It is one of my favourite cities in the world. If I fly into the USA, I try and fly via San Francisco and spend a few days there.
The city has a minority-majority populace with Hispanic whites comprising 41.9% of the population. It is estimated to comprise first generation Americans and foreign-born nationals. It serves as the commercial, cultural and financial center of Northern California and is the 13th most populous city in the United States.
Modern day San Francisco was founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists and named after St. Francis of Assisi. With the 1849 California gold rush, San Francisco was established as one of the largest cities on the West Coast and later became the original location of the United Nations in 1945.
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Major Ethnicities in San Francisco
When Spanish missionaries arrived in Yerba Buena (currently San Francisco), a Catholic priest, Father Palou was among the group. He founded the Mission San Francisco de Assis, which still stands on 16th Dolores Street and is the oldest building in San Francisco. With the ceding of California by Mexico to the US in 1848, Mexicans living in the ceded territories suddenly became Americans with full citizenship rights. A large population who stayed formed the bedrock of the current Hispanic community in San Francisco.
Today, most Latino cultural and artistic content is in the Mission district. Chicano, the Mexican-American activists and artists established The Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts to serve as the central home for Latino culture with rotating classes, exhibits and lectures constantly conducted at the center. Hispanic Americans constitute 15% of San Francisco’s population as at the 2010 census.
By 2012, people of Chinese descent made up 21.4% of the San Francisco’s populace. They are the major Asian-American community in San Francisco with the most population of people of Chinese origin living in the US after New York.
During the gold rush of the late 1840s’, about 25,000 people left China to work in mines scattered across California, hoping to strike gold in the mines. Others found work with big companies searching for cheap labour such as Central Pacific and Transcontinental railroads and were fundamental in the construction of transportation channels that fuelled the westward growth of the US, before and after the civil war.
A large concentration of Chinese Americans live and own businesses in Chinatown, which is viewed as an influential source of Chinese history since development in 1884 during the gold rush. It is also one of the biggest tourist attractions for tourists visiting San Francisco for its rich cultural heritage.
The mid-1800s’ saw over two and a half million Irish immigrants board ships headed for North America for a better life, and a good number of that population ended up in San Francisco taking whatever jobs came their way. Some of the early settlers include John Connors, Timothy Murphy, John Reed and John Berry. With the gold rush, Irish population in San Francisco grew to over 4,200; and by 1880s, they formed 37% of San Francisco’s population. The Irish were prominent in business and politics and were part of the workforce to construct San Francisco’s transport and infrastructure.
Modern day Irish-Americans live all over the city and suburbs, as there is no defined Irish section of San Francisco, although clusters of bars are in Sunset and Richmond districts and the annual St Patrick Day Parade is a tourist attraction drawing visitors to the city. The Irish Center (United Irish Cultural Center) serves as a social center of sorts, sponsoring socio-cultural events to promote Irish culture and hosting a restaurant and bar where members of the community can congregate to connect.
Italians were some of the early migrant settlers in California. Between 1876 and 1924, more than 4.5 million Italians (almost a fourth of the population) thronged to the shores of America as they fled poverty and unemployment in the struggling country. Unable to earn a living at home, they came to the US, started out in small fishing communities, and gradually expanded to migrant laborers.
They created small housing enclaves away from the larger Irish and German communities that surrounded them with prejudice on every side. The community, fondly referred to as little Italy today, is located in North Beach, San Francisco.
Currently, Italian Americans, made up of most Sicilians are a major force in San Francisco with more than 60,000 people of Italian descent living and working in South Beach alone. There are cafes, restaurants for fine dining, bars, small businesses and a host of activities taking place in the thriving North Beach community.
The Japanese-American community forms an integral part of San Francisco’s heritage. The migration of Japanese people to California began in the mid-1880s after the Japanese government lifted its ban on immigration. In the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1822, there was a vacuum for cheap Asian labour and citizens of Japanese descent were encouraged to fill in. Most of them came to San Francisco and remained to form the basis of the existing community mostly found in Japantown within the Fillmore district.
Japantown was founded on the need to combine survival resources and solidarity so they could live better in a new country while preserving their rich cultural heritage. Culturally significant buildings in the area include the Japanese Tea Garden, Japanese YWCA Building, Japantown Peace Plaza and the Tokyo Fish Market.
As at 1930, there were less than 3,000 black people living in San Francisco and migration to the region only grew during World War II in what was referred to as the Great Migration. The population reached its zenith in the 70s with a population of 96,000 people of African—American origin living in San Francisco. Some of those who migrated from Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas found work in the city’s shipyards, but housing was limited due to discriminatory housing policies
It was popular as the Western Harlem because of the popular Fillmore district that was a historically an African-American district with a flourishing jazz scene and non-stop nightlife. Influential artists of that era like Etta James, Duke Ellington and Count Basie performed in the Fillmore district.
There are other ethnic groups in San Francisco like the Russians, Germans, Vietnamese, Jews, Cambodians and Koreans scattered throughout the city.