un regard insolite sur San Francisco

L’an dernier, juste avant mon départ de la baie de San Francisco, j’avais voulu aller voir ce fameux quartier de Mission .. un article que je remets en premier …
Quel choc et quelle surprise : rien à voir avec le quartier policé  de Pacific Heigh, touristique de Russian Hill, chinois du quartier chinois … ou très chic de Forest Hill .. rien à voir, non ! là vous êtes propulsés en pleine Amérique centrale, le quartier est LATINOS et comment dire … il y règne un certain désordre, c’est un quartier coloré et bref, je m’y suis sentie bien … en clair, j’ai adoré … Ce quartier est en fait connu pour sa collection de murs peints et le résultat en vaut le détour ….ce jour-là, il faisait beau et chaud  … enfin, 79°F là mais 95°F quand nous sommes revenues (mon amie et moi) à Cupertino.
Voilà couleurs vives, sur fond révolutionnaire, ambiance latinos et tacos à gogo : ça parle espagnol à tous les coins de rue… enfin presque car quand nous avons voulu manger, nous nous sommes arrêtées devant une devanture qui proposait des paninis et celui qui nous a servi était libanais et parlait français…

Alors voilà, un document qui nous a servi de guide… désolée c’est anglais, mais si vous ne comprenez pas l’anglais, juste ouvrez les yeux … et regardez …

Keep your eyes peeled for murals,
 there are usually several on every block.
*Parking lot ‘Lady Xoc’ on 24th Street near Capp Street.
This painstakingly spray painted mural, created 2008 by the graffiti artist Twick, also known as Francisco Aquino, depicts the powerful Mayan queen, Lady Xoc, against the black background of midnight sky. Through the mural, Twick melds the ancient Mayan roots of Latino culture with contemporary Chicano cholo gang writing.


*Walk 5.5 blocks to Balmy Alley, on the 24th…



*Turn right into Balmy Alley, walk to the end : a street only 1 block long that resembles a pedestrian walkway. Balmy Alley has nearly 30 murals, the highest concentration in the Mission.

The Murals of Balmy Alley: The murals on the back fences and garage doors of this quite alley have been created over three decades, from 1971 to the present. Some show the weathered charm of their many years; others are worn that they are barely discernible; and still others are bright and new.

Some of the murals are lighthearted, and many reflect pride in Latino culture. One honors cultural icons like the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (one of the founders of the Mexican mural movement) and his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo. Another show the Mexican film stars Cantinflas, Dolores Del Rio, and Tin Tan. 

même les poubelles ne viennent pas rompre ce charme latinos ..

The mural ‘Low Riding Madness’ celebrates low-rider culture (and it even includes a low-rider bicyclist.) ‘Latino Pride’ is collaboration between a spray-can artist and a muralist using traditional acrylic paints.

Other murals on Balmy Alley deal with more painful subjects. One political mural shows mothers holding photos of family members “disappeared” by the death squads. Another, ‘Indigenous Eyes: War or Peace’ makes a statement about Central American politics and history. Look closely at the mural to see the haunting reflections in the eyes. ‘We Remember’ is a memorial to those who have died of AIDS.


*Return back to 24th Street.
*Turn right onto 24th Street and walk for one-half block to Harrison Street.
On the corner, at “La Gallinita” Belmar Meat Market, is a mural of two mythic Mexican figures: Popocatepetl, a warrior, and Ixtaccihuatl, the daughter of the emperor. Their love was ill-fated, and as Ixtaccihuatl lay dying, the lovers lie side by side outside Mexico City, together forever. These Figures appear in many Mission murals, for this is a very popular Mexican love story.


*Continue on 24th Street one-half block to the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitor Center at 2981 24th Street.
This center conducts mural tours and workshops, and the friendly folks behind the counter provide Mission District cultural and business information. Feel free to stop in to look at the mural-covered walls, check out the colorful mural postcards, or pick up a map that identifies the 84(?) murals in the Mission District
History of Murals of the Mission:



*Continue on 24th Street another half block to Alabama Street.
>The Mexican bakery on the corner ‘Panaderia Dominguez’ (=La Flor de Jalisco) is adorned with trompe l’oeil roof tiles over its windows as well as heroic figures on its exterior walls.
A series of scenes drawn from paintings by Mexican artist Jesus Helguera. They depict the Aztec legend about the creation of the Mexican volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. The warrior Popoca is seen holding the body of his beloved Izta, who commited suicide believing Popoca had died in battle. He carried her into the mountains and watched over her until the two of them were transformed into mountains themselves.


