Election Section

La Peña Hosts Anniversary Bash By BETSY M. HUNTON Special to the Planet

Tuesday June 07, 2005

On Saturday La Peña Cultural Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a free street festival at the corner of Prince Street and Shattuck Avenue. 

The center, founded in June of 1975, was the creation of a group of Bay Area activists who had come together to protest the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier. La Peña (which means “gathering place” in Spanish) was modeled after the peñas of Latin America where people would traditionally come together over music, food and politics. 

For the past three decades Berkeley’s La Peña, at 3105 Shattuck Ave., has created a community, establishing itself as one of the East Bay’s most visible clubs for world music, art and progressive political activism. The club showcases both local and international musicians, writers and artists. 

Saturday’s festival, from noon to 6 p.m., will feature live music, dancing, arts and community booths, food and kids activities.  

Scheduled performers include Pachasiku, Rafael Manriquez, La Peña Afro Cuban Youth Ensemble, La Peña Bomba Class, Jesus Diaz & QBA, La Familia, Youth Movement Records and DJ Jose Ruiz. A separate kids’ stage will run until 2 p.m. with Gary Lapow, Bonnie Lockhardt, Asheba and others.  

The center sponsors activities and performances with mostly a Latin American emphasis, but does not limit its vision or ears to only that part of the world. 

Fernando Torres, La Peña’s publicity coordinator, says, “The art has always been part of an educational vision of bringing people together to understand issues such as racism, imperialism, and the great disparities between the rich and the poor, and the need to do something about it.” 

Take a look at the extraordinary mural which covers half of La Peña’s building (close to the intersection where the festival will be held Saturday) and you’ll see social activists honored there who had little or nothing to do with Latin America: Paul Robeson, for example. But they shared the same values. Over the years, La Peña has been linked to many of the activist groups with different causes, including the Black Panthers and the United Farm Workers. But the center has maintained its focus on art. 

More recently La Peña has focused on working with young people, creating a number of groups with different interests in the arts. The Afro-Cuban Youth Ensemble, for example, will be part of the entertainment offered at the street festival. 


The La Peña 30th Anniversary Street Festival will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Prince Street. Admission is free.