CARNAVAL SAN FRANCISCO NEWS
Photo courtesy of marcosanchez.net
CURRENT AND PAST ISSUES OF THE DRUMBEAT NEWSLETTER
– SOLTRON, MISSION-BASED BAND STANDS UP AGAINST GENTRIFICATION ON DEBUT CD (Current Issue)
– CARNAVAL SF PHOTOS ON DISPLAY AT MODERN TIMES BOOKSTORE (Issue #18)
– FEATURED PERFORMER: GONDWANA / KING CARLOS VENTURO & QUEEN KIANNA RACHAL (Issue #17)
– FEATURED VENDOR: LUIS ESTRADA OF D'MAIZE / CARNAVAL SF HEALTH AND WELLNESS PAVILION (Issue #16)
– FEATURED COMPARSA: SISTAS–WIT–STYLE / OSCAR D'LEÓN HEADLINES CARNAVAL SF FESTIVAL (Issue #15)
– FEATURED COMPARSA: LA CUMBIAMBA COLOMBIANA / DOLORES HUERTA NAMED GRAND MARSHAL (Issue #14)
– FEATURED COMPARSA: LOCO BLOCO / A SPECIAL CARNAVAL IN SABAC, SERBIA! (Issue #13)
– FEATURED COMPARSA: BUENA VISTA HORACE MANN (Issue #12)
MEET OUR 2016 CARNAVAL SAN FRANCISCO KING AND QUEEN,
QUEEN KIANNA RACHAL & KING CARLOS VENTURO
Hundreds of people crowded into the Brava Theater on Saturday, April 23rd to watch nineteen dancers compete for the honor of being crowned King and Queen of Carnaval San Francisco 2016. The sold-out show was competitive, with Kianna Rachal, of Sistas–Wit–Style Dance Company, and Carlos Venturo, of Latin Dance Grooves, winning the title. The pair will lead Carnaval San Francisco’s Grand Parade on Sunday, May 29th, which will be televised on KOFY TV.
ABOUT QUEEN KIANNA RACHAL
Kianna is the lead dancer, and choreographer of Sistas–Wit–Style Dance Company founded in 2000. Kianna has been dancing with Sistas–Wit–Style for 15 years teaching and promoting the Caribbean culture in schools and recreational centers. Sistas–Wit–Style have participated in multiple Carnaval SF events such as Carnaval Nights at the Giants Stadium, Exploratorium, De Young Museum, and at the Mayor’s Reception, as well as in the Grand Parade. She has studied and trained with multiple Trinidadian professionals including Jackie Artman, Stasha George and Malik Dance Company and has traveled abroad to participate in Trinidad Carnaval.
ABOUT KING CARLOS VENTURO
Carlos Venturo has danced professionally in his native country of Peru, as well as throughout the Bay Area. He has performed Classical Ballet, Peruvian Dances, American and European Historical Dance, Modern Dance and many other Latin Rhythms. His passion for dance has lead him to a full time position in the ODC School, and to becoming Artistic Director of Dance Through Time.
Photo courtesy of Dave Golden
FEATURED VENDOR: LUIS ESTRADA OF D'MAIZE
San Francisco – As a foodie, I didn’t realize how unaware I was about the preparation that goes into the food I normally just scarf down until one late, sunny Saturday, I got a lesson. On 24th Street, right smack in the Mission, Luis Estrada, Executive Chef of D’ Maize, sat me down, served me up some pupusas and told me all that went into making them.
The pupusa can be described as a delicious concoction of cheese and meat or veggies stuffed into a thick, fried corn tortilla for one harmonious bite. Estrada’s bacon and jalapeno pupusa happens to be my favorite.
The Salvadoran staple has been Estrada’s claim to fame but only after years of hard work following the chef’s migration to the U.S. Estrada came to this country 23 years ago with his wife, an education in culinary arts and a hard set of skills.
His beginnings in the culinary world were in the shadow of his mother, who he says cooked in restaurants all the time. “Seeing her cook with a lot of passion, that is what inspired me to do what I do,” Estrada said. “My mother is the best pastry chef in El Salvador.”
