Updated: Aug 23
By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.
We are very fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area that has a wide variety of places reflecting its different cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life. Frankly, one can experience numerous countries worldwide within the SF Bay Area. There are countless restaurants, events, film festivals, cultural celebrations, museums, and exhibits that make the experience a great primer before you decide to visit various countries. You can practice many kinds of languages and be exposed to the contributions they bring to the richness of our area in Northern California. Using the internet, you can locate the countries of interest and take advantage of the diversity we enjoy.
San Francisco, for example, has the third largest number of Chinese residents in the U.S. You can experience not only Chinatown, but also the Richmond and Sunset areas that have numerous businesses. There are a variety places throughout the SF Bay Area to eat with the flavors and foods created and inspired by countries of Southeast Asia, India, Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines, to name a few.
Countless European places to eat can be found and experienced including those whose influences are based in the Mediterranean area. There are restaurants highlighting both Ukrainian and Russian cuisines. Various restaurants of different African nations can easily be found. And let’s not forget our communities from Central and South American nations that are settled and well established throughout Northern California.
San Francisco’s Latin History
In 1776, Spanish missionaries arrived in San Francisco, which was known then as Yerba Buena. Mission Dolores on 16th and Dolores Streets was the first European built structure and was originally named as Mission San Francisco de Assisi, founded by Father Palou. This is considered the oldest structure in San Francisco. Did you know that San Francisco’s Key of the City is a replica of this oldest building? The first San Francisco residents to receive this grand Key were members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. In June 1981, they were presented with the Key by then Mayor Dianne Feinstein at Davies Symphony Hall after completing their first nine city concert tour throughout the U.S. I was in the Chorus then and was present for this memorable and historic occasion.
What is the oldest Latinx organization in the United States? It is Club Puertorriqueño de San Francisco? They are located at 3249-A Mission Street and have a goal to conserve and promote the values and culture of Puerto Rico. Check out the Caribbean flavors at various restaurants, particularly those with Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisines like Cha Cha Cha’s in the Mission or Sol Food in Mill Valley. Have you tried pupusas, a Salvadorian and Honduran flatbread? What about foods from Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, and Columbia? Seek them out!
Did you know that the United States is home to the largest population of Brazilians in the world outside of Brazil? Experience the rapidly growing number of Brazilian restaurants throughout the Bay Area and sample the foods of Brazil. “Gays Brasileiros in the U.S.,” also known as “GayBraUS,” was the frontier of the SF Bay Area wellness network. It is a social activity group for gay, bisexual, and transgender Brazilians that meets in the offices of AGUILAS located in the SF LGBT Building in San Francisco.
Let’s not forget the influences of Mexico found throughout California. Did you know the name California comes from the Mexican reference to this land as that of Califas? After the end of the Mexican American war from 1846–1848, Mexico signed the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. In that treaty, the U.S. paid Mexico $18,250,000, allowing California and other northern territories to be part of the U.S. Overnight, Mexicans living in those ceded areas became Americans with the terms of the treaty, which included giving them one year to accept their American political status. The treaty granted Mexicans full rights of citizenship as well as protection of the Mexican American language, culture, and land. Interestingly, the U.S. Congress later removed the articles dealing with land protections prior to ratification of the treaty by Congress.
Nevertheless, you may still experience the variety of art, culture, music, films, and flavors of Mexico here in the Bay Area. Speak Spanish at these establishments, if you can. You’ll be surprised at how welcoming and helpful the workers can be.
Carnaval San Francisco 2022
San Francisco will celebrate the 2022 Carnaval in the Mission District with parades, fairs, foods, and music on Sunday, May 29. Carnaval San Francisco is a multicultural celebration of music, dance, and artistry that has showcased Latin American, Caribbean, and African Diasporic cultures and the talents of Mission District residents in an atmosphere of harmony and revelry since 1978. Meanwhile, enjoy worldwide experiences in our own backyard here throughout Northern California. Buen viaje!
Eduardo Morales, PhD, is one of the founders of AGUILAS, where he serves as Executive Director. He is also a retired Distinguished Professor at Alliant International University and is the current Past President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.