Latino Cultural District launches economic program to revitalize the Mission

Morale was high Saturday morning in San Francisco’s sunny Mission neighborhood as volunteers gathered for a day of cleaning streets, listening to music, traditional dancing and visiting neighborhood businesses.

“There is something beautiful happening today,” Susana Rojas, executive director of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, told the crowd gathered in the BART plaza at 24th Street. “It’s a big old party!”

The festivities marked the launch of Calle Limpia, Corazón Contento – which translates to clean street, happy heart – an economic recovery program led by the Calle 24 Latino cultural district. The area centered around 24th Street in East Mission has felt the punitive effects of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses.

The program came about as part of recent legislation that requires street vendors in the city to obtain a license and retain proof of ownership or other authorization to sell goods. The sale, often of homemade produce, fruit or flowers, is common in the Mission — “it’s part of the flavor we’ve always had,” Rojas previously told the Chronicle.

But since the pandemic, community leaders have said street vendors from outside the community — some of whom may be selling stolen goods — are crowding out the neighborhood, prompting the legislation, the district supervisor explained. 9, Hillary Ronen, who came to the event and helped clean up.

District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen speaks during the Calle Limpia, Corazón Contento Economic Recovery Program Launch of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Saturday, May 5, 2022.

Danielle Echeverria/The Chronicle

Part of Calle 24’s relaunch program aims to help sellers in the community get the permits they need to continue selling, as well as find a path to small business ownership.

“The Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is committed to supporting our community with an economic recovery program and a transition to the endemic phase of the pandemic,” Rojas said. “We are launching this program to assist our community with humane and culturally relevant processes that prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

In addition to helping legitimate vendors obtain permits and understand the rules, the program aims to “provide residents, vendors, homeless neighbors and those who engage in self-harming behavior with sufficient resources before that they are not targeted by quotes”.

On Saturday, that meant asking volunteers to pick up trash, but also treating it with local food, a traditional Mexican prayer dance performed by Danza Xitlalli, and providing health resources like free COVID tests, condoms and information about sexual health, training on the use of the antidote to fentanyl Narcan and information leaflets in English and Spanish.

Danza Xitlalli performs a traditional Mexican prayer dance during the Calle Limpia launch of the cultural district of Calle 24 Latino, Corazón Contento.

Danza Xitlalli performs a traditional Mexican prayer dance during the Calle Limpia launch of the cultural district of Calle 24 Latino, Corazón Contento.

Danielle Echeverria/The Chronicle

Ronen explained that his office partnered with Calle 24 originally simply to help vendors “who have been here for decades” navigate the new permit system, but the community organization “took it on then. blew it up in this incredible, larger program.”

She hopes the resources and effort will help revitalize the neighborhood’s tradition of street vending in a “clean and orderly” way that protects those who inhabit the Mission.

“It won’t feel like a chaotic community in the midst of social breakdown, like it feels lately,” she said. “We are going to see a huge improvement in the Mission without displacing legitimate street vendors.”

A key part of the program is to maintain the cultural relevance of resources, revitalizing the region to support the people and cultures that make it special, leaders said.

“It’s all our land. We will always be here, and we will be here together,” Sharaya Souza, executive director of the American Indian Cultural District, who partnered with Calle 24 on the project. “This is our home. We are all stewards of this land, and we all have a responsibility to care for this district.

Leaders stressed the need to revitalize the neighborhood without driving out the existing community.

“When we talk about economic recovery, we’re not talking about sweeping out the most vulnerable because we want to be rich,” Rojas told the crowd. “Someone came to me and said they wish Mission Street looked like Chestnut Street.”

The crowd groaned.

“Who wants to see our Mission Street like Chestnut?” she continued as people cheered, leading supporters to chant “Mission! Assignment!”

Volunteers receive supplies to clean the streets during the launch of the economic recovery program of the Calle 24 Latino cultural district.

Volunteers receive supplies to clean the streets during the launch of the economic recovery program of the Calle 24 Latino cultural district.

Danielle Echeverria/The Chronicle

In addition to the cleanup, the event brought together DJs, muralists and vouchers for local restaurants to motivate the community for recovery.

“If you’ve ever been to a Latino household on a Saturday where we clean, there’s food, there’s music, and there’s toda la familia,” Rojas said. “So that’s what we’re doing today!”

“¡Vamos a limpiar! she continued. “What Cesar Chaves says, ¡sí se puede!”

Danielle Echeverria is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @DanielleEchev

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