Establishment of “Latino Cultural District” SF California

Recently San Francisco’s Mission District was named a “Latino Cultural District” based on the Latino/a melting pot that has historically welcomed people from diverse countries.

A SHORT HISTORY

Immigration to the Mission District began during the 19th century Gold Rush. The end of the Mexican-American War and Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo forced Mexican residents to leave, and spurred entry of Anglo squatters, and immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Scandanavia. Latinos re-populated the Mission district after the 1930s. Some came from the Rincon Hill area because of re-location due to the construction of the Bay Bridge. After WWII, many Latinos came from the North Beach area due to rising rent costs, and some were the children of Braceros farmworkers (bracero workers from Mexico were brought to the U.S. to fill in the agricultural workforce gap during WWII). During the 1970s and 1980s many political refugees came to the Mission District to escape civil wars occurring in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The cultural melting pot expanded with people from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Peru, Chile, the Philippines, Samoan islands, and the Middle East.

The Mission District supported civil rights activism including Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union, Third World Strike, and the land rights movement.

ORAL NARRATIVE

Below is a short response by Danny Robles. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission district, Danny Robles is the son of working class immigrant parents from El Salvador and the Philippines.  Danny graduated from the University of California Davis with a bachelor’s degree in English with a dual emphasis in creative writing and literary theory and minors in African and African American Studies and Chicana/o Studies:

Mission District “Calle 24” Latin Corridor named per unanimous SF City resolution to preserve the Latina/o cultural heritage inherent in the Mission district in the wake of gentrification, evictions, cultural amnesia and so on…

I was conceived in the Mission, was born in San Francisco, grew up in the Mission, attended Leonard Flynn Elementary on Army St (Cesar Chavez) at Harrison Streets. In the early 80’s my entire family fled the violence of the civil war in El Salvador and came to the Mission to live with us along among thousands of other Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, Colombians, Cubans from the Mariel Boatlift, Mexicanos, Chicanos, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotians, Cantonese, Samoans and Tongans and African Americans all living together in a very cool melting pot.

I was squeezed out of the Mission myself –a place that I truly loved. It’s rewarding to hear about this resolution, to finally hear some acknowledgement of the people that shaped this community. To pay homage to our contributions in creating the vibrancy of the Mission district, while perhaps a small gesture in wake of what is happening, is nevertheless rewarding and a starting point at larger preservation and activism.

VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF THE MISSION’S MELTING POT

The rich cultural murals of the Mission district highlight the historical and social triggers that spurred immigration to the United States during the late 1980s. Juana Alicia’s painting Alto al Fuego/ Cease Fire is a commentary on the U.S. military involvement in Central America, specifically during the Honduran civil war.

Juana Alicia; Alto al Fuego/ Ceasefire, 1988
Juana Alicia; Alto al Fuego/ Ceasefire, 1988

The situation she visualizes parallels U.S. intervention in El Salvador, which has had lasting implications over the past 25 years–inducing economic indebtedness, loss of agricultural independence, and a dependence on remittances from family members who immigrated to the U.S. during the gruesome war years. With vast deportations of MS-13 LA street gang members beginning in the early 1990s, the social-conflict in El Salvador is reaching a peak, similar to the conflict of the civil war of the late 1980s.

Social-cultural-political conflicts occur in cycles, and it’s significance how San Francisco’s mission district has preserved aspects of Central American history and is now establishing itself as a latino/a cultural neighborhood that may welcome new immigrants.

See the full Cultural District resolution: http://www.sfbos.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/committees/materials/LU051914_140421.pdf

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jean says:

    Hi,

    I am from the mission district and still live there. One year after this was written, the struggle to stop total gentrification continues. In the election next month we have Francisco Herrera running for mayor under the green party. Francisco seeks to implement a multi-step plan to help stop evictions and preserve cultural values of the city. I think the situation has worsened and there is very small hope because of the city’s tech revenue which has no end in sight.

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