Estrada said despite his skillset, he soon learned after moving to the U.S. that, “if you know nobody, you are a nobody.”
“My first job in the US was a dishwasher. I was a dishwasher for two days and it was a terrible two days,” Estrada said. “As terrible as the job might have been, I was happy for the experience because I was able to start from scratch.”
On his second day on the job he was assisting the line cooks, allowing him to show his skills around the kitchen. By the next week Estrada was performing the duties of the line cooks and after a month had passed, he was promoted to sous chef.
His culinary career boomed after his first job, leading the chef to wear several hats in the food industry at a few restaurants. These titles allowed him to incorporate his Latin flavor into menus.
His career was put on pause as he supported his wife through the birth of their son, and as a man of faith, the chef said he had never felt so rewarded.
But with the need to support his family, it wasn’t long until Estrada was led back to the kitchen. It was when his child started school that his wife encouraged him to start his own business.
Estrada was assisted by two Mission-based organizations to lift his business off the ground, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and La Cocina, a culinary incubator that provides aspiring business owners space to operate in a commercial kitchen.
La Cocina is a five-year program and Estrada completed it in two years. His business grew so quickly, he could no longer be housed there. He described it as an early graduation.
Today, D’ Maize has 20 employees and they have anywhere from 15 to 20 catering orders a day. Estrada’s next project will be maintaining a successful brick and mortar in the Mission.
Estrada noted D’ Maize’s ties to the community and explained why being in the Mission is valuable to him. “I want to keep the Mission a Latino community.” He said. “Through my food, I want to prove that Latino people are still alive in the community.”
Estrada will be selling his pupusas on Harrison Street during the Carnaval festival on May 28-29, his second year as a food vendor for the Mission District event. He enjoyed his first year participating in the celebration and feels Carnaval is a great opportunity to show the diversity and passions within Latino culture.
Written by Zach McRae. Edited by Christina Calloway and Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of foodhoe's foraging. CC License, BY-ND 3.0
OSCAR D'LEÓN HEADLINES CARNAVAL SF FESTIVAL
ON SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016
San Francisco – Oscar D’León, known within the Latin music industry as The Lion of Salsa, will perform a free concert with his 18-piece orchestra at the 38th Carnaval San Francisco Festival, on May 28.
With numerous big hits and industry awards, the Venezuelan singer D’León is one of the most distinguished songwriters and musicians of Salsa and Caribbean Music. His professional music career spans more than thirty years, with over 60 albums to his credit. He was nominated for the Grammy Award in 1997 and has earned many gold records. Since 1998, the City of New York honors him every year with Oscar D’ León Day.
D’León is the author of the Salsa classic hit, “Llorarás” and “Melao de Caña,” as well as other recorded hits during the 70s with his group “La Dimensión Latina” and more recently “Padre e Hijo” that he recorded with his son Yomán. After several successful tours through Latin America, United States, Spain, and Japan, D’León was the first Latin singer/sonero to sign a contract with BBC of London. In 1973 he was recognized by the Academy of Latin Recordings with the Award of Excellence.
When he’s not making music D’León is active in philanthropic work. Since 2007, D’León has served as an ambassador in the global campaign, “Operation Smile Foundation,” which provides support and care to children with cleft lip and palate in more than 50 countries.
Roberto Hernandez, executive producer of Carnaval San Francisco said, “Oscar D’León will arrive accompanied by his orchestra of 18 musicians, full of rhythms and enthusiasm that will make all festival-goers want to dance in the street. The free show will be a generous, uninterrupted 90-minute concert. We invite everyone to come and experience the musical experience that only Oscar D’León can provide.”
D’León and his orchestra will perform on Saturday, May 28th at 4:00 pm; at the Carnaval Festival stage located at the corner of 17th and Harrison Streets in the Mission District. For more details and complete program, visit our Festival page.
FEATURED COMPARSA: SISTAS–WIT–STYLE
Drumbeat writer Valencia Newton, Queen of Carnaval in 2014, shares this profile of Sistas-Wit-Style, the comparsa that she represents.
