Audio Transcription

Narrator (Tania Llambelis): "During the 1970s, the Mission District experienced an intense period due to political and cultural movements. The community organized political and cultural groups which called themselves Cultural Workers.

"The neighborhood arts program created in the 1960s to support the construction of the new Symphony Hall grew more than expected, and helped the Latino community find the way to have a venue for their own culture."

Roberto Vargas (Founder): "When the community sees you working out there, they will support you. Todo empezó pues así, because we started bringing them out here! Then they thought, well wait a minute, we don't have to do it as a, you know, temporary patch. This is what—so then, they continued, got their degrees, came back and… fortalecieron los programas.

"And then came the Cultural Center, también después, we started—it was the same period, '76, '75, that we began to look for other possibilities, and again we used HUD—HUD monies, Housing and Urban Development—and we saw the creative way of using that. Using it for building spaces, for our building spaces, but it had to be a city entity. We said, good then (inaudible), we got that, we followed it in there, we start using that to purchase these buildings too."

Romero Gilberto Osorio (Founder, Gallery Director): "We had the option to buy four different buildings, but we bought this one which was a furniture store, because it had the characteristics that we were looking for, basically—first floor that could accommodate a theatre, then a second floor which then was a mezzanine, that we'd try to arrange as a gallery, and then the third floor, which had storage places that could be accommodated for dance and music and graphics, arts, that was very popular in the Mission District at that time.

"We thought that San Francisco needed a venue that really addressed the whole spectrum of Latino migration here, which is not only Mexican or Chicano, it's Central American and Latino. Little by little, we were emphasizing the Latin arts. But it wasn't until about a year or a year and a half afterwards that it really caught on, with the first Day of the Dead exhibition and everything, we really started to align most Latin artists other than different people."

Narrator: "On the first floor which is now the theatre, there were community gatherings, theatrical performances, and musical events produced by the music committee."

Mario Gallardo (Founder, Comité Musical): "Francisco Tovar, Luis Medina, Carlos Gallardo, Enrique Fernandez, and there were other members that were not directly involved in the coordination of the type of events that we were to carry on, but indirectly were actively seeking the music, practicing the music, and performing at times as well.

"What we started with was the idea of a series of concerts. We had some very, very talented youngsters that participated. Some of the outstanding ones are currently recording artists, well-known musicians—Latin music—such as Johnny Calloway, Rebeca Mauleón, John Santos, and many many others.

"Our intent was to promote Latin music, but at the same time incorporate artists and musicians that needed a place to rehearse and express their type of music. Another idea was the idea of being able to take our music and share it with other community centers."

Narrator: "Other ways to promote Latino culture was through Gráfica."

Alfonso Maciel (Founder, Graphics): "We started producing leaflets, flyers, posters, and eventually we got into publications—the Tecolote—and we invited them to come and join us and take—use the facilities.

"It was a time of great, great turmoil, lots of energy and an incredible amount of participation."

Cecilia Guidos (Founder): "The women's participation came from the different organizations already in motion happening in the Mission. Culture came as a natural to us, because many of us drew or were part of the spoken word movement, were in solidarity with many things that were going on--vets coming back from Vietnam, also dictatorships all over the world that United States had set affected us personally, because of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, with the vets coming back we had this consciousness of what war and relief of that war meant.

"Coming to the Mission at that time was also the right to be who you were, and part of that was having ethnic pride. And so, in that ethnic pride, we decided that the best way to get it out there without causing ourselves any more violence or pain, was creativity."

Carlos Cordova (Founder, Programming): "My job was to be the coordinator of programming and workshops, and we began a very ambitious plan of having, with the weekend programs, as well as programs almost every night. So it was really tough and hard considering that we didn't have the right facilities to be doing something of that nature.

"Carnaval was an event that began to be organized (inaudible) in Precita Park, in the streets. There were many congueros, many drummers that would get together and practice there with dancers and it was people like Adela Chu, for example, who was a dancer and also had a workshop at the Mission Cultural Center, with Marcos Gordon and Gloria Tulsi, who also had workshops at the Center, who began to organize the Carnaval.

"The events of Día de los Muertos, in this case Day of the Dead—it began also with work between the Mission Cultural Center, Galería de la Raza, the work of many other people who were involved at the time including Carlos Baron and his theatre groups that he had, in conjunction with San Francisco State University and the Mission Cultural Center, that began to organize many elements of the procession.

