How Hispanic/Latino is San Francisco? Part II.

By Lupita Peimbert. #HHM2016

(Culture) – Part II. Allow me to present Latino/Hispanic key players of the past and present. The intention is to acknowledge their contributions, to inform those of Latino/Hispanic descent of the leadership we derive from, and to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This article is also intended for anybody who appreciates the Latino culture or wants to learn more about Latinos and Hispanics in California and in the United States of America.

If you’d like to read  How Latino/Hispanic is San Francisco? Part I, please click here.

Here we go:

A Hispanic Business Woman May Have Founded San Francisco

Often overlooked by historians, Juana Briones was one of the first residents of San Francisco, and a wealthy one. She also was an entrepreneur, and a landowner. Born in 1802  in Santa Cruz, her ancestors came from Mexico. Juana Briones and husband owned property first at the Presidio, and on Telegraph Hill (North Beach) after. She had a dairy ranch and conducted business on what is now known as Washington Square. She lived in San Francisco for 40 years, and later she bought a ranch in what is now known as Palo Alto where she lived for another 47 years. Although she has never been fully acknowledged as founder of SF, as people learn about her life and times, the  awareness about her role as founder is growing. A plaque about Juana Briones is on Washington Square Park in San Francisco.

The First Openly Gay Candidate in the United States was Latino

Jose Julio Sarria is well known in the LGBT+ community not only as “The Empress” of San Francisco but also as the first candidate for public office openly gay in the entire country. He ran for San Francisco Supervisor in 1961. Sarria was born in San Francisco, his mother was Colombian and his father Spanish. He had a long life of achievement, community engagement, and contributions to the causes he believed in. He died in 2013 at 91 years old. “You do good work…your work will fight your battles,” Jose Julio Sarria used to say.

Click here for an adorable video of his life, and you can see him speaking about life in SF.

There is a street named after him, the Jose Julio Sarria Court, close to Pond St. and 16th St. in the Castro District, San Francisco.

The Kitchen Says It All: Latino Chefs and Cooking Crews

Interestingly, when you look at the “Top 10,” “Top 50,” or “The Best,” lists of chefs in San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area cities, you rarely see a Hispanic name. I had a hard time finding them. But rumor has it that Latinos have been running the kitchen for centuries, and it is even said that there is a Mayan Mafia ;-)! in the kitchens of the most popular restaurants in the city. The deliciousness that comes out of mixing old and new, traditional and uncommon, this culture and that other culture couldn’t be possible without the of Mexican (Oaxacan and Mayan), Peruvian and other Latino chefs as well as the rest of kitchen crews –often majorly Hispanics. Chef Mateo –current owner of Cocina Latina in Healdsburg, for instance, worked during many years at a famous French restaurant in San Francisco. And right now, a new generation of Latino Chefs is shining throughout the city. In 5-star restaurants and in mom-pop’s diners, take a further look and find out who is in the kitchen. There is a real need for a greater acknowledgement of Latino/Hispanic Chefs, if you’d ask my opinion.

The Murals by Legendary  Mexican Artist Diego Rivera

Pan American Unity, at CCSF.

Diego Rivera was an outstanding muralist and a social force. The Mexican painter lived in San Francisco and in cities across continents temporarily.  His murals spoke of human rights, labor issues, class differences, and more. It is said that he influenced the Mexican government to make it easier for refugees from several countries to find sanctuary in Mexico, specially for the Jewish people escaping the nazis. One of the three Diego Rivera’s murals in San Francisco “Pan American Unity”  is located at the Ocean Campus, City College of San Francisco.

Mission Dolores Park and Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

Although known as just “Dolores Park,” its full name is Mission Dolores Park and it was founded by Spanish missionaries in 1776. Is quite an interesting place not only for the stunning views of the city, but for the many groups who’ve called it home. In a nutshell it was originally inhabited by Native Americans, then the Spanish missionaries took over. Later it became a Jewish cemetery, and it was also a shelter to 1,000 families affected by the 1905 earthquake. Over the decades it has been frequented at times by European Americans, Latinos, the Gay (LGBTQ) community, and these days by the Milennials. The only statue in the park is the Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in homage to the priest who helped Mexicans achieve Independence from Spanish. And so, Dolores Park can be claimed as Hispanic. Oh, and no ghosts there, as all the remains buried at Dolores Park when it was a Jewish cemetery were moved to a cemetery in nearby Colma.

Dance Groups in the Mission District

The Mission District is the heart and soul of the Latino community. One of the distinct sounds during the night around some of its streets is the sound of people drumming dancing to Latin American music. Fogo Naroupa and Loco Bloco are just two examples of the many dance groups that abound in the Mission, uniting people from all backgrounds and creating amazing musical and dance experiences. The names of dancers and dance teachers, percussionists and other dance and music lovers would make it for a long, long list. The grand event where most of them gather every year is Carnaval San Francisco, a display of color, music, dance and Latin American culture that happens the Sunday of Memorial weekend.

 Carlos Santana, One of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time

Once you get to know people in the Mission District or within the local music circles, you will eventually realize you are hanging out with a talented, long time musician –whether they are famous or not. Guitarist Carlos Santana is perhaps the most accomplished, gaining fame in the 60’s and 70’s, having a revival in the 90’s and maintaining a legendary status as of currently. Santana was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and spent his youth in San Francisco. Carlos Santana is considered one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, by Rolling Stone. He not only had and has talent, but was able to move up in the often difficult world of famous artists. Some of his musicians and friends also are in a great place, artistically speaking, while others didn’t stay on track. Go Carlos Santana!

If you’d like to read  How Latino/Hispanic is San Francisco? Part I, please click here.

Content by Lupita Peimbert honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.
@Lupitanews #HHM2016

About the Writer:

Lupita Peimbert is a digital journalist, a bilingual communications professional, and the founder of

For How Latino/Hispanic is San Francisco? Part I and Part II, she utilized a variety of sources: a few online sites, books, personal interviews, and her experience living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 20+ years.
Contact her at

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it in your networks and channels, by clicking the social media sharing buttons at the end of this article. Thank you!



What do you think about this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.