For decades, the hundreds of murals in San Francisco’s Mission District have served as a visual history of the neighborhood’s diverse Latin American roots.
But in recent years, the cultural landscape of the Mission has radically changed. According to the Mission Economic Development Association, 8,000 Latino residents were displaced from the Mission between 2000 and 2013.
When local Latino dancers and choreographers staged performances May 3, 2015, in front of several murals along 24th Street, the act of reclaiming the area’s rich cultural past was as much on display as the street choreography.
Calle 24 Latino Cultural District’s Arts Consortium presented Baile en la Calle: The Mural Dances.
“We started these mural dances to bring attention to losing the visibility to the culture that created the Mission," says Susan Cervantes, founder of Precita Eyes Muralists and a pioneer in the city’s community mural art movement. "So there’s better understanding and more respect.”
Street performances represented Aztec, Mexican folk, and bomba dance traditions. They also drew attention to a collection of murals at the Florida and 24th Street intersection, including the treasured “500 Years Of Resistance” by El Salvadorean muralist Isaias Mata.
Event organizers also unveiled a recently restored mural in the 24th Street mini-park and re-dedicated the work to Ralph Maradiaga, a Chicano arts activist who co-founded Galería de la Raza in 1970 as a place for Mexican American and other Latino artists to show their work.
"For new generations, it's important to have cultural icons that speak to that legacy," says Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza.
Galería de la Raza, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Brava Theater Center, and Accion Latina are among several arts organizations located in the 14 blocks around 24th street. Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors designated the area as the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District .
While the resolution was largely symbolic, it's a first step for the coalition of arts, business and community leaders working together to preserve the area's long history of Latino arts and culture.
This summer, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District leaders plan to seek special use status for the corridor which could help protect the neighborhood against rapid development.