Photo courtesy of Oliver Klink





On May 27th, 2018 at 9:30am the Grand Parade kicks–off at the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets. Watch a brilliant procession of contingents, most of which will feature beautifully adorned floats depicting rich multicultural themes and featuring performers who engage and entertain the crowds. Brazilian-style “escola” samba schools with up to 300 members dance through the streets in fantastic feathered headdresses or sweeping Bahia skirts, while Caribbean contingents perform the music and dance of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad. Other parade groups include Mexican Aztec performers, traditional African drummers, Polynesian dancers, Japanese drummers, giant puppets and folkloric groups representing Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia.


View the 2018 Grand Parade Lineup here.






SUNDAY, MAY 27TH, 2018

9:30 AM




Grandstand seating is in front of:

2565 Mission Street

(Between 21st and 22nd)

San Francisco, CA 94110


Enjoy more than 50 colorful music and dance groups from your own reserved seats. Watch a brilliant procession of contingents, most of which will feature beautifully adorned floats depicting rich multicultural themes and featuring performers who engage and entertain the crowds. Brazilian-style “escola” samba schools with up to 300 members dance through the streets in fantastic feathered headdresses or sweeping Bahia skirts, while Caribbean contingents perform the music and dance of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad. Other parade groups include Mexican Aztec performers, traditional African drummers, Polynesian dancers, Japanese drummers, giant puppets and folkloric groups representing Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia.






Jesús "Chuchito" Valdés Cortés, Jr.
Musicians and dancers have been the two creative forces driving the San Francisco Carnaval parade and festival for the last four decades. It is fitting that on the 40th Anniversary of Carnaval San Francisco celebrating our traditions as our theme, the great Latin Jazz pianist and composer and seven-time Latin Grammy nominee, Cuba’s Chuchito Valdés, be selected as Grand Marshal of the Carnaval San Francisco 2018 Parade along with Adela Chu, Carnaval founder and performer. “Chuchito”, as he is affectionately called, joins Willie Colón, Carlos Santana, Armando Peraza, and John Santos just to name a few of the Latin music legends that have been Grand Marshall of Carnaval San Francisco parade over the last four decades.


Jesús "Chuchito" Valdés Cortés, Jr. is truly Cuban piano royalty. For three generations the Valdés family have contributed to Latin music and Latin Jazz starting with grandfather, Bebo Valdés. Bebo’s big bands drove Havana’s dancers wild in pre-revolutionary Cuba and his music is part of the Cuban song book. Bebo’s son and Chuchito’s father, Chucho Valdés, is considered one of the world’s top contemporary Jazz pianists and has toured the world for decades. Chucho Valdés first caught the world’s attention for his innovative work as founder and bandleader of the Cuban Latin Jazz band, Irakere. The band included Cuba’s top musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Changuito, and Paquito D’Rivera. The music of Irakere, while controversial in Cuba for glorifying American Jazz at the time, had a significant impact on the global jazz scene and revealed the high level of musicianship of Cuba’s top players to the world.


Jesus "Chuchito" Valdés, Jr. is a pianist like few others. While born and raised in Havana, Cuba he was steeped in European classical music, American Jazz and the Afro-Cuban rhythms of his native Cuba. He is a pianist, composer, and arranger and continues the Latin Jazz piano dynasty established by his grandfather, Bebo Valdés and his father, Chucho Valdés. Valdés was a child prodigy who attended and graduated from La Escuela de Música Ignacio Cervantes. He had his first professional gig at the age of 16, working with Cuban singer and trumpeter Bobby Carcasses, and also accompanied singer, Pello El Afrokan.


In the mid-nineties he replaced his father as pianist of Cuba’s Irakere but wanted to make his own mark in the Jazz world. He released a debut album, Encantado, on Town Crier Records (2002), and quickly followed with three more; La Timba (2002), and Herencia (2004) for J & N Records. Keys of Latin Jazz (2007) was released by Sony BMG International.


Valdés continues to tour and record, making his home in Cancún, Mexico. In the last decade, he has been nominated seven times for a Latin Grammy for best Latin Jazz album and best Folkloric music album. We will get a chance to celebrate our Latin Jazz pianist tradition honoring Chuchito Valdés and his royal lineage as the Carnaval San Francisco Grand Marshal in his royal float accompanied by a local surprise band of rumba flamenca on Sunday, May 27th at 9:30 am. Chuchito, honoring this tradition in his family, will perform some of his grandfather’s classics throughout the parade. The week before on May 19th, Chuchito Valdés will be performing his new compositions for batá drums, Batá Piano con Iyunfa! at the Bayview Opera House to inaugurate the 1st annual Afro-Latinx Festival. Chuchito will be playing with Cuban master batá drummer, Roberto Borrell and his batá ensemble in a free Tardeada concert from noon until 4 pm on an outdoor stage with opening acts by local bands Óskar Ly & Rumbalú and the Gina Madrid Band, Afro-Latin American dance performances from throughout the Americas by BDT, and much more. You have two chances to enjoy this piano prodigy in San Francisco in May! On July 8th Chuchito will perform at the SF Botanical Gardens’ Flower Piano outdoor concert series by Sunset Pianos.


