La Peña Cultural Center

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La Peña Cultural Center or La Peña for short, is a Chilean-American culture center in the United States. It was founded in 1975 by two Chilean expatriates on Shattuck Avenue in the Ashby neighborhood of Berkeley, California in response to the 1973 golpe de estado.[1][2] The center was a focal point for the opposition-in-exile to dictator Augusto Pinochet during his rule, and later evolved into a community gathering place, artist center, entertainment venue, retail store, and left-leaning meeting place which aims to promote community through artists and social activism.[3]


In 1975 two Chilean expatriates, along with community members and $10,000, opened La Peña as a reaction to the downfall of democracy and the Salvador Allende administration in Chile.[4][5] The center began its life as the center of the anti-Pinochet dictatorship movement in the United States.[5]


Café Valparaíso and its eclectic décor

A restaurant was added in the 1976, later known as Café Valparaíso, that has added itself to the neighborhood's Gourmet Ghetto and is award-winning.[5] It is also known as Café de la Peña.[6] The cafe also sells endemic Chilean foodstuffs and novelties. Valpo's menu focuses heavily on Chilean empanadas.[6] The menu has evolved over the years adding other Latin American cuisine such as food from Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru.[6] The menu does however continue serving many Chilean dishes such as Humitas.[6]


In 2005 the center was noted for its involvement in and being a center of several forms of art forms that descended from African slaves in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.[7] These were lessons in and performances of two dances.[7] These dances are the percussion driven plena and bomba.[7] The peña also has its own music groups: La Peña Chorus and Lab Hip Hop Ensemble.[8] It has also been noted for its Little Friends of La Peña concert series of bilingual children's musical offerings.[3]


The center is an annual gathering place for the Chilean diaspora, with meetings and celebrations for Chilean independence's fiestas patrias, Christmas, and the anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état.

La Peña is a registered 501 c 3 charity with tax exempt status that focuses on promoting the arts, and the building's façade is covered in a Nueva Canción inspired mural. The center teaches lessons on traditional Chilean music, art, etc. and also branches out into other Latin American and Spanish language fields with a focus on things South American. The space is also used as a fund-raising venue for local causes such as supporting the KPFA radio station.[9][10][11]


In 2010 La Peña hosted the Mano a Mano (Hand in Hand) benefit for the victims of the 2010 Chile earthquake that hoped to generate $US10,000 in donations.[12]


  1. ^ Chile's First Female President to Teach Seminar at UC Berkeley[permanent dead link]. Alisha Azevedo. The Daily Californian. 02-18-2011. Retrieved 02-19-2011.
  2. ^ ¿Qué es la peña? (in Spanish) (What is La Peña?)
  3. ^ a b Jose-Luis Orozco: Latin children's music at La Peña, Matt Villano, 09-29-2011, San Francisco Chronicle, access date 05-01-2011
  4. ^ Viva La Pena, Contra Costa Times, 05-06-2010, access date 05-01-2012
  5. ^ a b c La Peña Turns Thirty with a Street Fair, Patrick Hodge, San Francisco Chronicle, 11-06-2005, 05-01-2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Chef Adds New Zest At La Pena Center, Kim Severson, San Francisco Chronicle, 06-08-1999, access date 05-12-2012
  7. ^ a b c Berkeley: Bay Area Puerto Ricans bring bomba to La Peña, Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Chronicle, 29-6-2005, access date 05-01-2012
  8. ^ La Peña turning 31, San Francisco Chronicle, 08-06-2006, access date 05-01-2012
  9. ^ Why not celebrate Nadra Foster and the Black community on KPFA, San Francisco Bayview Daily
  10. ^ Martha Toledo Sings at La Peña. Ken Bullock. Berkeley Daily Planet. 25-09-2008. Retrieved 18-01-2011.
  11. ^ Cuban 5 Exhibit Opens at La Peña Cultural Center. Riya Bitarcharjee. Berkeley Daily Planet. 13-08-2009. Retrieved 17-01-2011.
  12. ^ Berkeley's La Peña Hosts Benefit for Chile. Riya Bhattacharjee. Berkeley Daily Planet. 04-03-2010. Retrieved 17-01-2011.

External links[edit]

External image
La Peña façade as seen from across Shattuck Avenue.

Coordinates: 37°51′19″N 122°15′57″W / 37.85515°N 122.26584°W / 37.85515; -122.26584