their outreach services.
"Working with the Health Department and the Fiestas is amazing. They give us a lot of opportunity to grow," Santos added.
Just steps away from their booth, cultural Spanish dances provide a reminder of the event's goal of highlighting the diversity and history of Santa Barbara.
"I will be dancing all around town doing a variety of dances," said Tara Mata, 2022 Spirit Ambassador of La Fiesta. "Tonight is especially important because it is Fiesta Pequena tonight."
"You have dance from Folklorico from Mexico, you have flamenco from Spain, you have early California which is a mix of both Spanish and Native American dances as they saw it. It is very inclusive," Cabrera said.
Other locals say they are simply relieved to be returning to La Fiesta in person.
"It means the world to me that our community gets together once a year to celebrate our Mexican, Spanish and Chumash native culture. We have the whole community involved in this. It is a big deal for Santa Barbara and I am happy to be a part of it," said Melissa DeSoto, Santa Barbara resident.
The festivities will continue throughout the evening with the Fiesta Pequena that begins at 8 p.m. at Mission Santa Barbara. The days of food, fun and culture continue until Sunday. General admission is free.
On Thursday, there will be a performance about the history of Old Spanish Days at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Until Sunday, you can also take a free guided tour of the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
Click here for a full lineup of events.