Latin America Comes alive during the Carnivals in San Francisco

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El Corazon de San Pancho — The Heart of San Francisco

Whenever somebody asks me what is the best time to visit San Francisco, I say any time is a good time. But the best is when the carnivals in San Francisco are held. California’s largest annual Multi-Cultural Celebration takes place annually on every Memorial Day Weekend (last weekend of May) in the city’s Mission District.

Love makes you do a lot of cute things like giving a nickname to something you love. And, San Francisco is a city that has many nicknames – The City, City By the Bay, San Fran, The Golden City, San Fran and Frisco among many others. When the Spanish-speaking locals talk about their beloved city they don’t call it “Frisco” but Pancho, which is a common nickname for Francisco in Latin America, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard the 2017 theme is “El Corazon de San Pancho — The Heart of San Francisco.”

Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (
Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (

The name San Pancho stands for San Francisco’s sense of unity, inclusion and multicultural pride. This year’s theme, “El Corazon de San Pancho — The Heart of San Francisco,” was chosen to pay homage to San Francisco’s enduring legacy as a place that has always embraced people from around the world with open arms. Whether they were refugees or the hippies or the members of the LGBT community. San Francisco always made room for more.

San Franciscans built a city that values belonging, diversity, community-building, and multicultural arts,

said Roberto Hernandez, Carnaval San Francisco’s artistic director.

The ‘heart’ of this city is the value we place on culture, community and empathy toward one another.


Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (
Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (
  1. California’s largest annual multi-cultural celebration will take place a month before the city celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Summer of Love, and in honour of that milestone carnivals in San Francisco organizers plan to pay tribute to musical icons Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia, both San Francisco natives synonymous with the 1960s-counterculture movement.
  2. This year’s theme also draws attention to the bond felt by residents, particularly during testing times. “We’re struggling with the city’s rising rents, evictions, displacement and limited access to economic opportunity,” said Hernandez. “An event like carnivals in San Francisco unifies the community and preserves its heart, soul and traditions. We’re recognizing that there’s a common struggle while promoting solidarity, compassion and creativity. We’re acknowledging that culture cures what ails us – ‘la cultura cura.’”
  3. Carnivals in San Francisco is organized by just five paid consultants but draws upon more than 500 volunteers passionately dedicated to cultivating and celebrating the Latino and Caribbean roots of the city’s Mission District.
  4. If you are looking for love, this is the place to be. Over the past 39 years, many strangers have met at carnivals in San Francisco, fallen in love, got married and had babies.


Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (
Carnivals in San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (

On May 27th and 28th, the Mission District will transform into an enormous two-day festival and grand parade throbbing with the red hot energy of the people dancing, drumming, enjoying live music, extravagant costumes and lip-smacking food. Latin American artistry comes alive through traditions from Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Haiti, and West Africa. It is an event not to be missed at any cost. But make sure you reach well in time as you will be joined by more than 400,000 people who come from different parts of the world.

It is one of the few events where people from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate life forgetting their age and race. Where else will you see a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter dancing samba together in the parade? And not just that you will also find a Japanese master drummer leading a Samba comparasa.

Isn’t that a great reason to join in?


Annual Carnaval San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (
Annual carnivals in San Francisco. Pic cc: Adrian Sky (

The 2–day festival will be held May 27th and May 28th on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets from 10 am to 6 pm. The Festival will delight the attendees with a rich assortment of food, music, dance, arts, crafts and other fun activities and entertainment for people of all ages.

The Grand Parade on Sunday, May 28, will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a brilliant procession of contingents, most of which will feature beautifully adorned floats depicting rich multicultural themes and featuring performers who engage and entertain the crowds.

Brazilian-style escola samba schools with up to 300 members dance through the streets in fantastic feathered headdresses or sweeping Bahia skirts, while Caribbean contingents perform the music and dance of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad.  Other parade groups include Mexican Aztec performers, traditional African drummers, Polynesian dancers, Japanese drummers, giant puppets and folkloric groups representing Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia.  

The Grand Parade will start at the corner of 24th and Bryant streets, proceed west to Mission Street, head north on Mission to 17th Street, turn east on 17th and conclude at South Van Ness. 

Admission to the festival and parade is FREE.  Grandstand seating for the parade, located on Mission Street between 21st and 22nd streets, is available for purchase online at

The theme for 2019 is La Cultura Cura / Culture Heals that celebrates the spirit of resistance and healing. The Carnaval San Francisco intends to rally behind “La Cultura Cura” as a social and moral statement to counter the polarized political environment in the U.S. today. The 2–day festival will be held from May 25th to May 26th on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets. The 2019 Grand Parade will be held on May 26th at 9:30am. You can experience global cuisine, international music, dance, arts & crafts, and other fun activities and entertainment on every street corner for the entire family to enjoy.

I hope this post can inspire you to check out the celebration of culture and diversity. I would love to know your feedback on the carnivals in San Francisco. Is there any other event like this that you had attended before.

Interested to know more about San Francisco or California, check out these posts:


  • Christine says:

    Wow I had no idea they did this! I’m living in SF right now and I should probably go!! Thanks for sharing it looks like so much fun!

  • Always wanted to see San Francisco and it’s so good to know about the carnaval, thanks. Love places that celebrate cultural diversity, that’s why I actually enjoy traveling, I’m amazed by the diversity of the world! 🙂

  • Wow this is great information. Before I get into any more details – I would like to say that you have some amazing clicks here. It definitely looks like a lot of fun and getting and seeing San Pancho would be a great experience while visiting SF. Your post takes us through the journey of the parade and I must admit it is a very well written one.

  • Marina says:

    Wooow!! Amazing! Disnt know about this festival before and it sure looks beautiful and multicultural events!

  • That sounds like a fun event! It’s funny that strangers meet and get married there. And I had no idea that Spanish speaking locals called SF San Pancho. Fascinating!

  • That’s an interesting fact that San Francisco is nicknamed Pancho in Latin America. There must be so many people photography opportunities during this carnival. I’m due to go to the US next year so I’ll try be in San Pancho for next years festival.

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