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Photo Essay: Scenes From San Diego’s South Bay

Delana Delgado and Gina Serna-Rosas of creative collective 619 Gurlz use film photography to capture their community
Row of vintage cars and lowriders in front of a market in Paradise Hills, San Diego in the South Bay
Photo Credit: Delana Delgado

La Palapa is on Reo Drive in the first neighborhood I grew up in, Paradise Hills. I remember going there with my mom. There were no major stores around, no Walmart,” Delgado says. “That block is stuck in time. Getting that lucky shot of all those cars lined up… it’s just the perfect encapsulation of the colors and the richness and everything I love.”

Film photo of two women putting on makeup outside of a vintage lowrider car from 619 Gurlz photographer Delana Delgado
Delana Delgado, Paradise Hills, 2021

Delgado nabbed this shot of two South Bay women hanging out at a car show. “It’s their homie’s car, and they were just putting on eyelashes and talking,” she recalls. “They were so beautiful and cool.”

Film photo double exposure of fruit in the window of a South Bay market with a woman in the reflection from 619 Gurlz photographer Delana Delgado
Delana Delgado, Tijuana & San Ysidro, 2023

This image is an inadvertent double exposure. “The photo that I had taken originally, that’s in Tijuana. It’s a fruit market. It’s not supposed to be art, but the way that they decorate it every day, it has a personality, you know?” Delgado says.

“It happened to go over [a photo from] my project where I was documenting shopping culture [in South Bay]. My friend Angelica Grijalva, who is also an amazing photographer, was my model, and we were going to those mega discount stores in San Ysidro. These kinds of stores thrive here. They are affordable, accessible. They give us enough to feel stylish and have our personality shine through. These are the safe spaces for us to find our identities.

“Angelica was checking herself out in the reflection of the door, just making sure she looked okay. [Girls from South Bay] are always trying to look our best and making the most out of the least.”

Film photo of Price Breakers shopping center at night in National City, San Diego by 619 Gurlz photographer Gina Serna-Rosas
Gina Serna-Rosas, National City, 2021

Serna-Rosas took this picture of National City’s iconic Price Breakers shopping center during a night drive through the area. “I chose a specific stock of film … that’s supposed to have more of a cinematography type of feel,” she recalls. “So I was thinking, If I made a movie about South Bay, what would I photograph?

Film photo of a South Bay trailer home with trinkets and collectibles in their yard by 619 Gurlz photographer Delana Delgado
Delana Delgado, Chula Vista, 2023

“In the whole coastal area of South Bay, it’s really common to have these trailer homes,” Delgado says. “This house was one of the first in the row. This style of excess, I guess it would be called tacky [by] the mainstream, but I think people that are from this area appreciate it.”

Film photo of a girl in a traditional mexican quinceañera dress at the Chula Vista Mall in San Diego's South Bay by 619 Gurlz photographer Delana Delgado
Delana Delgado, Chula Vista, 2023

“Quinceañeras are such a huge celebration of the majority of young people’s lives in this area,” says Delgado, who snapped this photo at the Chula Vista Mall. “They were doing a fashion show on this day. There was a huge crowd. I love that these young girls are having fun and embracing their womanhood, their girlhood, and their culture.”

Film photo of a red vintage lowrider car driving down the street in National City by 619 Gurlz photographer Delana Delgado
Delana Delgado, National City, 2021

Delgado captured a car show at a popular intersection in National City, photographing this cherry-red lowrider and the group of friends inside. “You could tell they’ve been homies forever,” she says. “People from South Bay, they just love nostalgia. I think that the cool thing is that all generations are there. These guys, maybe in their 40s or 50s. Me and my friends, standing on the corner taking photos. Young kids walking around with their parents. Those moments are so special to me.”

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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