“We wear many hats but our love and passion remains the same. We are here to give the people what they want, SOCA.”
When you are passionate about your mission you own it, claim and defend; you fight for it! For the love of dance and the desire to spread Caribbean culture, the Trinidadian-influenced group Sistas-Wit-Style (SWS) aims to please not only ourselves but our community alike. Built from the foundation of what used to be three adolescent girls, the group has blossomed into a fortress of non-stop creativity, undeniable Caribbean Heritage, sisterhood, strife and purpose.
From the time of its creation as a nonprofit organization, Sistas-Wit-Style Folk Performing Dance Company has traveled near and far showing that youth and adults can make a positive difference through dancing and drumming in their own community and around the world. Over a decade in, it goes without saying that we (women now in our mid-twenties) are truly dedicated and determined to reveal the sensation of the Caribbean and our cultures.
In October 2000, SWS was founded by elementary school classmates Merissa Lyons (CEO first Jr. Queen of Carnaval SF 2006), Kianna Rachal (CFO and Carnaval SF Queen 2016), former member Tiara Welch and managed by Annabelle Goodridge. I, Valencia Newton (COO and Queen of Carnaval SF 2014) accompanied the following year in December 2001. We perform numerous traditional folk dances from Limbo, Calypso, Pique and many more.
Whether we are traveling to Trinidad for training, masquerading in Carnival, showcasing throughout the country, or teaching free dance class in our hometown Oakland, we definitely put in the work. SWS have blazed the stage with famous Trinidadian Calypsonians and Soca artists such as Tigress, Mighty Sparrow to opening for the “King of Soca” Machel Montano and many others.
Early on our passion for Carnival was discovered. We expanded and formed carnival band Sistas-Wit-Style and Associates in 2005 for Carnaval San Francisco. SWS and SWS&A have placed in grand prize categories and have won first-place awards. We have also captured the hearts of hundreds that celebrate the spirit of Carnival with us every year. We have managed to incorporate various areas of the Caribbean in honor of our masqueraders who represent different islands, countries and states.
“Throughout the past decades I have witnessed three amazing young girls who put the deep meaning into Sistas-Wit-Style! They have transformed into creative artists producing theater magic on the streets of the Mission in the annual Carnaval San Francisco. Caribbean culture is alive in the Bay from the LOVE of Sistas wit Style!” says Executive Producer of Carnaval SF Roberto Hernandez.
With fabulous designers (Tiara Welch, Stephanie Dixon, Azer Moore and Annabelle Goodridge) who handcraft “made to fete” costumes, the SWS corporation is a force to be reckoned with.
Spreading the Caribbean culture is no easy task but it is one of fulfillment and Merissa, Kianna and I can attest to that through continuous works of productivity. Starting out so young and keeping the culture keeps us on edge and serves as a continuous motivation to always keep the faith.
As one of the few Caribbean contingents and performing companies in the Bay Area it is no mistake that we have come together to create an everlasting trail. We are continuously learning and mentoring while we proceed through our journey facing obstacles, life lessons and triumphs. Upon our commendations from various Caribbean Associations, City of Oakland, Congress, Mayor of Los Angeles, and the State of California Board of Directors, we want to embody our teachings and stand strong in what we believe. We wear many hats but our love and passion remains the same. We are here to give the people what they want, SOCA.
You can find us teaching free dance classes throughout the year in various schools, recreational and community centers from ages 2-65. Our carnival classes take place Saturdays from 12-2pm at New Karibbean City in Downtown Oakland. If interested in Carnival with SWS please contact us at:
Written by Valencia Newton. Edited by Digital Content Manager Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.
United Farm Workers Icon Dolores Huerta
Named Grand Marshal of Carnaval Grand Parade
Helping establish the nation’s best-known organization of farm workers and directing the first national boycott of California table grapes are just a few of civil rights leader Dolores Huerta’s many feats.
But of all the roles the legendary organizer has filled, it’s her upcoming role in San Francisco’s Carnaval celebration that she considers noteworthy.
