By Rebecca Solnit
“In the past, it was racists and homophobes who attacked newcomers to San Francisco. Today, anti-tech activists are promoting a new nativism, charging incoming tech workers with undermining the city’s traditional values,” wrote Randy Shaw recently in a not-very-subtle ultimatum: love the massive new tech population and its impact on our city — or be compared to Bad People. But San Francisco’s history, though brief, is still varied enough that you can find any example you like. Including a lot in which new arrivals weren’t welcome for very good reasons.
Let’s start at the beginning of the recorded history of what the Spaniards dubbed la Bahia de San Francisco, San Francisco Bay (the city didn’t get its name until much later). Relative newcomer (from Mexico City) and magnificent community member Adriana Camarena recently wrote about what may have been the first encounter between really really native San Franciscans and Europeans in her Unsettlers project:
“Ocean fog protected the Bay from European discovery, until 1769, when explorer Gaspar de Portolá viewed the body of water from a mountaintop. Six years later, on August 5, 1775, the ship San Carlos sailed through the golden gate under a moonlit sky. The Huimen Ohlone awoke to find a 193-ton, two-masted brig, 58 feet in length, floating in their landscape. In the following days, the crew of the San Carlos set out to sound the Bay in their longboats. Second Pilot Juan Bautista Aguirre took a boat Southeast to scout for good anchorage.
“On an inlet of a cove, he observed three native people weeping; their faces painted black and streaked with tears…. That day, we do not know for whom cried the Ohlone, but impressed, Second Pilot Aguirre named this cove after them La Ensenada de los Llorones or the Cove of Weepers; later to be renamed Mission Bay. On that day, the watershed of the Mission was first christened by the Spaniards in the name of tears.”
You could be fanciful and imagine they were weeping for Mission Bay itself, due to be filled in with garbage, sewage, rubbish, and sand from leveling the dunes nearby to develop the South of Market area. The new-made land housed the great railroad and terrible political power known as the Southern Pacific , then the huge biotech complex that is a triumph of Willie Brown’s manipulation of San Francisco demographics and economics and the biggest single development in the city’s history. Or you could imagine that the Ohlone were weeping at the arrival of the Europeans who would dispossess them of their land and attempt to annihilate their culture and, to a fair extent, their existence. Though there are still Ohlone here, who would still like some of their land back. (more after the jump)