San Francisco’s Mission District is a neighborhood with a number of faces. It is at once gritty and unique, increasingly filled with shiny new businesses yet still retaining the vibrant Latino immigrant culture and scruffy charm for which it has always been known. As one walks the area, it’s easy to get a feel for these differences – pungent taquerias and Quinceanera dress shops increasingly back up against indie booksellers and sleek furniture stores.
No matter the changes, The Mission remains the center of a thriving community of Mexican and Central American immigrants, which continues to give the neighborhood a distinctly south-of-the-border flair. This is especially true of The Mission’s vibrant street murals, a tradition that is evident just about anywhere you look.
Murals have a long tradition in Mexican art, particularly in the context of the Chicano movement, which represented the struggles of Mexican Americans for social and politcal rights. Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera played a large role in the movement, painting large scale public art in cities such as San Francisco which depicted a variety of social and political themes.
Though Diego Rivera is long gone, the legacy of his work lives on to this day in The Mission. The casual visitor will find the streets bordered by 16th to 24th and Mission to Valencia are packed with an assortment of wildly colorful murals. While some are strongly tied to the traditions of Mexican mural painting, others are thoroughly modern in scope, referencing themes as diverse as video games, 60’s Psychedelia, Hip-Hop and modern New York graffiti tagging.
During a recent visit to San Francisco we took a closer look at some of the many public murals dotting the area. Take a look at the gallery below for a tour of the murals of the Mission District.