Organizers of the parade found it fitting to invite the union-organizing heroine to do what she does best - lead. Huerta’s service will come in the form of waves and smiles on May 29 when she’ll lead the Carnaval parade as its grand marshal.
“I consider it a very prestigious role,” said Huerta. “I feel honored to be even asked. I think it’s fabulous.”
Among her many accolades, Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2012 by President Barack Obama.
Huerta’s ties to San Francisco’s historic Mission District trace back to her beginnings as an advocate for the working class farm communities throughout California.
Huerta said many of the neighborhood’s activists supported the United Farm Workers movement in the early 1960’s by gathering food and transporting supplies by caravan to Delano where the organization was being birthed at that time by founder and organizing giant, Cesar Chavez.
Today, Huerta sees many similarities in the battle she fought years ago on behalf of farm workers and and the one that’s been brewing in San Francisco in the last decade. The most daunting issue for Huerta is the pushout of working class families from their neighborhoods due to gentrification and economic displacement.
“The fact that people don’t have places to live...the housing is so bad and it’s not affordable,” she said.
Huerta’s spirit is symbolic of the Mission District and its people, making her the perfect choice to lead the Carnaval parade during this crucial time, said Carnaval San Francisco’s Executive Producer Roberto Hernandez.
“Dolores Huerta’s fighting spirit serves as an inspiration to all of us struggling for the survival of our barrio,” Hernandez said. “She’s both forceful and nurturing -- a mother figure to our community. Dolores spoke out decades ago about the dangers of toxic pesticides to field workers and to our food supply. Her advocacy for farm workers and the environment is in keeping with our 2016 theme, Viva La Madre Tierra - Long Live Mother Earth. She is a remarkable advocate for environmental issues, social justice, women’s rights, and our Latino community as a whole.”
While she continues her work through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, such as combatting the school to prison pipeline across the nation, she also wants to bring her expertise to the table when talking about the issues facing San Francisco.
“It’s about making people understand that they have power,” Huerta said. She said part of her strategy is to encourage people to run for public office in their communities so they have the power to make the changes they want to see. Huerta also feels it’s important to empower people through civic education and organization so that they remain connected to the political process and the policies that may affect them.
Huerta is troubled by the recent police officer-involved shootings of a few San Francisco residents. As a victim of police brutality in 1988, it’s meaningful to Huerta that people continue to protest violent law enforcement actions and ask for police reform.
It was in San Francisco where Huerta, at the age of 58, suffered a life-threatening assault while protesting against the policies of then presidential candidate George Bush. Huerta’s small frame, barely supporting 100 pounds, was caught in a crowd as a line of officers thrusted batons to clear protesters out. She suffered a beaten spleen and six broken ribs requiring more than a dozen blood transfusions.
Huerta said the attack and the public outrage from it pushed the San Francisco Police Department to change its policies regarding crowd control and police discipline.
In regard to the city’s recent incidents, Huerta said it’s important to not let up on the call for change.
“I’m really grateful the community has come out in force to protest these slayings,” Huerta said. “We just have to keep pressure on law enforcement to change their policies.” She said that the victims “are not animals, they’re people and they shouldn’t be just killing them the way they’re doing. I think the whole culture has to change when it comes to law enforcement. It’s an epidemic. Police aren’t honoring the sanctity of life.”
Carnaval can serve as another piece of the puzzle in battling the negative changes the community is experiencing, according to Huerta, because the celebration demands unity among the city’s residents.
Just as she watched the neighborhood grow, she also witnessed Carnaval’s rise over the years and sees it as a culturally-rich celebration indicative of the community it started in.
She loves how the parade is inclusive and features the talented students from the city’s schools. Her daughter Juanita is one of the many dancers to have samba’d their way through the famed Mission District parade route.
What’s a bonus for Huerta during Carnaval? She can support the community and get her holiday shopping out of the way in one stop at the eight-block Carnaval Festival on Harrison Street.
“They have all the shops and all the great artisans,” Huerta said. “I love to go shopping during Carnaval because I get to do my whole Christmas shopping there. There’s so much of a variety and everyone’s so friendly.”
