Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days Fiesta is an annual community-wide 5-day festival that begins on the Wednesday before the first Friday in August.

Stroll 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 no mercado.

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.