Isidro Fajardo, artistic director and choreographer of the dance group Bolivia Corazón de América, talks to another dancer after their performance at the 15th annual Mission Neighborhood Centers Cinco de Mayo festival Saturday May 4.


On Saturday, May 4, Mission Neighborhood Centers held its 15th annual Cinco de Mayo festival on Valencia Street, celebrating San Francisco’s Latinx culture through shopping, food, music and dance.

Barbara Walden, associate director of Mission Neighborhood Centers, said the event was born after the Mission District started to see a decline in its Latino population.

“The Mission has been changing,” Walden said. “The Latino population has moved out of the Mission at large numbers and at a large rate and so we wanted to retain and to promote the Latino culture here in the Mission District.”

A 2017 San Francisco Department of Planning report stated Latinos are still the second largest population in the neighborhood. Using data from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, the report said the population is 39 percent Latino, which dropped sharply from 60 percent in 2000. This number is projected to fall to 31 percent by 2025 if the trend continues, according to a 2015 San Francisco Board of Supervisors report.

Elvira Flores, a first-time festival attendee, came to the event to publicize her store Xodi LLC on Mission Street. She sold arts and crafts imported from Mexico and Guatemala under a pop-up tent on Valencia.

She said the festival was important “para tener vivo a nuestras tradiciones y costumbres,” to keep traditions and customs alive. 

Connie Rivera, originally from Mexico, promoted her shop called Mixcoatl, which has been in the Mission for 15 years.

“To be honest, in Mexico we don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo,” Rivera said. “It’s [a] very historical celebration because there was a big battle between the French and the Mexicans but it’s not a celebration.”

Rivera attended the gathering because she said she enjoys promoting her business, sharing her culture and engaging with the community.

“This is a beautiful event and I want to be part of it,” Rivera said.

Isidro Fajardo has called the Mission District home ever since he immigrated to San Francisco when he was young. He is the artistic director and choreographer of the dance group Bolivia Corazón de América, which performed at past Cinco de Mayo festivals. 

“The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is a very important event in Mexico — I’m Mexican myself — and the event itself has grown a lot over the years,” Fajardo said. “I think it’s very important to have it because a lot of companies like ourselves get exposure [and] really get to build community.”

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. attendees could stop by three stages at 24th, 22nd and 21st streets for a steady flow of entertainment. Other performers included Berta Olivia, who sang soulfully alongside Mariachi Tapatio, Mission District Young Musicians, and Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco.

SF State alumna Shari Rene Taylor Sr. attended the festivities for cultural awareness as a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District.

“It is awesome that all of us get together as a community, come out and learn about each other, learn about our culture and create family awareness and family love,” Shari Rene Taylor Sr. said.

Jerome Cornet, a Mission District resident, brought his two children, ages 1 and 3, to enjoy the scene.

“The kids loved it. All the play areas for the kids, the music. It was a very good day,” Cornet said. “I will definitely come back next year.”

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