Written by Arturo Riera, Mister Latin Jazz
Photograph by Juan Carlos Cuéllar of Chuchito & Chucho Valdés at SF Jazz, 2017



Adela Chu
Adela Chu is a Panamanian-born dancer and dance instructor who began her dance career in the Mission specializing in Afro-Caribbean dance. She first brought the exotic and colorful celebration of Carnaval to the streets of San Francisco's Mission District in 1976 and then successfully launched the annual celebration in 1979 at Precita Park with the help of Marcus Gordon and many others. Adela will be honored as the Marshal of the Carnaval Parade 2018 along with Latin Jazz piano extraordinaire Chuchito Valdés. Their royal float honoring Carnaval’s roots, our artistic traditions, will be filled with music, dance and song!


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 carnaval in a city that until then didn’t have one—and now can boast of hosting, if not the biggest, certainly the most diverse carnaval parade in the entire country, if not the world.


How did it all come about? Who made it happen? Why did it take place in the Mission District to begin with? One question leads to another and all of them point to Adela Chu, who can easily trace her carnaval dream to her childhood in the city of Colón, Panama. “I was three,” recalls Adela, “it was carnaval time, and my mom was sewing costumes, like every year. She was sewing these cute pink tutus with a big red valentine over the bodice, and I wanted to wear one sooooo badly. But I was told I was too young to be in carnaval. I think at that moment my carnaval dream began. And I took that dream with me wherever I went. That’s why, many years later, when I lived in San Francisco, any chance I had to do carnaval, I’d go for it. People just loved it too, which was probably the reason why I thought San Francisco would be the perfect place to start a carnaval tradition. The spirit was there, the drummers, the dancers. And I knew lots of them because I was a samba instructor. I guess you can say that teaching samba was my way of keeping my carnaval dream alive.”


In this light, when we say that on the last Sunday of February of 1979 Adela Chu gave birth to the San Francisco Carnaval in Precita Park, perhaps all we say is that she provided a face, a location and a pathos to an array of historical agents, all of them coinciding in a city that by then was, to use Frida Kahlo’s favorite way of describing San Francisco, “the city of the world.” And one must include even the weather among all those ingredients contributing to the birth of carnival. For that day, typical of winter (and often summer) in this city, it looked inhospitably overcast. The sun came out, however, as the drummers and dancers were about to go around the park. And when they finished, the rain came down with a vengeance as if to remind them that, despite the fact that they had successfully staged the first carnival in the Mission, it was still a long way from finding a home in the form of a more suitable location in time and space.


Adela last graced our Carnaval San Francisco Grand Parade for the 20th anniversary SF Carnaval when she led her Samba/Tahitian dance contingent "Return from Paradise" down the streets of the Mission, to great acclaim.


Written by Mitsy Velazquez
Photograph by Lou DeMatteis of Adela Chu in her silver headdress, 1979.






John Santos
Multi-Grammy-nominated percussionist and SF native, John Santos, is a prolific Afro-Latin band leader,composer, teacher, writer, and producer with over 45 years professionalexperience. He is one of the founders and pioneers of Carnaval San Francisco having served on the organizing committee for the first Carnaval SF in 1978 and subsequently participated numerous times as performer, judge, honoree and Grand Marshall. He has worked with acknowledged masters including Cachao, DizzyGillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés, Max Roach, Eddie Palmieri, FranciscoAguabella, Omar Sosa and countless others. He has composed and published over 100 originalcompositions and his record company, Machete Records, was formed in 1984. Heis part of the faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley,California and at the College of San Mateo. He has taught nationally andinternationally since 1973 and currently directs the highly acclaimed JohnSantos Sextet. Johnis also an advisory board member of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (NY), Living Jazz (Oakland, CA) and theOaktown Jazz Workshop (Oakland), and a Trustee of SFJAZZ.
Photo by Tom Ehrlich 2018



Roberto Borrell
Thirty-five years of performing and instructing Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance and Cuban Popular Dance has enabled Roberto Borrell to develop a unique and entertaining style of teaching.


At a time when elegance and style counted for everything Roberto Borrell turned the nights on fire dancing to the intricate rhythms of great Cuban performers such as Chappottin, Orquesta Aragon and Neno Gonzalez. He learned to dance during the heyday of the legendary Havana Social Clubs. Perfecting what is known as Cuban Popular Dance, Roberto became a master of Danzon, Son, Son-Montuno, Guaracha and the Cha-Cha-Cha.


When Roberto was 18 he was noticed by Cuba's Conjunto Folklorico Nacional and asked to join the celebrated performance group. In a trial by-fire situation he was schooled in the traditional Orisha songs, dances and rhythms by the most renowned Afro-Cuban folkloric dancers and percussionists of the time.


