Here’s why that matters for S.F.’s Latino history!
The Casa Sanchez building in San Francisco’s Mission District is slated to become one of the city’s first Latino-owned properties to receive historical landmark status for its contributions to the city and its Latino community, according to the San Francisco Latino Historical Society.
The designation will mark one of the first Latino-owned buildings listed for its historical contributions to the city’s Latino community, said Anne Cervantes, an architect and founding member of the San Francisco Latino Historical Society. The group helped the business apply for the historical status and is working on getting other local institutions to receive the same recognition.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that would designate the building at 2778 24th Street as a historical landmark. A required second vote is scheduled next week before it heads to Mayor London Breed’s office for final approval.
Casa Sanchez has been a San Francisco institution for nearly 100 years — selling tamales, enchiladas, chorizo, masa, handmade tortilla chips and salsa — and has already been recognized as a legacy business by city officials.
The family-owned company is more than a business, according to its leagues of supporters: its owners helped create the identity of the city’s Latino business district in the Mission District, they said.
Cervantes said the landmark designation was an important step in documenting and preserving the history of Latinos in the city and “one way of slowing down gentrification” in the Mission District — a primarily Latino neighborhood that has changed over the years with the influx of the tech industry and the high costs of living.
Roberto and Isabelle Zenteno-Sanchez, the founders of Casa Sanchez, immigrated from Mexico to Texas in the early 1900s before arriving to San Francisco in the 1920s, according to the S.F. Latino Historical Society. They started the business in 1924 in the Western Addition and it later evolved from a tamale factory into a wholesale “Mexicatessen” company that sold homemade tortilla chips, salsa and other ingredients at the Mission District location.
Today, the 98-year-old business is widely known for its tortilla chips and Mexican salsa sold at grocery stores across the country, and their iconic logo of “Jimmy the Cornman” — a man wearing a sombrero while riding a piece of corn. Some customers have Jimmy tattooed on themselves as part of an old deal to get a lifetime’s worth of free lunch. In 2017, Casa Sanchez was formally named the city’s 100th legacy business.
“We’re just a small piece of the entire pie of businesses in the Mission and we’re just fortunate to be acknowledged,” said Robert Sanchez, 65, president of Casa Sanchez and the third generation of the family. His mother, Martha Sanchez, died in 2011.
Robert Sanchez was heavily involved in the neighborhood’s business district and helped start the 24th Street Festival and the 24th Street Merchants Association, according to the S.F. Latino Historical Society. He said he hopes the landmark resignation allows other legacy businesses in the neighborhood to also be recognized.
As the executive director of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Susana Rojas said one of their goals is to support and enhance the city’s and Mission District’s Latino community and businesses and that she was proud of Casa Sanchez.
“Having such a core part of our history and our neighborhood be designated a landmark is beyond the proud moment,” she said.
Casa Sanchez no longer runs its business at the 24th Street location — their manufacturing facility where they make and distribute chips and salsa is in Hayward and a Salvadoran restaurant now operates at the San Francisco location. But the Sanchez’s still own the building and consider the Mission District their home.