As a child in El Salvador, Samuel Iraheta immersed himself in the magical world of Disney. Now 16 and a resident of South San Francisco, Iraheta notes that, for Latin American children like him who grew up on cartoon characters, visiting Disneyland has been a long-held dream.
“We grew up watching Disney movies,” Iraheta said in Spanish, eyes lighting up beneath his bouncy curls. “Mickey Mouse, the Disney princesses.”
So Iraheta hopes to go, for the first time in his life, “where dreams come true.” Iraheta is a member of HOMEY SF’s youth program, Kalpulli. The group is fundraising to send approximately two dozen young people, 13 to 18, to Disneyland this year.
But the teens aren’t asking for handouts. They are raising the money themselves, selling handmade wares priced from 50 cents to $30 at HOMEY’s storefront at 2221 Mission St. until August 7. This Friday there will also be a special event with food from 2 to 5 p.m.
Kalpulli members made some items by hand, largely jewelry and art. Iraheta’s twin brother, Eduardo, distinguished by a pair of glasses and an Afro, strode across HOMEY’s sunlit space on Wednesday and picked a pink and black bracelet he had made off the rack. All pulseras (bracelets) cost $5.
“Mine already sold,” his brother boasted.
“We also made feather earrings,” Eduardo said in Spanish. Many of the wares have a tie to a Latino culture or HOMEY, like T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with “Kalpulli,” which means “large house,” made by HOMEY native graphics director Mauricio Quijada.
Member Elissa Jimenez printed photos she took of a paletero and a gardener, each going for $30.
The Disneyland fundraiser, which kicked off last Wednesday, has raked in some $1,500 on the GoFundMe page, and a few hundred dollars more in cash, according to Kalpulli member Eduardo Rodriguez Ruiz, 18. The program has a $5,000 goal for the trip.
If successful, the teens will have their choice of thrills at the sunny California amusement park. Eduardo Iraheta wants to see the iconic Disney castle in real life. The Salvadoran brothers reverently listed some characters they’d like to meet: Mickey Mouse and Goofy came immediately to mind.
“Cars,” Rodriguez Ruiz interjected, thumping his chest wistfully. (Disneyland has an ostentatiously decorated Cars Land and a ride dedicated to the eponymous 2006 Pixar film.) The Chiapas, Mexico, native has heard there’s a fireworks show after dark, right? he asked. He grinned when this reporter confirmed that yes, it was indeed true.
Certainly, the trip is a treat for the Kalpulli members, who have grown closer over the years as they cycle through HOMEY’s programs. Kalpulli is meant to teach leadership skills and respect, tenets of HOMEY, but also Latinx cultures other than their own. Each meeting starts with an “open circle” and burnt sage, where the teens discuss movies they’ve seen and topics like drug use, relationships and family.
And, if this fundraiser goes well, Iraheta hopes it proves to HOMEY that the teens can be responsible enough to go on other trips that capture their imagination. He has always wanted to camp at Yellowstone, for example. Rodriguez Ruiz said he has visited Yellowstone once with his family, and was astounded and spiritually enlightened after witnessing the waterfalls.
But one dream at a time. Up first: The Mickey Mouse Mecca.
“In our country, there’s no places like that. Or, there are, but it’s not comparable,” said Iraheta, the Salvadoran. Even Six Flags doesn’t hold a candle. “Disney is the best amusement park. It’s the most famous!”
Added Rodriguez Ruiz, “in Mexico, when you’re a kid, you sometimes wonder whether or not you’ll make it to the United States because it’s expensive, and now we’re here and close to Disneyland, we can’t always go because of problems or something … ”
“Or because there’s not enough money,” Eduardo Iraheta said softly.
“Yes, or because there’s not enough money,” Rodriguez Ruiz agreed. “Which is why we’re here.”
HOMEY SF, at 2221 Mission St. near 18th St., is selling goods during regular hours, which are usually Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 p.m. The teens are also taking donations on their GoFundMe page here.
The special food event is on August 4 from 2 to 5 p.m. at HOMEY SF.