A skirt or dancer? Performers from CUICACALLI, a year-round youth training program and dance company, performing traditional folklore dance. Carnaval San Francisco 2021. Photo by Annika Hom, taken May 29, 2021.

The corner of 16th and Harrison streets is mostly quiet throughout the day, with only small apartments, a few restaurants and other small businesses occupying the street.

This weekend, however, the modest intersection will be filled with lowriders, reggaeton and the smell of pupusas. It will be one of nine entrances for this year’s Carnaval as the annual festival, which was cut back to a resource fair and held on three blocks for the last two years, returns at full scale for the first time since 2019.

The focus this year is on inclusion, family and community. Those are the three words that accompany the theme for this year, “Colores de Amor (Colors of Love).”

“We wanted to have a very intentional event that highlighted the color of Carnaval,” said Rodrigo Duran, executive director of Carnaval SF. “We’re looking to elevate the presence of the LGBTQIA community.”

Featuring a photo of a muxe on the Carnaval poster, the name used to refer to a third gender in Oaxaca, Mexico, the festival this year aims to uplift and appreciate the diversity of the local community and celebrate the different ways in which love can be showcased.

Carnaval organizers were unsure how this year’s event was going to unfold as they battled unpredictable covid surges. Although the planning started last August, there were constant “pauses” in putting the event together. Nonetheless, the team continued to make plans. 

“We went in saying, ‘We are gonna have this Carnaval,’” Duran said.

The full Sunday parade is back, and debuting at Carnaval this year are three new additions to the festival. The first is a gaming and tech pavilion featuring video games developed by people of color. It will make its premiere along Harrison Street between 18th and 19th streets. The second is an LGBTQIA stage and block on the west end of 18th Street. And the third new addition will be a cannabis garden on the north side of Treat Avenue near 16th Street.

“We’re looking to share more love this year,” said Duran.

There’s more history on Carnaval here.

Saturday: 10:30 a.m. The festival begins along Harrison Street with stage performances at 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Streets.

Sunday: The parade is from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It begins at 24th and Mission streets.

Parade Map. Courtesy of Carnaval SF

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Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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