*Continue on 24th Street for one-half block, and stop.
Look at the mid-block mural at China Books and Periodicals, ‘A Bountiful Harvest.’ China Books commissioned this mural in the Chinese social realism, except that this classic Chinese harvest scene includes people of many races.
*Continue on 24th Street another half block to Florida.
On this corner is the intense and powerful mural ‘500 Anos de Resistencia = 500 Years of Resistance’, painted by Salvadoran artist Isaias Mata on two sides of St.Peter’s Church in 1993. This mural examines the Spanish conquest of the New Word and its repercussions through the ages. It was painted in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in Hispaniola, and depicts indigenous people of Americas confronting the swords of conquistadores and the gun barrels of modern armies. Portraits of religious leaders who stood for justice include Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Fray Bartolome de las Casas and Monsignor Oscar Romero. A bible verse and a passage from the Mayan Popol Vuh, both in Spanish, speak of the creation of humab beings and their placement as stewards upon the earth.



*Continue on 24th Street one block to Bryant.
On this corner is the Galeria de la Raza. Founded in 1970, Galeria de la Raza is one of the oldest Latino arts organizations in the United States. It offers art exhibitions, multimedia presentations, and educational activities related to Chicano/Latino art.
*Continue on 24th Street for one block to York Street.
The St.Francis Fountain and Candy Store has been on the corner since 1918. This old-time family-run soda fountain is known for its handmade ice cream and candy.
*Cross 24th Street to the opposite side.
Look across York Street at the powerful mural on the side of the SF Taqueria. ’Las Lechugueras’, painted in 1983 by Juana Alicia, pays tribute to Mexican-American women farm workers. It also depicts the harshness of the conditions these women must endure, including exposure to pesticides on the fields while they are working.


*Walk back one-half block on 24th Street toward Mission Street. Mid-block between York Street and Bryant Street is the 24th Street Mini-Park.
This park’s murals, created between 1974 and 1990, were designed to teach children in the community about their Latin-American heritage.
*Continue 1.5 blocks to Florida Street and La Palma Market, one of the last places in the Mission selling handmade tortillas.
The mural on the Florida Street side of the market is an eye-catching advertisement for those tortillas.

*Continue five blocks on 24th Street to Shotwell Street. Turn right onto Shotwell Street.
*Go two blocks on Shotwell Street to 22nd Street, passing by the front entrance of the Cesar Chavez Elementary School. This school is covered with some of the most beautiful murals in the Mission, and this loop will take you around all four sides.
Incorporated in these vibrant multi-colored images are the core values that the school community strives for: excellence in academic achievement, respect for diversity, and strength in character and personal growth.
*Turn right onto 22nd Street, go one block to Folsom Street, turn right, walk one block on Folsom Street.
In this block of Folsom Street, you will pass the school playground ‘Si Se Puede’ (“If We Can”). Painted in vibrant reds, blues, yellows and greens, this mural weaves in and out among the classroom windows. It is anchored by a 2-story-high portrait of Cesar Chavez, the great farm worker organizer, over the school doors.



 et à l’arrivée retour à la voiture …. le tour est bouclé … plein les yeux ….


and we miss several walls located a few blocks away : and check out this web site : it was a little bit to far …

Voilà, c’était par une belle journée de juillet 2011, juste avant mon départ de la baie ….

The more I see, the more I like …

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Amélie Curly

    je me suis dis que ton article n’allai jamais s’arrêter! Si, malheureusement !
    Les photo sont superbes, les illustrations superbes aussi!
    Je suis une grande fan de street art et je pense que si je me retoruver à cet endroit j’aurai fait au moins (me connaissant 500photo!)
    San Francisco est sur ma liste, pas cette année, mais je le ferai çà c’est sur, je ne manquerai pas ce quartier 🙂

  2. says: Lara Hornung

    Illumination: voilà d’où vient cette magnifique ballade proposée par une maman du Lycée francais (Catherine L)de San Francisco et c’est elle qui m’avait parlé de ton blog santé! J’ai adoré ce petit tour dans les fresques des années 70 (mes préférées, celles de Valencia sont plus rescentes et nettement moins interessantes à mon gout!), nous avons suivi à la lettre ton circuit et apprécié les explications détaillées! Toutes ces couleurs, cette symbolique dans les dessins, cette ambiance qui ressort des murals, des merveilles!

    1. exact : en fait, je connaissais Catherine avant mon départ de SF (par SFBA) et elle m’avait demandé à l’époque (cet article était sur un blog plus perso…) des renseignements : celui là et celui sur les escaliers du quartier de la 19ème …. c’est drôle : le monde est petit …

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