“(Carnaval) is such an expression of joy and art and music and life,” Huerta said. “We come together as one.”
Written by Christina Calloway. Edited by Digital Content Manager Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.
FEATURED COMPARSA: LA CUMBIAMBA COLOMBIANA
Photo courtesy of Beppe Sabatini
“...beautiful happy people, drums, culture and love.”
A group of dancers and musicians with roots in the Bay Area than span decades, La Cumbiamba Colombiana has been participating in Carnaval San Francisco for more than 12 years celebrating a variety themes.
La Cumbiamba Colombiana was founded by Director Jairo Roldán from Palmira, Colombia and Soul Doux, Director of Choreography from Santa Marta, Colombia. Jairo has been a Carnaval Drummer for more than 10 years. La Cumbiamba roughly describes an improvised Cumbia jam session that traditionally is played in the streets.
At this year’s Carnaval La Cumbiamba Colombiana will be playing 3 numbers, all based on the Cumbia form but with a difference in tempo. They are currently in the recruiting process with rehearsals and registration soon to be announced. Anyone interested in participating with La Cumbiamba Colombiana in this year’s Carnaval should contact John Roldan at (408) 203–8635.
It takes almost five months for La Cumbiamba Colombiana to prepare for Carnaval SF. They rehearse at least twice a month for 2–3 hours from February to May and most of the rehearsals are done outdoors and with live music!
Whether solo or as a group member, Pete represents the highest musical ideals with his decades of skill, originality and pure talent. His legacy will live on for years to come.
La Cumbiamba Colombiana is inspired by the concentration of different countries in one single place expressing their traditions through music dance and customs. Carnaval San Francisco allows them to strengthen their involvement with the community by striving for a common goal of sharing their culture with others.
When asked about what comes to mind when thinking about the Mission District’s annual Carnaval, La Cumbiamba Colombiana thinks of the “beautiful happy people, drums, culture and love.”
LA CUMBIAMBA COLOMBIANA
Contact John Roldan at (408) 203–8635
Written by Zachary McRae. Edited by Digital Content Manager Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.
CARNAVAL THROUGHOUT THE WORLD! A SPECIAL CARNAVAL IN SABAC, SERBIA!
After years of volunteering for Carnaval San Francisco, I joined the Federation of European Carnival Cities (F.E.E.C.) - the largest Carnaval organization in the world! The worldwide members of F.E.C.C. are generally people who have been involved in some capacity in Carnavals in their own countries. Every year, we have a convention in a different location and share friendship, information and our love of Carnaval. Carnaval exists in many parts of the world, with each Carnaval having their own history, flavor and character.
This past September my Serbian friends in the F.E.C.C invited me to attend the 8th annual Carnaval in Sabac, Serbia, a city in Western Serbia with a population of about 70,000 people.
The Sabac Carnaval was fantastic! The main highlight was the Grand Parade which ends with each group giving a performance in the center of the city. There were many types of groups including performers from all over Serbia, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia Herzegovina! As is often the case with many Carnavals, there were many fantastic events leading up to the Grand Parade including an doggie Carnaval, the Crowning of a Queen and Princesses, a cooking competition for disabled adults (I was head of the jury!) and an art exhibition. We also visited an elementary school and a high school for arts, where F.E.C.C. members discussed and taught students about Carnaval.
I am very proud to have gotten a special award for the person who traveled the greatest distance ever to come to the Sabac Carnival. Through Carnaval, great distances can be bridged between countries and people.
Written by Peter L. Balogh, Carnaval San Francisco International Ambassador. Edited by Amie Valle. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.
A CONVERSATION WITH FEATURED COMPARSA: LOCO BLOCO
“Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.' ...we use our natural elements of rhythms, movements and human connection to ignite light and love within ourselves and express it through our art.”
Describe your comparsa’s background/history.
