Our nation celebrates Latinx & Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. This month, we recognize the numerous visionary artists, political leaders, activists, authors, and musicians who have called the Bay Area and California home.
Before we close out this celebration, we wanted to share a small sampling of the achievements and contributions that the Latinx and Hispanic community have made to our neighborhoods, cities, and state.
Carlos Santana, the world-renowned Mexican-American musician, rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Santana. After moving from Mexico to San Francisco with his family, Santana lived in the Mission District, attended James Lick Middle School, and graduated from Mission High School. He was accepted to California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and Humboldt State University, but chose not to attend college at the time in order to pursue his music career. Throughout his career, he pioneered a fusion of rock and roll, blues, Latin American jazz, and Afro-Cuban rhythms. He’s received a total of 13 Grammy Awards, including 3 Latin Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta
Did you know that Dolores Huerta is the originator of the phrase “Sí, se puede?” Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta is an American labor leader and activist whose work, along with Cesar Chavez, on behalf of migrant farmworkers lead to the establishment of the United Farm Workers of America. In her young adulthood, she attended college at the University of the Pacific’s Stockton College (now the San Joaquin Delta Community College), where she earned her A.A. and a teaching credential. She’s received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers’, immigrants’, and women’s rights, including the Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1993, she was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. April 10 is Dolores Huerta Day in California.
Many of us in San Francisco remember Eric Quezada and the legacy of activism he created. Quezada, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, made the Mission District his home in 1971 after moving with his family from the San Fernando Valley. After attending CSU Chico on a soccer scholarship and graduating with a B.A. in International Relations and Latin American studies, he centered himself in numerous social justice movements throughout San Francisco, especially those involving affordable housing, land-use issues, and immigrant rights. He was a founding member of the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and ran for supervisor of District 9, hoping to directly affect change in the community. Housing organizer Sara Shortt said of Quezada, “Eric was a unifier because of his vigilance on ensuring that issues and causes intricately connected were not compartmentalized, and those representing them were not left to fight their battles on their own.” Fun fact: our College Connect office is just above the Eric Quezada event space at 518 Valencia!
Ana Teresa Fernández
Ana Teresa Fernández is a Mexican performance artist and painter, currently living and working in San Francisco. Fernández attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned a bachelor’s (BFA) and master’s of fine arts (MFA) degree. Her work explores 21-century feminism, post-colonial landscapes, and psychological barriers to empathy. Some selected pieces of hers include: “Erasure,” a film about the 43 college students from Iguala, Mexico; “Foreign Bodies” which takes on women’s rights in her own culture; Borrando la Forntera (Erasing the Border), her most famous piece about immigration and undocumented families; and illustrations for Rebecca Solnit’s “Men Explain Things to Me.” Several of her pieces are displayed right downtown at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (coincidentally the site of Mission Graduates’ Community Hub this year)!
César Chávez – civil rights activist, labor leader, and community organizer – alongside Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. Chávez only attended school up to eighth grade and soon began to work with his family throughout the fields of California. After serving in the Navy, he returned to the San Joaquin Valley and became involved in community action, fasting, marching, rallying, and boycotting for social change, union contracts, and improved conditions for agricultural laborers. Chávez received an Honorary Doctorate from Arizona State University in 1992 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1994. March 31 is César Chávez Day in the United States.
Lucho Ramirez is the Executive Director of Cine+Mas SF and an entrepreneur. He received his bachelor’s in International Relations and Affairs from Monmouth College and his MBA in Marketing from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. In his leadership at Cine+Mas SF, the organization has grown to contribute year-round programming and special events centered on Latinx visual, performance, and literary arts to the Bay Area’s active and diverse arts scene. Cine+Mas SF produces the San Francisco Latino Film Festival, which showcases the work of emerging and established filmmakers from over 20+ Latin American and Hispanic countries.
Dr. Gregoria Nova Cahill
Dr. Gregoria Nova Cahill is the Interim Dean, Academic Affairs for Mission and Transitional Studies at City College of San Francisco. Born in a small town in Bolivia, she’s garnered numerous scholastic achievements, becoming the first in her Afro-Bolivian family to earn a doctoral degree. Last year, she completed her Doctorate Degree of Education in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from Cal State East Bay, during which she wrote her dissertation on the institutional barriers that affect community college Latinx students when transferring to 4-year colleges and universities. At CCSF (City College of San Francisco), she works to make education accessible to students in the Bay Area and helps them complete their educational goals.
Isabel Allende has been called “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.” All of her books are written in Spanish, but worldwide critical acclaim and demand has spurred translation of her works to more than 25 languages, resulting in 65 million copies sold. Born in Chile, she blazed a trail in a male-dominated Latin American literary world, weaving elements of magical realism into her own experiences. Her best-known novels include “The House of the Spirits” and “City of the Beasts.” During a book tour to California in 1988, she met her second husband and relocated to San Rafael, California. Highlights of her career also include her induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and receiving the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
Julio Cesar Morales
Born in 1966, Julio Cesar Morales is a Mexican artist and curator. After graduating with his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) from the San Francisco Art Institute, he worked as an Adjunct Professor at SFAI and an Associate Professor in Curatorial Studies at The California College for the Arts. Through his work, he investigates issues of migration, underground economies, and labor on the personal and global scale. From 2008 to 2012, he worked as an Adjunct Curator for Visual Arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (the location of the Mission Graduates’ Community Hub this school year).
Frank Carbajal is the President of EsTiempo and founder of the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit. Since receiving his MA with an emphasis in Human Resources Management, he’s been a frequent keynote speaker in the Silicon Valley, guiding CEO’s, small business owners and individuals with insight to achieve. Carbajal has focused on “Building the Latino Future” by offering advice and connecting Latinos in any industry who want to succeed. He’s a member of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) and Advocacy Committee for Silicon Valley Education Foundation.
Peter Bratt is an award-winning screenwriter and independent filmmaker, having created a notable career exploring the nexus of race and identity from the multiple and intersecting perspectives of Chicanos, African Americans, and Native Americans. After graduating from Cowell College, Bratt set off to create several movies of critical acclaim. His first feature Follow Me Home, won the Best Feature Film Audience Award at the SF International Film Festival. He wrote, directed, and produced the independent film La Mission (2009), shot on location in San Francisco and featuring his brother, Benjamin Bratt, as Che Rivera, an inhabitant of the Mission District. Most recently, he co-wrote and directed Dolores, a feature documentary about the life of activist Dolores Huerta.
Benjamin Bratt is an American actor, producer, and activist born to an American father and an indigenous Peruvian (a member of the Quechua tribe) mother. From a young age, his parents fostered a sense of activism, taking Benjamin and his brother, Peter, to participate in the 1969 Native American occupation of Alcatraz. In 1986, he earned a B.F.A. at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1986, later attending the M.F.A. program at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Bratt has starred in numerous television and movie productions, ranging from Miss Congeniality to La Mission to Marvel’s Doctor Strange. He’s received awards including, but not limited to, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, one Primetime Emmy Award, and one Blockbuster Entertainment Award. In his private life, Bratt has been an active supporter of the American Indian Movement, advocating for representation and health care among other causes.