SF Carnaval twirls into trouble

After running strong for 35 years, San Francisco’s annual Carnaval celebration spectacular is now in jeopardy of not happening at all.

The annual two-day Mission District festival, full of music, food, and a parade, brings the Bay Area together for one big cultural celebration.

The volunteer-run festival, funded by a mix of sponsors, donations, and vendor fees, has now run into a financial snag.

San Francisco Cultural Arts Traditions has been in charge of putting on Carnaval for the past three years but due to burgeoning debt and increasingly difficult requirements set up by The City, the festival may not happen this year.

Jim Sowers, president of the SFCAT, told El Tecolote:

“We are behind the curve. We are planning to go forward and are facing some challenges right now.”

Carnaval dance groups are beginning to prepare for the festival, in hopes that alternative funding can be secured. The cost to put on the festival is something to the tune of $400,000, according to Isabel Barraza, a former SFCAT board member.

Activist Roberto Hernandez has been part of Carnaval since it first started in 1979, and told El Tecolote:

“From what it looks like, (the organizers) fell short in doing some of the work that needed to be done. You have to be fruitful with every penny.”

Among the other issues plaguing this year’s Carnaval, the Mission District’s changing demographics could also be to blame for a decline in the area’s cultural celebrations.

Metzi Henriquez of the Brazilian Carnaval dance and percussion company Fogo Na Roupa said:

“There’s a lot of fault in the organization, but it’s also a wider issue concerning the new Mission residents and gentrification. It’s affecting cultural festivities on a city level.”

Hernandez pointed out the economical impact the Mission would feel if there was no Carnaval this year:

“Right now we are trying to figure out the infrastructure and how to do this within 81 days. In terms of our community, you are talking about half a million people coming to the Mission. It helps our mom-and-pop stores, helps promote community businesses, educates us about our cultures–Carnaval has got to happen.”

A meeting is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Brava Theater so organizers can meet with the community and try to obtain more sponsors and volunteers.