"San Francisco poets have always had a very important history of commitment to revolutionary movements, and we have many individuals who came to the Cultural Center on a regular basis to do poetry readings—poets that include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Janice Mirikitani... We had people coming in from various places—from New York, the Nuyorican Poets, Miguel Piñero, and many others actually came to the Center, and they participated with us."

Romero Gilberto Osorio: "Who blessed the Mission Cultural Center was the poet, Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal. At that time, the Sandinistas had taken power recently in Nicaragua, and he used to come over to seek solidarity with the Sandinistas. And he was a good friend of Alejandro Murguia and Roberto Vargas with a foot in the Frente Sur."

Narrator: "One year after the founding of the Center, Alfonso Maciel created its logo, Tezcatlipoca, a young Aztec jaguar who represented anti-establishment art. This matched the spirit of resistance of the Center. Later on, a jaguar found its place on the mural painted by Carlos Loarca, Betty Miller, and Manuel Villamor.

"Thanks to the support of people committed to Latino culture, the Mission Cultural Center has developed throughout these 25 years, and has been providing cultural services to the community."

Concha Saucedo (Executive Director, Instituto Familiar de la Raza): "The Mission Cultural Center through the years has worked and collaborated with us in many different ways, particularly in the area of aid services, they've always opened their space for our different activities, for Mr and Ms Gay Latino, for exposiciones, and so this is a place to find healing. I see it also as a place of health."

Elias Katz (PhD, ABPP, National Institute of Art and Disabilities): "We met with the staff of regional—of the Mission Cultural Center, in 1981 as I recall. They were there when we needed a—we had a show there, we needed to have a place to work, where the people could do the work. They were very nice and gracious about what we'd been through."

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate (Former Prima Ballerina, SF Ballet): "The Mission Cultural Center has been a wonderful part of my development as—retiring and then transitioning into being ballet education coordinator with the San Francisco Ballet. Now I have the opportunity to really go out into the community and to instill in our children, who are our future, the love of dance, the love of movement, the love of being able to express oneself beyond words."

Richard Newirth (Director, San Francisco Arts Commission): "Mission has been particularly successful at really getting community support and ownership. The building is moving day and night. Wisely, the city has realized that investment into the cultural centers, into Mission Cultural Center, does so much to serve the community, that the investment is paid back multiple times, with services becoming sort of a beacon for the community."

Alejandro Murguia (Founder, First MCCLA Director): "I think it's important to realize when we talk about starting the Mission Cultural Center, that it was a very broad based community movement that involved not just artists and filmmakers and dancers and musicians, but other community people whether they were in other fields or saw the importance of us getting such a key site like where we're at now.

"The greatest example of the community coming together and achieving something of lasting permanence is what the Mission community, el barrio la Misión, did back in 1975 and '76 and '77 to achieve the realization of this dream of a Cultural Center, that had in fact been a dream for decades, and a good example of what a community pulling together can achieve."

Video Credits Transcription

edited and directed by: adrián arias

script and executive production: susana aragón

production: jennie rodriguez – MCCLA

voice over: tania llambelis


  • "Jingo" santana
  • "oye como va" santana
  • orquesta rene del mar
  • john calloway music workshop
  • "stop the draft" jose leon
  • carlos aceituno
  • karl perazza, carl araiza

video archives:

  • rick goldsmith
  • vicente franco
  • juanita rieloff
  • alberto maxwell
  • daniel maradiaga
  • s.f. public library
  • arias & aragón

photo archives:

  • cathleen apodaca
  • el tecolote
  • rene castro
  • carlos córdova
  • daniel del solar
  • eduardo Pineda
  • a&a

thanks to the support:

  • cathleen apodaca
  • carlos córdova
  • cecilia guidos
  • magaly fernández
  • mario gallardo
  • alfonso maciel
  • alejandro murguia
  • carmen olivares
  • gilberto osorio
  • nina serrano
  • diana vargas
  • roberto vargas
  • patricia rodriguez
  • juan gonzalez
  • pedro tuyub
  • lisa a. mirlos rieloff
  • paula tejeda rieloff
  • jose leon
  • juan fuentes
  • carlos loarca
  • kelly weimer
  • nohemy Ortiz

videotape box printed by michel roman

MCCLA video department

San Francisco 2003

"The Founders" 25th Anniversary Video (2003)

"The Founders" 25th Anniversary Video (2003)