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Bienvenidos to The Mission District, San Francisco

Bienvenidos to The Mission District, San Francisco

It’s not a myth: San Francisco is as hilly as they say. As I walk down the hill we are living in, up in the Eureka Valley, the world around me seems to change. Up there, there are days when you wake up inside the clouds, that do not allow you to see much when you peek outside the window.

Walking down, I make my way to The Mission District, the most Latin of San Franciscan hoods. I walk down pretty fast, the inclination is on my side, but the clouds seem to go even faster than me. I pass by the posh Noe Valley with its small boutiques and corner cafes. I see people walk out of Whole Foods with brown paper bags full of organic pricey food.

Really steep hills in Noe Valley

Really steep hills in Noe Valley

 

The lower I go in the valley, the hotter it becomes. It’s only a 20 minute walk, and I leave behind elegantly manicured neighborhoods, to enter what I’d already dare to call Latin America.

Bienvenidos to The Mission District

Bienvenidos to The Mission District

Outside The Mission BART Station. On Sundays, it is common for man with microphones to be preaching Catholic values in Spanish around here.

Outside The Mission BART Station. On Sundays, it is common for men with microphones to be preaching Catholic values in Spanish around here.

 

The Mission is my favorite area in the entire city of San Francisco. Not only the temperature is warmer down here, everything feels hotter too. There are no contained feelings on Mission Street and around it.

The Women's Building: a women-led community space that advocates self-determination, gender equality and social justice

The Women's Building: a women-led community space that advocates self-determination, gender equality and social justice

Colorful buildings remind of Latin America

Colorful buildings remind of Latin America

 

Baby strollers rolling into bagel shops was the world up the hill. Down here, I see brunette ladies with overloaded bags full of groceries. Cafes have been replaced by fresh fruit and vegetable stores, that display heaps of aromatic cilantro, tomatoes, varieties of potatoes and, of course, corn products in all shapes and sizes.

Bakery La Mejor

Mexican Bakery La Mejor

 

Most of the population in The Mission are immigrants originating from Southern and Central America. A lot of them have already been born in what people tend to call “America”, although I’d say Americans is what they’d be anyway.

Graffiti in Clarion Alley

Graffiti in Clarion Alley

There are many of these around the Mission lately. I don't know who's behind it.

Spotted in Mission Street. I had to google this to understand what it actually meant. It is the ad for an event on October 14th. October 14, Indigenous Peoples Day, was reclaimed from the genocidal legacy of Colonizer Columbus.

 

Walking around Mission, I decide to do a little experiment and see if I’d go by the entire afternoon without speaking a word of English. Absolutely no problem! I buy a bag of tomatoes and receive a “You’re welcome, Preciosa” as an answer. I like that! I got used to a little flirting while shopping at the market in Santiago de Chile… and now a simple self check-out at the bigger supermarkets doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

Grocery store in The Mission

Grocery store in The Mission

 

If it wasn’t for the hipster influx that The Mission has been receiving in recent years (and who can blame them, really… this place rocks!) I could almost forget I am in the USA. Instead of freshly brewed coffee, the corner stores smell like spiced carnitas waiting to land on someone’s corn tortilla, or like the vapors that rise up in the air while tamales are being steamed. It smells like Latin America in The Mission, it smells bien rico!

Inside Las Chavitas, an authentic down-to-earth Mexican restaurant

Inside Las Chavitas, an authentic down-to-earth Mexican restaurant

Mega tacos for just USD4 (this price is A-W-E-S-O-M-E for San Francisco)

Mega tacos for just USD4 (this price is A-W-E-S-O-M-E for San Francisco)

Pupusas restaurant from El Salvador

Pupusas restaurant from El Salvador

In the Mission, many restaurant menus are printed in Spanish by default

In the Mission, many restaurant menus are printed in Spanish by default

 

Residents exchange words in Spanglish. They tend to be loud and laugh a lot. Like just back home.

Travel agents display promos for trips to destinations all over Latin America

Travel agents display promos for trips to destinations all over Latin America

 

There are vendors selling diced mangoes spiked with chili flakes in corner carts, and people eat them out of a transparent plastic bags. Inside stores, packages of corn tortillas go half price at the end of the day. Chili peppers come in at least 10 different varieties. And tamarind and Jamaica flowers are sold wholesale, to be infused at home in order to make aguas frescas.

Mom and daughter share some sliced mangoes in The Mission

Mom and daughter share some snacks in The Mission

 

Outside, a young man grills small chorizos which you can eat on the go tucked inside a bun. While a chatty lady sells religious figures, which seem to be quite popular with those passing by after work. You don’t see Starbucks around here. But you do see a church in almost every street. I guess people’s creed does vary a lot here when compared to the rest of “The Bay”.

Mission chorizos

Mission chorizos

Street vendors on Mission Street

Street vendors on Mission Street

Mexican Lucha Libre masks on sale at The Mission

Mexican Lucha Libre masks on sale at The Mission

Ice-cream vendors often sell foreign brands, like La Michoacana from Mexico

Ice-cream vendors often sell foreign brands, like La Michoacana from Mexico

 

I finally make my way up-hill again, which definitely takes longer than the way down. The breeze is stronger now, while the density of people decreases and suddenly everything feels quieter.

I am home now, and I can observe the world outside through the massive window in our Airbnb apartment. It is a pretty spectacular view!

View of San Francisco from Eureka Valley

View of San Francisco from Eureka Valley

 

Down there, in San Francisco, there are filthy rich people running tech companies. There are hipsters and hippies… homeless and immigrants… people living the life, and others struggling to get by. There is a lot of “in the middle” too… there is plenty of pretty and ugly to go around. There’s tons of life. And there’s a piece of my beloved Latin America too, within the streets that make The Mission District. I miss it a lot, but the good thing is that it is only 20 minutes away… downhill, that is.


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8 Comments

  • I love ethnic enclaves and neighbourhoods in cities!! And those buildings look so pretty! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Zara Says

      Yeah, me too! I always like to see how people from different countries manage to almost recreate a little version of “back home” no matter where they are. Also, for some reason, these type of places tend to have great food too!

  • Anita Catita Says

    such a beautiful and poetic description… really loved it!

  • Renuka Says

    You have presented a totally different side of San Francisco! While looking at your pictures, I was wondering in my head, is this SF? I mean I have a different image of SF since the time I have seen it some of the American TV shows and movies. The city that I see here is so much more vibrant and colorful!

  • Zara Says

    Thanks Renuka! The neighborhoods of San Francisco do tend to have a very distinct feel amongst them. But The Mission is, in my opinion, the one with the most colorful vibes and happening personality!

  • Bonnhie Says

    Hi Zara! Mission resident here. This was very interesting for me to read, and its always nice to have some “outside” perspective on what’s going on here in the Mission and the City. Thanks!

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