Katinka Lennemann stands representing society and its intricate integration of many cultures. (Lora Simakova)
Katinka Lennemann stands representing society and its intricate integration of many cultures.

Lora Simakova

Intertwining cultures

Bay Area’s diverse traditions go hand in hand

April 20, 2020

Once seen through a cultural lens, the Bay Area becomes more astounding than ever. The many cultures present in the region intertwine to create a mixture of amazing people, places, and traditions.

Although there are many cultures visually present in the Bay Area, there are a few larger districts that are very clearly evident.

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Historical appreciations

All of these cultures have a historically astounding background. The old days and spirit from their past have made the Bay Area a culturally sundry area with many rich traditions.

What exactly are these areas, and what makes them attractive?

Russian

Based in the Richmond district, the Russian culture is rooted deep within the many parts of the Bay Area, predominantly San Francisco.

At some point identified as Little Russia, the Richmond District, according to OutsideLands, was initially comprised of members of the German and Irish ancestry. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Richmond District was swarmed with Russians.

The two major streets, Geary and Balboa, are filled with Russian restaurants and other European attractions. Still, the district is one of the quieter ones with mostly residential areas.

As a long-time member of the general Russian community, Denis Baranov values his traditions.

“I feel the notion ‘culture’ is wholesome and may not be easy to break into parts. I can see my childhood memories and tragic and glorious chapters of our history as equally impactful,” Baranov said.

Chinese

Although the Chinese community has a considerable base in Chinatown, San Francisco, the culture still spreads its traditions throughout the bay. 

According to History, the Chinese immigrant community can be traced back to the mid-1800s. These early immigrants came seeking economic opportunity in America. 

Today, this bustlingly busy town that is named after the culture that inhabits it is one of the oldest and most established cities in the Bay Area.

This engaging part of the bay is a swarming road of mazes. The small streets and alleys bring nothing less than character to the occupied community. With its halfway at Grant Avenue, the town is packed with culture in the limitless forms of cheap shops, traditional eateries, and famous temples. 

Italian

Commonly known as Little Italy, North Beach is steeped with great Italian heritage that serves as more than just a tourist attraction. 

A city adorned by not only tourists but San Franciscans as well, North Beach holds great significance. According to SF To Do, the North Beach district was initially a beach at the northern end of the city. The name stuck, even after expanding its borders.

As a member of the Italian community herself, Laura Gallinetti is a prime representative of the culture.

“For us, the most significant Italian cultures revolve around family, food, and religion,” Gallinetti said.

Holding one of the most amazing churches honoring Saint Francis of Assisi, the North Beach district has more spectacular sights to offer. As well as monumental sculptures, flavor-filled cafes and native driven entertainment fulfill the scenery of San Francisco’s Little Italy. 

“Italians are very warm and love life, and it makes me proud to be associated with them,” Gallinetti said.

Latino

Rooted in its indie style and hipster vibe, the Mission District is a lively place embedded with the Latino culture.

According to Culture Trip, the Mission District has a long history immersed with various cultures from the start. As the area grew in popularity, it became home to mostly middle-class Latino families.  

Being one of the most culturally and historically impacted neighborhoods, the Mission District sinks both inhabitants and tourists in its rich culture. 

Starting at the heart, the green hub, known as Dolores park, is surrounded by vibrant murals, most often down the small, uninhabited alleys, Balmy and Clarion. The deeper into the culture one is immersed, the more they are greeted with. Valencia Street and Calle 24 are two of the most well-known walkways filled with historical monuments, lively stores, and culturally inspired eateries. 

At night, the streets come to life, and the lively neighborhood packs with music and lights. 

Japanese

The compact, busy environment of Japantown is infused with a wide variety of cultural art pieces and tea rooms.

According to Fog City Secrets, the Japanese started moving to Japantown after the 1906 earthquake. Today, most of the Japanese community is scattered around the bay. Still, the culture remains at the start of it all.

The six-block area invites interested individuals of all ages. From cheap dollar stores to playgrounds and back to excellent restaurants, Japantown has something to offer for everybody.

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Modern-day attractions

As well as offering old-school traditions that have stuck, these cultures provide our rather modern audience with contemporary heritage.

Cultural Traditions by Lora Simakova

The Russian community in the Bay Area may not be a large one, but the traditions and heritage brought from their motherland are the ones that still stick today.

“Some traditions we have are weekend breakfasts that are served with traditional fare: blintzes, pan-fried cheesecakes, and more. We also have traditional feasts with as many as 20 people at a table, and summer camping and picnicking,” Baranov said. 

However, the Russians in the area, as in Russia, are widely known for their crazy and over-the-top parties.

“Stemming from childhood, our biggest holiday tradition is New Years, and it remains special to us still,” Baranov said.

As apart of the Chinese culture, Chinatown holds a Chinese New Year Festival and Parade in early February with many concessions, booths, and entertainment for all ages. 

The Mission District, as for its strong Latino roots, also has a lot to offer. The Latino Film Festival is just one example of the many events held by Latinos in the Mission District. The film festival is a huge cultural event for the Latino community in San Francisco. With an endless schedule of films and the community to back them up, the Latino culture stands at its height.

In Little Italy, known for its amazingly unique food and great nightlife on any night, the restaurants are immaculate as they are hyped. With an endless choice of checkered tablecloth eateries, North Beach brings the flavors and experiences of a traditional Italian restaurant.

Along with going out to restaurants, many members of the Italian community remain, holding great traditions in their hearts. 

“We still have the same recipes, try to go to church on specific holidays, and still get together with family,” Gallinetti said.

The Cherry Blossom Festival is a festival that was created to welcome the stunning spring. Filled with beautiful dancers, graceful swordplay, and the pounding of the taiko drums, this festival, as apart of Japanese culture, is one for the books.

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Intertwining cultures

Every day new cultures arise, and there are many more that make up the Bay Area than the ones listed. Still, no matter how many there are, they are better together.

“I think a lot of cultures are very similar. Good food, close families, and lots of laughs. Only different recipes but all tasty and loving. I’m proud to be Italian, but living in the Bay Area, I’m fortunate to experience many other cultures, too,” Gallinetti said.

The same applies to other cultures. The variety of Bay Area’s lifestyles brings many new traditions and ideas to one another.

“I love to share food and stories with friends. Sometimes invite them to our celebrations. When we were in the food business, we were able to make many dishes to sell and share with the community,” Gallinetti said.

Bay Area Humor on Twitter

People not from the Bay will never understand how much people from the Bay love the Bay. It’s a Bay Area thing. And just when we start to think we don’t like the Bay anymore, we visit some place else and realize nothing comes close to the Bay.

As these heritages intertwine, they create many networks and connections with one another. These culturally diverse communities are mostly vast and perfused with endless heritage.

“I am very happy that this community exists and enjoy our gatherings, however infrequent they may be. It is also very reassuring to know that there are many such communities. All different, but equally important and that our newfound home fosters and appreciates all of us,” Baranov said.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Lora Simakova
Lora Simakova, Staff Writer
Lora Simakova is a sophomore at Carlmont High School. She is the Chair of the San Carlos Youth Advisory Council, as well as a San Jose Sharks fan. She cares about her community and tries to make a change. View her profile here.

Twitter: @LoraSimakova
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