Joy and sweat have turned the city’s party into one of San Francisco’s most diverse multicultural parades. Born out of dancing classes, enthusiastic bands, and a group of friends eager to express themselves, Carnaval celebrates 40 years on May 25th and May 26th with Los Tigres del Norte as this year’s headliner. The fun begins April 27th with the selection of the Queen, King and Drag Majesty competitions.
So play on the music and dance
Lift your heart and your feet
Take a chance on romance
Feel the pulse,
Hear the beat
Why should we limit our lives?
Can’t we make this a paradise?
(Adela Chu’s song for the 2000’s Return from Paradise Tahitian-Samba Block)
It was the dream of one person realized by a multitude. Adela Chu, a dancing teacher born in Panama, had been staging smaller performances around the city for a few years. A visit to Brazil on 1978 cemented her intentions. That year’s West Indian Carnival in The Fillmore put her and her friends to work.
Months of rehearsals turned music and dance students into an better organized contingent that could parade in the sidewalks and into the park, as the police permit allowed. Without floats, the focus was in the giant masks and the costumes. Volunteer lowriders provided security around the park, before grabbing their own drums and joining the party.
Adela Chu’s only complaint: “it has to be bigger next year!”
“You just don’t cancel Christmas, and you don’t cancel Carnaval,” Hernández said.
That instability is, in a way, what links the current Carnaval to its Precita Park origins: in its search for volunteer efforts, it ends up involving everyone.
“Many people see the Mission as one entity, but Carnaval started as an organizing project that united a lot of people that were not necessarily united,” said Carole Deutch, who is now compiling records, testimonies and mementos for the upcoming SF Carnaval Archive.
“It’s not just an event for entertainment, and it shouldn’t be,” she added. “It is something that lives on because people are involved, committed and want to work together to create something fantastic.”