Julio Lucero migrated to the United States in 1979 because of the brutal civil war that was then escalating in his homeland of El Salvador. About a decade later, Lucero became the owner of a music and Latin American souvenir store in the heart of the Mission, where he still works today.

Lucero had been working at a record store in San Francisco when he got the idea to start his own music shop with the help of his family. After it opened, he also began selling “regalitos,” or gifts, and Latin American curiosities.

The tiny store occupies a narrow space that is packed full of curios and souvenirs. To the left is a pair of boxing gloves next to a framed image of the Virgin Mary and a colorful poncho. To the right is a counter full of jewelry and countless knickknacks. Behind the counter, a wall is crammed with CDs. The ceiling is covered with posters of Latin American political and artistic figures, ranging from Che Guevara and Frida Kahlo to Christina Aguilera.

The quirky gift niche is at 2884 Mission St., next to the Mission Cultural Center. Over it all presides Don Julio — smiling, listening to music and selling his curiosities.

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