The Mission Story Poem text

The Mission Story

by Nina Serrano

Victor Hernandez Cruz, Nina Serrano, Roberto E. Vargas, 1973

Victor Hernandez Cruz, Nina Serrano, Roberto E. Vargas, 1973

I arrived in the Mission in 1961
The first thing I discovered were the hills of Dolores Street
At the corner grocery I filled a bag with round oranges
stuffing it into the flimsy baby stroller
and pushing my daughter uphill
The hill resisted the weight of the package and the child
The bag broke
First one two then twelve oranges I could not catch
rolled down the bumpy streets
My first night in the Mission
the fruit bowl stood empty on the table.
On the second day in the Mission
people on the 14 Mission bus talked
with Irish accents Irish bars Irish priests
a strong Irish presence in the older businesses
a few Italian sprinkled in
among the rapidly opening Taquerias and signs saying “se habla español”
Flash forward just a few years
The churches delivered services in Spanish
The library offered books in Spanish
The police busting Los Siete
sweeping the streets for young Latino males
to pin the killing of a cop on
Free Los Siete” mobilizations
shouting “Basta Ya”
above the loud clatter of building the Bart system
The fashion took on the Che Guevara look
By the 1970’s the refugees and exiles began to fill the cafes
with their intensities and passions
adding the colors of their causes to the murals
Mothers met with met at City Hall to demand welfare justice
to be met with armed men in the four corners of the lobby
pointing guns at them
Unafraid the women raised their voices to protect their children’s needs
By the 1980’s one side of the BART Station was called Plaza Sandino
and the other Farbundo Marti
Mayor Mascone and city supervisor Harvey milk were assassinated
by an ex policeman to stop their open and welcoming administration
The grief went all the way uphill to the Castro
By the 1990’s the gentrification of the dot coms saw
newly built condos lofts and rents rise
til the bubble burst
leaving people looking around
to see who was left and what they were doing
Army Street became Cesar Chavez
By the twenty first century
the older murals faded with the pentimento process
peeling layers of time
and urban grime
and the sun
propelling us to arise every morning to take our places
in the task of repairing the world

© 2013 Nina Serrano




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About Nina Serrano

Nina is a well-known, international prize-winning inspirational author and poet. With a focus on Latino history and culture, she is also a playwright, filmmaker, KPFA talk show host, a former Alameda County Arts Commissioner, and a co-founder of the San Francisco Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Oakland Magazine’s “best local poet” in 2010, she is a former director of the San Francisco Poetry in the Schools program and the Bay Area’s Storytellers in the Schools program. A Latina activist for social justice, women’s rights, and the arts, Nina Serrano at 84 remains vitally engaged in inspiring change and exploring her abundant creativity. For more information go to or contact her publisher at For more detailed information about Nina see About Nina on her website.

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