Hispanic Heritage Month
The City of Riverside boasts one of the oldest and most cohesive Latino communities nestled in the heart of California. The Latino community has played an integral role in our city’s prosperity and cultivating the fabric of Riverside.
Each year, September 15th to October 15th marks when we come together for National Hispanic Heritage Month to honor and celebrate the rich history, vibrant culture, and the invaluable contributions of our fellow community members with roots tracing back to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and both Central and South America. The month-long celebration has transformed from Hispanic Heritage Week, first commemorated by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, to the vastly distinguished celebration we honor today.
As we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us reflect on the profound impact of Riverside’s Latino community and honor their contributions to the vibrant tapestry of our city’s history.
Historic Casa Blanca Neighborhood of Riverside
Casa Blanca, Spanish for “white house”, is a cherished Riverside community with a rich history that dates back generations, and it’s one of the oldest Latino neighborhoods in California. At its heart lies Riverside’s Villegas Park and Ysmael Villegas Center, providing a central hub for community gatherings and activities.
Casa Blanca’s vibrant history is intertwined with its dedication to education. Residents have long been active in community organizations, shaping the neighborhood and even playing a pivotal role in crafting one of Riverside's first Community Plans in 1974. In 1923, Casa Blanca School was established, thanks to the unwavering determination of two brave mothers, Ysabel S. Olvera and Margarita S. Solorio. In 1911, they fearlessly petitioned for the construction of a school in their neighborhood, leaving an enduring legacy of commitment to the education of their children.
Known as La Placita de los Trujillos and dating back to 1862, this historic Riverside landmark predates the very establishment of our beloved city. Registered as a point of historical interest by the State of California in 1968, it stands as one of the area's oldest surviving structures. The Trujillo Adobe was constructed prior to the founding of the City of Riverside in approximately 1862 by the Trujillo family. The Trujillo Adobe's story is deeply intertwined with the Old Spanish Trail, a commercial route frequently traveled by Lorenzo Trujillo and utilized by settlers and Spaniards for trade. This trail, first established by Native Americans, stretched across California to Colorado, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Now managed by the nonprofit Spanish Town Heritage Foundation, the mission is clear: to champion the Hispanic Legacy of the Inland Empire’s first settlers. La Placita de los Trujillos rests in today’s Northside neighborhood in Riverside, CA.
A vibrant celebration of Chicano heritage, creativity, and identity, The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, affectionately known as “The Cheech”, stands in the bustling Downtown area of Riverside. Established in June 2022, the Cheech is a testament to the power of partnerships, bringing together Riverside Art Museum (RAM), the City of Riverside, and the incomparable comedian Cheech Marin, a world-renowned collector of Chicano art.
The Cheech pays homage to the depth and diversity of the Chicano community and fosters a sense of pride with over 500 works by Chicano artists now a part of the RAM’s permanent collection. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, photography, and video arts. The Cheech is where creativity knows no bounds, and the spirit of Chicano culture thrives.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Riverside takes immense pride in celebrating three iconic military hometown heroes: Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas, Staff Sergeant Salvador J. Lara, and Specialist Jesus S. Duran, all recipients of the prestigious Medal of Honor. Their portraits grace the walls of Riverside's City Council Chambers, a testament to their extraordinary acts of courage and valor.
Salvador J. Lara displayed exceptional bravery in Italy on May 27-28, 1944, where he led his rifle squad to neutralize enemy strong points, inflicting heavy casualties.
Jesus S. Duran demonstrated unwavering heroism in Vietnam on April 10, 1969, as he valiantly defended his unit from an ambush, protecting two seriously injured American soldiers from advancing enemy forces.
Ysmael R. Villegas, on the eve of his 21st birthday on March 20, 1945, exhibited remarkable leadership when he attacked five enemy foxholes, defeating all occupants while leading his squad in capturing a vital hill in the battle of Luzon in the Philippines.
Today, Riverside proudly honors their legacy with libraries, parks, and memorials named after these hometown heroes. A library in the Casa Blanca neighborhood has been named for Staff Sergeant, Lara, and an Eastside library has been named for Specialist, Duran. Ysmael Villegás Park and Community Center was also established to honor Staff Sergeant Villegás, as well as a bronze sculpture beside City Hall on Main Street.
Born in Yuma, Arizona, on March 31, 1927, César E. Chávez left a mark on the American labor movement and the fight for Latino civil rights. A devoted advocate for the rights of farm workers, Chávez dedicated his life to "la causa" – the struggle to improve the working and living conditions of those who toiled in the fields. He is a prominent face of migrant agriculture civil rights and an important figure to Riverside's own citrus farming industry.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Beyond accolades, Chávez's legacy lives on in his ability to amplify the voices of migrant agricultural workers and his role in popularizing the phrase "Si se puede!" (Yes, we can!).
In Riverside, we honor his memory with a bronze memorial sculpture on Main Street in Downtown, depicting Chávez leading the way for migrant farmers. The César E. Chávez Community Center in the Eastside area serves as another lasting tribute to his profound influence.
Nationwide, César Chávez Day falls on his birthday, a day to remember and celebrate his unwavering commitment to justice, equality, and empowerment.
Is there anything we missed, should add or needs correction? Please email us at [email protected].