Celebrating over 20 years of service in San Francisco’s Mission District, Loco Bloco was founded by artists and activists of color in the traditions of the Afro-Blocos of Brazil. Our mission is to promote San Francisco youth’s healthy transition into adulthood by engaging them in the creation and performance of music, dance and theater rooted in Afro-Latino traditions. Through our youth-led art, we defy the stereotype that only adults can create exceptional art and by providing youth with the tools to express and engage with their communities as Artists, we shift traditional perspectives of low-income communities of color only being capable of succeeding with aid from outside sources by demonstrating that the capacity to overcome social-political obstacles and to create personal and global positive change already exists within the communities themselves.
How does your Comparsa embody Carnaval San Francisco’s 2016 theme “Viva La Madre Tierra: Long Live Mother Earth”?
Members of our Loco Bloco Youth Apprentice Program thought long and hard about a theme that would be meaningful to their reality of growing up in the Mission District. Using the Carnaval San Francisco theme, “Viva la Madre Tierra: Long Live Mother Earth” as inspiration, the youth came up with our 2016 theme: Throw Love in the Fire: Ignite our Natural Elements. The message is to find your fire, the earthly energy of transformation, and use it to take action. Love is a fire that burns; it’s passion and dedication. It overtakes the destructive fires of lies, violence, injustice, disharmony and inner turmoil that can ultimately keep us in the dark. Unconditional love is the true light at the end of the tunnel. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality .“ At LB, we use our natural elements of rhythms, movements and human connection to ignite light and love within ourselves and express it through our art. Our theme colors are red, gold and white to represent fire and the color nude to represent our humanity.
How many numbers does your comparsa have? Are you recruiting? How does someone get involved?
Our comparsa has hundreds of participants and we always expect a big showing of drummers, dancers, stilt walkers, musicians and more! We include children as young as 3 years all the way up to their grandparents -- we pride ourselves on being a real family affair! Loco Bloco is in the process of recruiting our 2016 Carnaval comparsa members. We invite all youth and their families to register for our classes which start in late February.
LOCO BLOCO CARNAVAL CLASSES
February 27 – May 28, 2016
Columbia Park Boys & Girls Club 450 Guerrero St.
Drum, Dance, Stilt Walking for Youth (ages 3–24) and their family members:
Bloquitos (ages 3–5):
Poco Loco Dance (1st – 5th grades):
Poco Loco Drum (1st – 5th grades):
Carnaval Dance (ages 12–24 & family members):
Carnaval Bateria ages 12–24 & family members):
How does Carnaval San Francisco strengthen your comparsa’s involvement within your community and/or others?
Our Carnaval Program aims to connect low-income, youth of color to their community and encourages our community to view their youth as leaders, culture-bearers and powerful agents of change. By providing youth with the tools to express and engage with society as Artists, they are able to positively interact with their community and in turn begin to view themselves as direct contributors to the health and vitality of their neighborhoods.
Loco Bloco Carnaval provides activities, which entire families can participate in together and a way for traditionally marginalized communities to find connection and engagement with others and the ability to contribute to and be recognized by one's community.
How many years have your Comparsa participated and/or been involved with Carnaval San Francisco?
2016 will be our 22nd year, with no end in sight!
What inspires your involvement in Carnaval SF?
Loco Bloco youth have tons of talent and work hard year-round to hone their performance skills. Carnaval SF is a great event in our community which provides an opportunity to “show out” our best presentation. Our participation not only strengthens our organization, but it contributes to the beauty that is Carnaval San Francisco.
Explain the time and energy that goes into your comparsa’s Carnaval preparations and production. What are rehearsals like?
Every year we mobilize a huge effort within our organization to recruit new Carnaval performers, bring forward a positive theme, create new choreography, learn new rhythms in our bateria, design and construct costumes and a float, and even compose original music performed by live musicians. Rehearsals are busy, with five classes going on at any given time! Classes are almost as much fun as the parade itself, presenting opportunities to make new friends, learn performing skills, and engage in one of the best cultural events in Northern California! Our classes take place on Saturdays from February 27 to May 28--the day before the Grand Parade so we literally are working on our presentation up to the time we step off.
When thinking of Carnaval San Francisco, what comes to mind?
