San Francisco’s ties with the Hispanic community run long and deep. Obviously, Native Americans were the first settlers there and Spanish missionaries arrived in 1776, back when it was called Yerba Buena. California was once part of Mexico and then became a part of the U.S. in 1821 as much of the southwestern U.S. did. It’s this diverse history and complicated past with colonialism that has led to years of trying to fix the present in response to the past.
San Francisco city officials have announced they will seek to rename a street tied to a controversial figure and change it to Frida Kahlo.
The street that will be changed is currently Phelan Avenue, named after former San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan who governed the city between 1897 to 1902. While Phelan has been referred to as a multimillionaire philanthropist that supported artists and writers in San Francisco, he was also instrumental at issuing immigrants out of the city.
Phelan ran a notorious senate campaign (which he won) that had the slogan “Keep California White.”
In 1912, he wrote: “This is a whiteman’s country. We cannot make a homogeneous population out of people who do not blend with the Caucasian race.”
Several institutions do bear his name and students at various colleges in San Francisco have tried to remove it from their buildings.
S.F. Supervisor Norman Yee said he wants to change the name of Phelan Avenue after learning of Phelan’s racist past.
Phelan Avenue will soon be called Frida Kahlo Way.
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Frida Kahlo Way will be located right in front of City College of San Francisco. The street name change is expected to happen in the next two weeks, according to KQED.
“At a time when the country is rethinking who deserves to have statues and parks named after them, [having] a street that an institution like City College is on named after someone whose family left a legacy of racism, doesn’t reflect [our] values,” City College English professor Alisa Messer told the San Francisco Examiner last week.
Frida Kahlo and her partner Diego Rivera both have a strong connection to San Francisco.
The Museum of the City of San Francisco has archived images of the couple when they visited in 1941.
Rivera and Kahlo first traveled to San Francisco in 1940 and returned in 1941 for the Golden Gate International Exposition. Rivera also has several murals throughout the city.