Hanging out with Carlos Santana in Precita Park

Did you know Carlos Santana is from Bernal Heights? Good for you. Did you hang out with him at the park as a kid? We guess not. Bernal resident Orlando Galvez grew up in the neighborhood, and the famed musician was a regular part of Sunday afternoons in Precita Park. Orlando recalls that time fondly, when the entire park smelled like “cannabis and fried chicken,” and “spectacular, sparkling low riders” roam the streets.

Orlando recounts this San Francisco diary entry from the late 1960s to the good folks at Bernalwood:

I remember when I was a six year-old boy, watching Carlos Santana play his guitar. I thought he was the coolest kid in the Precita Park. When Santana was playing, I would even drift away from my beloved satellite spinner to get a better view.

Precita Park was a weekend mecca where hippies, Black Panthers, Symbianese Liberation Army radicals, and neighborhood Chicanos with their spectacular, sparkling lowriders would all gather around the playground right near where the satellite spinner still spins today.

“Oye Como Va” always got the party started.

The whole park smelled like cannabis and fried chicken. It didn’t matter where you stood or what spot you claimed for your picnic; there was no escaping the foggy clouds going Up In Smoke. I remember it looking sort of like a gigantic outdoor steam room. Bongs traveled around the park as all the different tribes shared the “weefer” (that’s what they used to call it) from their pipes. In-between were dozens of Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, half emptied of deep-fried original recipe wings, drumsticks, and buttered sourdough rolls. Along the street, dozens of customized lowriders parked bumper to bumper, stealthily showing off their power by competing for the highest hop near the mound in Precita Park where Carlos liked to play his guitar.

I don’t know about you, but I’m climbing into my time travel machine right now and setting the dial to that exact moment Orlando is describing at Precita Park. Thanks to Bernalwood for adding this entry to San Francisco Diaries. You can find the rest of Orlando’s story here.

What’s it like growing up in San Francisco? We want to know! One of our favorite SF childhood stories was Yayne Abeba’s tale of growing up in the Haight in her mother’s sporting goods store (listen to it on iTunes or Google). Got a story to share? Share it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox is always open for stories too.

Recently on San Francisco Diaries: A day in the life of a Nob Hill Theater employee


Photo by AG. Featured photo of Carlos Santana in the Mission by @duncan


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