Carnaval San Francisco and Loco Bloco share a lot in common: we’re both arts-oriented but we’re more than that. We share core values such as artivism, education, inclusion, family, and an emphasis on community-building. On one level both Carnaval SF and Loco Bloco are about high-energy dancing and drumming, and colorful costumes and floats; but on a deeper level, both organizations’ very existence is a powerful statement about the importance of culture and community.
What else would you like to describe and/or explain about comparsa and its involvement with Carnaval San Francisco?
As a youth development organization founded in the Mission District, Loco Bloco is deeply committed to the spirit of Carnaval which celebrates cultural diversity, artivism, and community-building. During our Carnaval season we hire local instructors and facilitators to teach our classes, contributing to the development of the artist community. Lastly, we strengthen our involvement within our city-wide community with our strong sense of pride and purpose. We like to say that at Loco Bloco, we’re “changing the rhythm of the world!”
Written by Zachary McRae. Edited by Digital Content Manager Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2016 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.
Romance in the Mission: A Carnaval Love Story
Life-changing things happen when you find love in a “hopeful” place.
Jill Loeffler and Aram Sohigian can attest to this because their lives were transformed when they sat side-by-side on a sidewalk at the Carnaval San Francisco parade in 2013.
On the morning of May 26th, with only eight days before his move to China, 45-year-old Aram bought a burrito and a beer and got ready to watch the remarkable Carnaval San Francisco parade. His non-stop fun countdown would be interrupted when he returned from his breakfast break and noticed that his former seat on the sidewalk was taken over by Jill, a 41-year-old entrepreneur inspired by the cultural beauty surrounding her as she waited for the parade to start.
Chemistry clicked and Aram, from Healdsburg, and Jill, from Nebraska found themselves drawn to one another on that curb in the barrio. Neither knew what to expect but with only a little over a week left in the Bay Area, Aram wasted no time getting better acquainted with this newfound face. As the Carnaval Grand Parade powered down Mission Street with over 45 contingents including dancers, floats, and music blasting from all directions, nothing could interfere with their “magnetic attraction,” says Jill and Aram --not even the chatter and scrambling bodies of friends that danced and sang around them.
Jill and Aram spoke of life and travel. They spoke of the wonders of the world awaiting adventure and places they had already discovered. Jill was in no hurry to go home to post the pictures she had taken, and as she prepared to say goodbye, Aram found the courage to ask her on a date for the very next day.
Eight days turned into eight nights which blossomed into an ongoing parade of love. Perhaps inspired by the beating heart of the Carnaval Spirit, Jill, only two months later, moved to China to be with her new beau. They immersed themselves into a life dedicated to culture and travel. Both had previously worked in the corporate “business” world, but came to realize that working 9-to-5 was just not their lifestyle.
Vagabonding around the globe, with one suitcase and carry–on each, Aram and Jill want to leave nothing behind. Whether they are hitting the dance floor Cuban-style, discovering the latest trends in Beijing, scouting engagement rings in Turkey, or celebrating their spontaneous marriage proposal in a hot- air balloon over the “Fairy Chimneys” in Göreme, these two are far from average and yet very much compatible.
Aram and Jill encourage others all over the world to follow their feelings and “go for it.” Whether that be to travel or asking someone on a date whom you never thought would give you the chance.
If they are not giving tour tips on a city’s hotspots, or showing how to make a suitcase not weigh a ton, Aram and Jill travel together all around the world and discover new tourism spots to add to their booming sites.
Aram says that they celebrate the Carnaval Parade as their anniversary now. “With such a big party with lots of friends, the event for us has become magical.” Two people meeting on a street of beautiful chaos on a perfectly clear day not expecting the unexpected, speaks wonders.
As they sat in a coffee shop on Market Street in downtown San Francisco reminiscing about that unforgettable day, not so far from where the parade actually took place, Aram could hardly contain his excitement to share their story of love and Carnaval. Jill nodded in agreement as Aram uttered with the subtle voice of sincerity, “How much more love can you get than that?”
Written by Valencia Newton. Edited by Digital Content Manager Sylvia Ramirez. Copyright 2015 by Drumbeat, Carnaval San Francisco. All rights reserved.