Cinco de Mayo Festival

On Saturday, May 5, 2007, I (surprise!) went to San Francisco's Cinco de Mayo festival, located in Dolores Park. Because I was going to see a movie in the city after the festival, I contemplated driving. Then I realized that was nuts. Parking in the Mission is hell even when there isn't a festival. I decided to head to a BART station, BART to the festival, and play it by ear to figure out how to get from the festival to the movie and back to the BART.

Sunny and nice and with a mild breeze, it was perfect park and outdoor festival weather. In another part of Dolores Park, on the way to the festival, I noticed some people playing at capoeira, and countless others gathered in groups around cell phones playing a Go Game, a quirky, performance-art-type scavenger hunt. Many others engaged in typical park activities such as running with dogs, playing catch, or tossing a frisbee.

My image of Cinco de Mayo is a rambunctious, raucous party. My image may be wrong in general. It's certainly wrong in this instance. This festival was not like that; rather, it was fairly sedate. I didn't spot any alcohol, not even the wine that people often sneak into concerts in the park.

The number of booths was small but they were mostly culturally themed and varied widely in type, from real estate in Mexico to citizenship services to awareness about domestic violence (in Spanish). One booth had a game I'd never previously seen (picture). On a table about 3x5 feet, people place little figures of soccer players. On a player's turn, that player can move any of his/her figurines. Then he/she whacks a ball with a popsicle stick, trying to get it, possibly by bouncing off the sides of the table or of the figures, into the opponent's goal. Cute. (I think the education organization that provided the tables charged a normal fee to play in order to raise money.)

Sadly, there were only half a dozen food stands, mostly Mexican or Salvadorian, and all had tremendous lines. I selected one and, thirty minutes later, had my dishes (picture):
* Huaraches con nopales. (Hurache actually means sandal in Spanish.) In this context, however, it denotes a large ovoid fried tortilla (hence the name), not unlike a very thick tortilla, not quite crispy. I got mine topped with nopales (cactus leaves) and the standard queso fresco and anejo (fresh and aged cheese), cilantro, tomato, and onions. It was decent.
* Taco con carne asada. Topped with onions, cilantro, and a too sweet almost-barbecue-type salsa that overpowered everything. Not even good enough to be called decent. Still, I finished it after attempting to remove some sauce.

I sat down and ate and listened more to the mariachi bands. (The festival didn't seem to have much variety of music.) (I listened in line as well.) This photograph captures the band and the setting, taken from where I sat and ate. After eating, I would've loved to stay and sit in the sun -it was such a nice day-, but I had a movie to attend. I might've even skipped the movie had the music appealed more to me.

As I left the festival, I reflected on San Francisco's amazing diversity. It's not simply the wide variety of ethnicities I saw represented at the park but also the variety of styles (as expressed through clothing) and socioeconomic classes that were present.

I thought I'd have to take a taxi to Japantown for the movie. However, I happily learned that a muni ran close to Dolores Park and up Fillmore, passing through Japantown. It was overfull, but I managed to push my way on board. I rode for some time while standing on the step in the front of the bus. The muni was slow, taking half an hour to get to Japantown. This surprised me, since the route was direct. It wouldn't take anywhere near that long driving! I arrived right when the film was starting.

Incidentally, to get back to a BART station after the movie, I took a muni on an express line. That was much faster.

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