El Tecolote turns 44 with salsa fundraising bash

El Tecolote, the Mission district’s biweekly newspaper, has always moved to its own rhythm. Now, rhythm is helping to sustain the newspaper.

El Tecolote — that’s The Owl, for people who aren’t as bilingual as the free newspaper’s pages — is marking its 44th birthday Saturday with a fundraiser featuring salsa and Latin jazz.

“All of them have a connection with the paper,” newspaper co-founder Juan Gonzales says about the lineup, which includes the Mission-based band Adelante and the Rico Ritmo All-Stars, featuring local legends such as renowned flutist Roger Glenn and Grammy nominee John Santos.

In the early 1970s, rhythm became a flashpoint in ongoing tensions between community members and police.

“Neighbors up around Church Street were complaining that conga drumming in Dolores Park was disturbing them,” Gonzales said. After neighbors leaned on police, “They started busting people for playing drums.”

Among the targeted musicians were Santos and Raul Rekow, who later played bongo drums for Mission district native Carlos Santana.

The newspaper, which relies on a largely volunteer staff, has highlighted other pressing issues for the community since 1970, when Gonzales, then teaching Latino-focused journalism at San Francisco State, printed the first four four-page editions with a $300 donation.

In the 1980s, a pregnant Spanish speaker sought help at San Francisco General Hospital, but wasn’t able to communicate with staff and was sent home. Hours later, her husband found her bleeding profusely and rushed her back to the hospital, but she lost her baby. After El Tecolote ran the story, activists challenged the hospital and helped it create translation services.

Gentrification has also been a persistent problem, from the time the BART project ripped up Mission Street and sent adjacent land prices soaring to the current tech influx.

“Before it was a slow pace of change, but now it’s happening with great intensity,” says Gonzales, who now chairs the journalism department at City College of San Francisco. “It’s creating some real issues of displacing people and changing the character of the neighborhood.”

The neighborhood has created some interesting moments, like when a certain Mission High School graduate decided to crash one of El Tecolote’s early benefit shows in the 1970s.

At first, Gonzalez refused to believe rock ‘n’ headliner Santana was backstage waiting to perform at the Jamestown Community Center.

“But I walked back and opened the curtain,” Gonzales said with a laugh. “And sure enough he was seated there, tuning up and doing a little riff on the guitar.”


El Tecolote Anniversary Celebration

Where: Cesar’s Latin Palace, 826 26th St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 648-1045, www.eltecolote.org

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