US Sailing celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 through October 15. Observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan to a 30-day period beginning September 15 and ending October 15. It came into effect on August 17, 1988.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of the independence of the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their Independence Days on September 16 and 18 respectively. Throughout the month we bring you stories from US Sailing’s Hispanic community.
At the ripe old age of 21, Diego Escobar has sailed multiple world championships, won national high school titles and participated in the Olympic Development Program — but according to the San Diego transplant, it didn’t start that way.
“Actually, I wasn’t very fond of competitive sailing back then,” Escobar remarked. “But when I won my first regatta, I was hooked.”
Escobar’s parents enrolled him in a summer sailing camp as soon as they moved to San Diego from their native Mexico City when they were six or seven years old. Coming to a new country with a new language, they encouraged him to try different sports to adapt to his new hometown.
“They let me try everything from surfing to sailing,” Escobar said. “My dad took me to the sailing summer camp and said, ‘You stick with it, just try it.’ Eventually I started appreciating it more.”
From sailing camp to inter-school sailing, Escobar progressed in his sailing journey while navigating the world as an American and first-generation sailor. As a young boy, Escobar dived head first and repeated a year in elementary school to help him learn English.
Moving from Mexico to the United States was a major culture shock, according to Escobar. Fortunately, Escobar’s parents were also able to contact other groups of Mexican emigrants who helped him adjust to his new home.
“These friends are practically family to me,” he said. “While my immediate family was in Mexico City, they were there to support me with regattas, school plays and vacations growing up.”
At the age of 11, Escobar switched from sailing for fun to competition where he realized sailing could be his lifelong sport. Competing for his high school Point Loma, he helped the team qualify for numerous fleet races, team races, and single-handed national championships.
Escobar was part of the team that won the Interscholastic Sailing Association’s Fleet Race National Championship in 2019 – results that propelled him to Georgetown, where he is now a member of their experienced sailing team.
College sailing has been a welcome challenge for Escobar, who sees it as an opportunity to spend hours on the water and foster a sense of community with his teammates.
“We have a unique opportunity to connect with people from all over the country on an interpersonal level, which has resulted in some of my best friendships,” he said. “While collegiate sailing has many ups and downs, I still think it was one of the most fun sails I’ve done to date. When else are you going to be able to compete off the Olympic circuit with your best friends 4-5 days a week?”
Outside of inter-school sailing, Escobar took an interest in San Diego’s local Snipe fleet and eventually qualified for and competed in the 2019 World Championship and the 2022 Junior World Championship. He and his sister Ximena qualified together for the Junior World Cup in Portugal last summer and have been training as a family and as a team.
“The highlights of this event were the international friendships we made out of the water, and fighting hard for third place in one of the windiest races at 1.80m seas, and seeing that Ximena and I were the only mixed team at the top were fleet,” Escobar recalls.
This community-oriented nature, coupled with fierce competition, drew Escobar to the class.
“What keeps me coming back to the Snipe is the multicultural make-up of the fleet and in particular the popularity of the Snipe in Latin America,” noted Escobar. “I really enjoy speaking my native language to other sailors and experiencing the sport I love with other people from a similar background.”
In terms of his experience in the American sailing community, Escobar recalls a lack of diversity that was evident from the start.
“My sister and I played a lot of sports growing up, and sailing was by far the least varied,” Escobar said. “It was only through my participation in high school sailing, where there are no traditional yacht club teams, that I saw more diversity in the fleet.”
Escobar hopes more kids outside of the sport will try sailing like he did.
“I know that sailing can be a very technical sport that is very difficult to settle into if you don’t know anyone,” he said. “But I think I’m a testament to the ability to get involved if you’re passionate about it, if you keep asking questions and sticking with it.”