It is impossible to think of what makes San Francisco San Francisco without calling to mind our vibrant Mexican culture. La Mission, after all, is the city's most colorful neighborhood—an eclectic hodgepodge of the Mexican families that have lived there forever, and the hipster set that has brought trendy restaurants, artisanal coffee, and concerns about gentrification.
But while Mexicans make up nearly 70 percent of the Bay Area's Latino population, there is a smaller but nevertheless culturally rich number of communities here that make for a diverse Latino experience. Here, we offer a quick primer on where to get the flavor of some of the Latin American cultures with the highest prevalence in the Bay Area.
Eat: Named after consulting chef Gloria Pinette's neighborhood bus stop in San Juan, Parada 22 serves Puerto Rican staples such as mofongo (smashed green plantains with pork broth) and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). In the mood for brunch? Go for Boogaloos' breakfast pop-up (Monday through Friday until 2pm; weekends until 3pm) and pair your desayuno tipico (two eggs, grilled plantain cake, cabbage slaw, and beans) with bottomless mimosas. // 1805 Haight St. (Haight), parada22.com
Takeout: Sometimes you just want some bacalaitos (fried codfish fritters) to go. The Bay Area's first Puerto Rican food truck, Borinquen Soul, now has a permanent home inside Oakland's Two Star Market and touts itself as food for the homesick boricua (Puerto Rican). // 2020 MacArthur Blvd. (Oakland), borinquensoultakeout.com
Party: A yearly festival occurring in San Jose since the 1970s, El Dia de San Juan Salsa Festival fetes Puerto Rico's patron saint John the Baptist, whose feast day is June 24. Puerto Ricans are just as instrumental (no pun intended) to the genre of salsa dancing as the Cubans, so there are plenty of opportunities to shimmy. Last year's festivities included bongo legend José Mangual and La Mixta Criolla, a Bay Area band who takes its cue partly from the creole music of Puerto Rico. // 11am to 7pm, Saturday, June 17; History Park, 1650 Senter Rd. (San Jose), wrprc.org
Fun Fact: Club Puertorriqueno of San Francisco, founded in 1912, is the oldest Latino organization in the United States. // 3249A Mission St. (Bernal Heights), clubpuertorriquenosf.com