So after our misadventures just North of San Francisco we made it to Oakland, where we spent a couple of nights recovering. We were really excited about meeting the Slinghsot collective, so we went to the Long haul infoshop. This is a community space where several collectives host their activities and events. When we got there there were quite a few people still having dinner provided by Food not bombs, and others were busy typing away at the space’s free-to-access computer room. We met some of the organizers there, who showed us around and were happy to see us.
This was truly a cool place. Lots of people where there for different reasons, and they were all very friendly and interesting. Some where local activists or residents, and other were travelers like us. We actually met a bunch of young people who were preparing for a bike trip from San Francisco to Mexico as well, and they were very interested in our trip when they heard we were doing the same thing =)
We managed to organize a small talk at the event that evening, so people gathered around to listen to what we had to say. We spoke of our trip, of the history and projects of CIPO-RFM, and of the situation of migrant agricultural workers in Canada. People seemed especially interested in the recent history of Oaxaca, as some of them had been to the area in the last few years, or had read about the uprising in 2006. It was really cool to hear from people about how the movement inspired them to continue working in their own projects, and to travel to Mexico to learn and see how these movements were evolving.
Some people were also amazed to hear the situation that migrant workers face while in Canadian farms. Many people said they had no idea that this situation existed, and asked many questions about the Temporary Migrant Workers Program, the involvement of the Canadian government, and how the workers were struggling. Some people also made comments about how they thought the U.S. was terrible, but upon hearing about the reality in Canadian farms, they now thought that Canada was just as bad.
The next day we prepared to move to San Francisco and finally get to explore this mythical city. We got to the Mission area, which is a neighborhood where many Latinos and people of color live in, and therefore is full of life on the streets. It was actually funny to realize that running parallel to Mission Street is Valencia Street, another famous street in the city, but with a much more affluent vibe to it. One night we were looking for a cafe to access the Internet, so we walked all along Mission and only found one after looking for blocks and blocks. The next morning we were riding out to just explore the city, so we took Valencia (which has a two-way bike lane) and saw a million cafes and boutique stores there… oops!
One of the coolest places we got to know in San Francisco was the Station 40, a communal house that works as a hub for many projects, most of them from anarchist (there is a huge anarchist community in San Francisco!). Food not bombs cooks there every week, and there’s always all kinds of events, from talks and reading groups to parties. We managed to work with some friends there to organize an event about our trip as well. At this event we met many cool people, including Sam and Jessica, student activists from San Francisco State University (SFSU) and other locals who have some connections to Mexico and many other projects. Our talk was a bit similar to the one at the Long haul, but we managed to show some videos of CIPO-RFM. The second part of the event shifted to our connections to the migrant workers and the Agriculture Workers Alliance. Many people were, again, surprised to hear about the terrible situation that migrant agriculture workers face while in Canada, and made many questions about the legality of the program and how the workers were being supported by the community. Some of the people at the event were really upset, and wondered what they could do to help.
After the event, Sam and Jessica invited us to participate at an event they were organizing to celebrate and remember the occupation of the Business Building at SFSU a year ago. We were already falling in love with the city, and were a bit torn about having to leave so soon, so this invitation was the perfect excuse to spend a few more days there =). We also got in touch with Chris Carlsson, an activist, writer and organizer who has been involved in the bicycle community for years (he was involved in the creation of the Critical Mass movement). We spoke to him about wanting to meet and chat, and he invited us to a bicycle tour of the city he organizes with Found San Francisco. So, we ended up spending a week in San Francisco, and as the days rolled by we were more and more reluctant to leave!
The next few days were dedicated to fixing my beat up bike and exploring the city. We got in touch with the Bike Kitchen of San Francisco, and Marshall, one of the mechanics, actually offered to meet me at the shop at 6:30 am to help me fix up my bike! So cool (except getting up that early is not so awesome haha).
Once I had a working bike we cruised around the city. We went to Dolores Park, which is a kind of hub for all kinds of people to hang out at. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy and wet, so the streets weren’t as full of people. We still managed to see some of the city’s neighborhoods, murals, and bike shops.
And then we headed to SFSU for the event we were invited to. The ride was supposed to be relatively simple, although a bit long. We headed towards the golden gate park, and the day quickly got dark as a heavy, thick fog rolled in from the sea. It was pretty crazy to not be able to see even just a few meters away, and then we started riding on a pretty busy highway. We felt pretty shitty riding on the shoulder, as it was all cracked in some sections, and full of sand in others. Not much fun!
At the event we watched a video of the occupation of the business building, and then heard from some of the students who were present there. Then we heard from three veterans of the occupation of the university back in 1968, and heard a small presentation about the recent history of social struggles in California. It was really awesome to hear about the struggles of the students, and to gain some perspective from the older generations who had struggled at the same university many years ago. We took only a small amount of time at the evening to talk about our trip, and then headed to Jessica’s house for a few drinks =)
On Saturday we stayed at the Station 40 for a fundraiser party in support of one of the anarchists who were arrested at a protest against a white-supremacy meeting. They had a bunch of performances by local artists, including some spoken word, a belly dancer, and a few singers and bands. It was a really awesome party, and we met two guys from Barcelona who were preparing to ride an old car running on diesel to Oaxaca heh.
The next day we went to the bicycle tour of San Fransisco that Chris Carlsson had invited us to. The focus of the tour was the environment, so we visited different areas where you could still see, if you knew what to look for, different aspects of how the city has grown into what it is now. For example, we were shown an area where a creek used to run, and how there used to be a few big brewery plants right along the creek (now all paved over) in order to take the water right off of it. The tour was a bit long, but super interesting. We really enjoyed having had the opportunity to experience the city like this, and we fell in love again with our bikes and all the things you can do with them! Now we have to work on reproducing this model in Oaxaca and Vancouver =)
But then Monday came, and it was time to leave. We took off rather late, so we only made it to the town of Pacifica. We camped out in a small park within the city, and so our adventures in the highway continued. But that, my friends, is for the next article! =)