Desde la bahia: San Francisco.

Author:Varela, Jesse "Chuy"


¡VÁMONOS AL CARNAVAL SAN FRANCISCO!: The annual Carnaval SF was held on the Memorial Day Weekend (May 23 & 24) and featured percussion icon Armando Peraza as Grand Marshall for Sunday's internationally-acclaimed parade. For Armando (who turned 85 years young on May 30), it was an honor bestowed by friends and fans that nearly brought him to tears.

A percussive legend of Latin jazz and Latin rock, Peraza has resided in the SF Bay Area since the early 1950s, when he set the rhythmic foundation for such great musicians as Cal Tjader, Carlos Santana and John Santos. His work with Tjader, George Shearing, Mongo Santamaría and Santana (25 years) have cast him into the history books as a giant of Afro-Cuban percussion.

HISTORY: Carnaval SF was founded in 1979 by percussionist Marcus Gordon, dancer Adela Chu and costume designer Paro Minor, who carne together in Precita Park to celebrate "living a rich cultural life in tune with the rhythms of nature and of the ancestors." The following year, the second Carnaval was held at Dolores Park. Into the 1980s, MECA--the Mission Economic-Cultural Association--ran the Carnaval, under the leadership of Roberto Hernández. After MECA was disbanded in the 1990s, the Mission Neighborhood Centers have kept Carnaval alive, including its two-day festival and parade.

The parade was a spectacle of color and community this year, as floats drifted down 24th Street and Mission Street, reflecting the vibrancy and diversity of the SF Bay Area. This year, it was difficult for the aforesaid non-profit agency to organize such events, as previous sponsors dropped out or reduced their contributions due to the deteriorating economy. The theme for this year's parade was "Roots of Revival: Seeds of Change" and was led by Queen Rebeca de Souza and King Rodson de Jesús.

From lowriders to elementary schools, the participation at this year's Carnaval did not dwindle, as close to 50 troupes traversed the parade route with an enthusiasm that was quite contagious. Important contributions were made by the volunteers who gave their time to make sure that all flowed smoothly, even though there ate always some glitches, like the big rig hauling a float that got stuck at the comer of 24th & Mission when it didn't make the turn wide enough. Did you ever try to back up a big rig in the midst of thousands of people pouring out of the sidewalks? Needless to say, it delayed the parade for 20 minutes and left a big gap in...

To continue reading