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: We are forever in the debt of El Salvador for bringing us the delicious pupusa—those pillowy soft tortillas stuffed with cheese and maybe some refried beans or pork, and topped with curtido, a slightly fermented cabbage slaw. La Santaneca has earned its go-to status as the city's place to indulge in El Salvador's national dish, having garnered its following through strong word of mouth from natives and a 4-star rating on Yelp. // 3781 Mission St. (Bernal Heights), yelp.com
Read: Publisher Holly Ayala and author Jorge Argueta joined forces to create Luna's Press, focusing on bilingual and multicultural children's books that celebrate Salvadoran heritage through its native characters. Olita and Manyula: The Big Birthday tells the story of an iconic elephant at San Salvador's National Zoological Park. // Luna's Press & Bookstore, 3790 Mission St. (Bernal Heights), lunaspress.com
Celebrate: Feast on Salvadoran foods including pupusas and pasteles fritos (fried empanadas), hear live music from national bands such as La Maquina and Los Hermanos Flores, and buy clothing emblazoned with the blue and white of the flag at the annual Festival Independencia Salvadoreña in San Rafael. // Sept. 10 at Marin Civic Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, (San Rafael), festivalindependenciasalvadorena.com
Fun Fact: Supermodel and Bay Area native Christy Turlington Burns is half Salvadoran—her mother is from Cojutepeque, which is known as the City of Fog in El Salvador. Coincidence, no?