From time to time, it is healthy to reaffirm our Hispanic heritage. Why? Because in this troubled world, always running like a hamster on a wheel, we can forget the human values that anchor us as a culture. Human warmth, a sense of community, genuine concern for one another, hard work, and optimism are characteristics deeply rooted in our DNA.
Taking these values as a foundation, we can once again appreciate our heritage when we add the flavor of our foods and the excitement we feel when listening to our music and seeing our colorful expressions of art. And as we know, one does not have to be Latino by blood to appreciate and enjoy this culture.
I recently had an experience that helped me reevaluate my Hispanic heritage and see the beautiful values mentioned above in action.
The Mission District
I was visiting California during my summer vacation. Since my wife is from the San Francisco Bay Area, we often travel there. But this time, I wanted to get to know the Mission more deeply.
24th Street is the heart of the Mission District and the center of Latino cultural expression in San Francisco, as the district has been the center of Latino activism, arts, commerce, and culture in San Francisco since the 1940s. It is representative of noteworthy artistic and social movements that reflect the history of Hispanics in San Francisco, the state of California, and the country at large.
24th Street is a true cultural gem for anyone, but it is an extraordinary place for Latinos. In my case, it served as a reminder of our great Hispanic heritage.
At the entrance of the offices of the Latino Cultural District, I could feel the human warmth in this area, seeing the huge and colorful mural that covers the entire facade of the building.
Besides being very pleasing to the eye, the murals in the area usually convey a message of social awareness or highlight some injustice. It is an example of our sense of community.
Katie Madrigal, the Educational Coordinator of the Cultural Center, welcomed me very kindly and suggested I visit several of the old businesses and pillars of the community. She introduced me to several of the Center’s staff, who were also super friendly and suddenly offered me some “tacos de canasta.”
I felt very welcome, and at the same time, I remembered that, in our culture, affection is almost always transmitted through food. Human warmth at its peak!
Casa Lucas Market – Latin Products
Several convenience stores have faithfully served the Hispanic community for many years in this area of the Mission. One of them is Casa Lucas Market, whose owner, Mr. Febronio Felix, bought it in 1980.
“The business had two owners before I bought it, but I decided not to change the name since it was well established,” recounted don Febronio. “I understand that Casa Lucas was the first to bring yucca to the Latino community in this area,” he recalled.
Although Latino consumers predominate, increases from other races have been noted as the demographic profile of the Mission changes.
Casa Lucas is a store that stands out for its high customer service level despite consumer profile changes. Arturo Felix, the owner’s son, and nephew Daniel are always attentive to consumers’ needs, and it shows in the assortment.
Again, I was treated with great kindness and appreciated another characteristic of our Hispanic heritage, hard work, and good results.
Bakery and Pupusas
I was pleased to visit one of the oldest bakeries in the Mission District, La Victoria. Although there was a change from its original location a few years ago, it has served the community for over 70 years. In addition to a robust assortment of pan dulce and other delicacies, the interior has a striking wall worthy of a visit.
A visit to La Misión would be incomplete without trying the delicious Salvadoran pupusas. For this test, I had the pleasure of finding the business d’maize whose specialty is, guess what, pupusas with all the right ingredients!
But the most impressive thing was the owner, Mrs. Zenaida Merlin, who faced the challenges of the pandemic and many other difficulties, pulled her business forward. Besides the restaurant, she also has a Food Truck. Her story is another testimony of our Hispanic heritage, the optimism that translates into “Yes, we can!
While this area of 24th Street in the heart of the Mission is undoubtedly a historic and charming place where one truly breathes the Latino culture, the most appealing part of this visit was meeting the people.
Their friendliness, hospitality, and spontaneous sharing were refreshing and unforgettable experiences, so do something this year to reaffirm your Hispanic heritage, and you will feel great!