La Peña is a vibrant community cultural center with a national reputation and a global vision that promotes peace, social justice and cultural understanding through the arts, education and social action.
As a welcoming gathering place, La Peña provides opportunities for artists to share diverse cultural traditions,
to create and perform their work, and to support and interface with diverse social movements.
Who We Are
Annually, La Peña presents over 200 events with emerging and established artists; organizes an arts education program; produces new works by local artists, presents internationally and nationally renowned artists, and houses Cafe Valparaiso, a Latin American café which complements the organization’s mission. Watch the video to get a glimpse.
History of La Peña
La Peña Cultural Center was started by a multi-racial group of Latin Americans and North Americans as a response to the military coup that overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende. The coup happened on Sept. 11, 1973 and was aided and abetted by the U.S. government. La Peña incorporated on September 11, 1974, one year after the military coup and opened its doors in June of 1975.
In the late seventies, war came to Central America. The Nicaraguan community organized support for the end of the Somoza dictatorship. La Peña created special programming, bringing musicians, poets and painters to contribute to these democratic efforts. The war moved in the early eighties to El Salvador and spread throughout Central America. Because of the experience of helping the Chilean exiles and due to the fact that the Chileans were an integral part of the center, La Peña was a safe-haven for many Central American refugees. A historical semiotic reading of the mural at La Peña can reveal these events that took place in the history of Latin America.
In addition, La Peña has made concrete efforts to foster a close relationship with groups in Latin America that organize national and international cultural events. La Peña sent delegates to the Cultural Congress in Chile during the dictatorship, to Latin American New Song Festivals in Ecuador and Nicaragua, as well as to conferences in Cuba. The La Peña Chorus has toured Cuba, Chile, and Chiapas, Mexico.
Therefore, our understanding of our mission as a cultural center has been to make the necessary connections between art and politics. At the same time we have sought to make the connection between local, national and international efforts for democracy, self-determination and a world where the gap between those who need and those who have too much will disappear.
Our programming, since our founding in 1975, is a chronicle of the cultural, social and political struggles of our times, especially the efforts of the Latin American and Latino communities in the Bay Area and in the U.S. There are more than 23 million Spanish-speaking people in the U.S. Our Mission as a cultural center has been to make connections between art and politics. At the same time we have sought to make connections between local, national and international efforts for equity, for a true democracy and self-determination for all people. La Peña, as it has historically done, will always work with all communities.