Carnaval San Francisco

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Carnaval San Francisco is an annual street parade and festival in San Francisco, California on the last weekend in May.

The San Francisco Bay Area Carnaval season begins in February as the great Western hemisphere Carnaval celebrations are concluding. The five Carnaval Cities with the greatest influence and presence in the San Francisco Carnaval are the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador in Brazil as well as Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Havana in Cuba, and Oruro in Bolivia. The Mission District, San Francisco, California since the 1950s, has been a metro center for the many different Spanish speaking populations of Latin America and these groups will often enter a group or Carnaval contingent in the parade.

Carnaval or Mardi Gras is best seen as a spring festival celebrating the rebirth of life and thus it is a universal festival celebrated by all cultures as well as the first festival. Besides the strong American hemisphere presence in the parade there are generally Carnaval groups from the Philippines, India, China, Middle East and Africa.


As a parade, Carnaval San Francisco is most recognized for its spectacular choreographed dancers and scantily clad beautiful women. The Inner Mission District with two BART stations supports the Bay Area's highest concentration of dance studios and instructors. Many of these dance instructors have been pillars of the Carnaval parade instilling the sublime sense of uniting with the Carnaval spirit though movement and song into their students during the peak moments best experienced in the parade.


One of the many dancing scenes at the Carnaval San Francisco.

Carnaval San Francisco was founded by a large group of visionary artists brought together by percussionist Marcus Gordon, dancer Adela Chu, and costume designer Pam Minor in 1979 who came together in Precita Park to celebrate living a rich cultural life in tune with the rhythms of nature and the ancestors.[1] The following year the second Carnaval San Francisco was held in the Mission District's Dolores Park. Since 1979, the Carnaval has been the central event for many thousands of artists who spend hundreds of hours each year getting ready for the Sunday parade.

Since 2003, the Carnaval Grand Parade has run from 24th Street at Bryant to the 24th Street BART station and then down the Mission Miracle Mile to turn on 17th Street towards the Harrison Street Carnaval San Francisco Music Festival between 16th and 24th Streets. Carnaval San Francisco is produced by Mission Neighborhood Centers Inc. (MNC) as a fund raiser for their many youth, children, family and senior programs. The Cultural Arts Committee (CAC) of MNC together with the Carnaval Advisory Committee oversee the administration of the parade and festival which contracts with long-time Mission District activist Roberto Hernandez to run and grow the event. For the 2009 Carnaval the production of the parade and festival was turned over to the veteran event production company, Rita Barela & Associates while the CAC produced the other official events including the King and Queen Competition which saw the election of Queen Rebeca de Souza and King Rodson de Jesus.


In the Bay Area[edit]

For many years the CAC has set as goals growing the cultural festival arts programs in schools and attracting Bay Area corporate support as the one central unifying annual event to bring the three major cities, nine counties, and 99 cities of the San Francisco Bay Area together.


Carnaval San Francisco supports the growth of Carnival as an international tool for peace and harmony. Since 2000 it has been the only[2][3] North American member of the world's largest organization promoting Carnival events, the Federation of European Carnival Cities.

West Coast Samba Schools and Parades[edit]

Carnaval San Francisco exposed Escola de Samba Batucaje, California's first samba school, to a wide audience.[4] Under the direction of Jose Lorenzo and Lisa Saunders, then subsequently Jacque Barnes, the Bay Area-based Batucaje became a magnet for dancers and musicians interested in learning authentic samba. The ranks of Batucaje swelled, and by 1983, alumni broke off to start their own samba schools, most notably Escola Nova ('New School'), directed by Chalo Eduardo and Josephine Morada. By the mid 1980s, Carnaval San Francisco had several rival samba schools competing in the parade. Dennis Broughton, another Batucaje alumni, founded the annual Brazil Music Camp held each summer at the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp. The camp hosts visiting Brazilian folkloric masters and devoted California samba students.

The success of batucada (Carnaval street samba) in the San Francisco Bay Area led to the establishment of samba schools throughout the state, including Carnaval Spirit in Sebastopol, Dance of Brazil in Santa Cruz, the Santa Barbara Samba School, Aquarela Samba School in Berkeley, Samba Mundial in San Jose, the Super Sonic Samba School in San Diego, and Escola Samba do Norte, SambanaChuva Humboldt, SambaAmore, Bloco Firmeza, and Samba da Alegria in Arcata. Additionally, there are the samba schools: Samba Like It Hot! of Ashland, OR, Samba Ja of Eugene, OR, Lions of Batucada of Portland, OR, and Batucada Yemanjá of Seattle, WA. After Carnaval San Francisco's parade, the North Country Fair Samba Parade in Arcata is the longest running annual samba parade on the West Coast of the United States.

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