Do You Know Who Named San Diego?

California, San Diego. Historic town centre. Gaslamp Quarter

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Most people who have some knowledge of San Diego's history will generally acknowledge that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to set foot on San Diego soil in 1542 when he discovered what is now San Diego Bay. And many will generally assume it was Cabrillo who named this new territory "San Diego."

If not Cabrillo, then many might think that it was the famous Franciscan friar, Junipero Serra, who named the colony San Diego when he established the first of California's Franciscan missions in 1769.

If you thought it was either or Cabrillo or Serra, you would be wrong.

So, Who Really Named San Diego?

In fact, this newly discovered area (well, new to Europeans... Native Americans had been here all along) was named by another Spanish explorer who came along some 60 years after Cabrillo.

According to the San Diego Historical Society, Sebastian Vizcaino arrived in San Diego in November 1602 after sailing from Acapulco the previous May. It took his fleet six months to reach San Diego's bay.

San Diego was the name of Vizcaino's flagship (he had four ships, but only three made it to San Diego). He declared the area to be named San Diego, both in honor of his ship and for the feast of San Diego de Alcala (a Spanish Franciscan) which occurred on November 12.

And the name stuck ever since. Had Vizcaino's flagship been one of his other ships, the Santo Tomas, perhaps we would be living and visiting beautiful, sunny Santo Tomas instead of San Diego!