As Roberto continued to develop his performance skills he began to cultivate his abilities as a choreographer and musical director. Starting as the orchestra leader for his own group in Cuba , Union Cienfueguera, through to his highly successful San Francisco based orchestra, Moderna Tradicion, he continued to direct musical groups and shows for over 30 years.


By the time Roberto left Cuba he had developed a wealth of knowledge and a diverse mastery of Cuban music and dance which also included playing Rumba en la calle, excelling in playing the Bata for Tambores (Yoruba religious ceremonies), choreographing for Carnival and performing on the National Stage.


In order to get the highly tuned performances that he required for his shows, Roberto began to train the dancers and musicians himself. Once in New York, Roberto focused his energy on teaching. With an authentic historic perspective, he worked on creating a meticulous method of teaching that combines music and dance with the evolution of Cuba's musical history. He teaches his students how to listen; one of the most valuable skills that a dancer can have. Along with a surplus of charm and charisma, Roberto has a generosity of spirit that transpires and inspires all of his students.


From a student in Cuba's pre-revolutionary dance halls to a prolific performer of Afro-Cuban dance and percussion, Roberto is able to harness the eros of the stage and direct it towards the world of teaching. If authenticity, raw talent and compassion are what you are looking for.



Blanche Brown
"All my life I wanted to be a dancer…”
With this thought in mind, Blanche Brown returned to college to study dance in 1970. Becoming a dancer at the age of 35 could be considered by some as an unrealistic goal, but Blanche brown has lived her entire life defying limitations.


The awakening ethnic consciousness of the late 60s propelled her into an in-depth study of African-American Culture. Through the study of physical education and dance at San Francisco State, Blanche explored all the possibilities of movement, from ballet, jazz, folk dance and tap. Simultaneously, Blanche began to dance with the Wajumbe ethnic dance troupe, including African based dance forms in her repertoire. With Wajumbe, Blanche performed all over California at colleges, universities, community centers… even prisons! Blanche graduated from San Francisco State University in 1974 with her Bachelors Degree in Physical Education with an emphasis on Dance. Since then dance has dominated her life.


African rhythm struck a deep chord in Blanche, beginning an artistic investigation that led her to West Africa in 1974. Performing with Wajumbe throughout Nigeria, Blanche absorbed the rich spiritual influences ever-present in West Africa. Her rediscovery of West African culture changed her personal outlook in the African contribution to society as a whole. She realized that African rhythm and dance was universal and applicable to all people, all color, and all ages. Her travels lead her to France in 1979, where she taught a series of ethnic dance workshops in Nice. These classes included dancers of all ages, abilities, and ethnicities.


The African experience awakened Blanche’s interest in the spiritual aspects of ethnic dance. In New York City Blanche began investigating the Haitian influences on dance, and was fascinated by the spiritual connection to the Yourba culture. New York became a cultural mecca for the politically-displaced Haitian artists and musicians; an ideal environment for Blanche’s studies of the deeper aspects of dance. In 1981, Blanche was initiated into the Yoruba religion as a priestess of Oshun and she is a respected elder of the voudon religion in Northern California.


In 1988, Blanche formed the dance troupe Group Petit La Croix. Blanche created the troupe to fully express and visually explain the Haitian culture by combining western choreography and techniques with traditional Haitian dance and drumming. Blanche has since taught ethnic dance the California University system from UCLA to Hayward, Sonoma, to Santa Cruz. Blanche has taught classes at Mills College, Santa Clara University, The Modern Dance Center, The Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, and at Third Wave Dance House in San Francisco for many years.


Over the years Blanche has been widely recognized for her contribution to the dance community. In 1977 she was the first dancer to be appointed to the San Francisco Arts Commission. In 2003 she was President of the Board of World Arts West. And in 2008 Blanche received the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Ethnic Dance and Music. Today, Blanche still teaches and challenges people from all walks of life, including occasionally her own niece and granddaughters, at ODC in San Francisco. Blanche continues to teach, dance, and preform with inspirational grace and enthusiasm. At 81 years old, Blanche continues to defy limitations and expand the parameters of dance.



Nancy Obregon
Rooted in Carnaval since 1977 as a member of the Bacchanal Dance Company under the direction of Gloria Toolsie and Martha Estrella. Nancy Obregon continued her participation as a dancer in Carnaval’s early years including the parade’s debut in the Mission District’s Precita Park. In 1983 and 1985 she worked as a Carnaval Staff member and for the past five years as Grandstand Coordinator.


Nancy’s dedication and love of Carnaval continued when she became a teacher in the Mission District in 1993. Her students at Leonard Flynn School were part of the Carnaval Arts Education Program for nine consecutive years. This year, as a visual arts teacher at Willie Brown Middle School, students will participate as the WBMS Steel Drum Ensemble and with an Afro-Peruvian dance ensemble.






Juan Pablo Gutierrez
Juan Pablo Gutierrez has directed the Annual SF Day Of The Dead Ritual Procession for the past 36 years. He directed during the 1980’s the Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts and he has been involved with Carnaval since the early 1980’s.

















For information about how you can get involved with dance organizations that participate in the parade, click here.











Download a map of the Grand Parade route here.