The Carnaval Mural, photo courtesy of Lou Dematteis



The Birth of Carnaval on the Streets of San Francisco


by Willy Lizárraga

The Origin of the Origin


On February 25th, 1979, a windy, cold and rainy Sunday in San Francisco, about three hundred drummers and dancers, dressed in multifarious colors and shapes, paraded around Precita Park in the Mission District. Perhaps for the uninformed passerby, it all seemed like a crazy, “hippie,” let’s-dance-half-naked-in-the-park event. For the revelers, however, it was the culmination of many months of planning and rehearsing carnival in a city that until then didn’t have one—and now can boast of hosting, if not the biggest, certainly the most diverse carnival parade in the entire country, if not the world.


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Sir Lawrence, Adela Chu, and others at the first Carnaval in Precita Park, 1979.
Photo courtesy of Lou Dematteis