Sandy Cuadra: The Passing of The Heart of The Mission

Sandy Cuadra, a lifetime Mission District resident, recently passed away. Her niece Jade Rivera remembers how her legacy continues through the Mission District of San Francisco, a place that's slowly changing through gentrification but will forever carry the spirit of Sandy and those who made it what it is to this day.

One of Sandy's best friend Crp shows her new tattoo for Sandy at her funeral.//Photo by Jean Melesaine 

From San Salvador to 24th and Harrison: Mother Theresa of the Mission

I'm always going to remember my Aunt Sandy as always being someone who workd hard. She’s been that way since she was a kid, when she started working at the restaurant my grandmother and Aunt owned in The Mission. My grandmother always talks about how hard she worked at the restaurant. They loved her so much they named one of the restaurants after her, Sandy’s Café. She’s just that type of person, always funny and always cracking jokes at everyone. At the wake, between our tears, me and one of my cousins couldn’t help but laugh at everything we saw that we think Sandy would be laughing at. She was always clowning.


She was a true leader and was the one who organized the games and events for our family. Since we were little, she was always getting us tickets to Disney on Ice or the Giants games and made sure we were never hungry.


She always gave me a couple bucks to get something from the corner store. My cousin used to fake that she was sick to get out of school so that Sandy would pick her up, and they would go to Double Rainbow ice cream and have fun. Sandy spoiled us.

I know she was proud of me becoming a San Francisco teacher because every year she would bring supplies for the students in my classroom and had the city come by and steam clean the stairs in front of the school I worked at. I can say she lived her life to the fullest if it was going to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, riding the low riders in the Giants parade, and going to El Salvador on a whim. She was loyal to her family and community.


Sandy from SV De-Bug on Vimeo.

Losing her physically feels like losing that one person you can count on, that one person who will make sure you are protected, loved. Sandy spoiled us as kids and continued to spoil all the kids in the family. She was the type of family member that made you feel like you were the favorite. She was our rock, our foundation. She kept everything together.  Sandy is well known in the Mission for her commitment to community and especially youth. Sandy was a community leader and loved by so many in the neighborhood. She was a local living historian, knew all the stories of the neighborhood old and new. People trusted her. Losing her is a loss for our community because of her ability to connect with and love so many people.  


A couple weeks before she passed, she was planning a Day of the Dead party in front of her house. Every year she did something for Day of the Dead and Halloween. Passing out candy, popcorn, and food. Community event in front of the house. Not just for family and friends but for the community, anyone who walked by. This year Dia de los Muertos was on a Saturday so she wanted to start early. She passed a few days before muertos, in a daze and shocked and grieving, her family and friends came together to do the Dia de los Muertos party anyways, in her footsteps and in her honor. The hardest thing was putting her picture on the alter of the party she was originally planning.

Sandys nephews stand in front of the Dia de Los Muertos alter for her in front of her home in The Mission.//Photo by Jean Melesaine

Reflecting now, I owe a lot to Sandy. She showed us how to be, to take charge, fight for justice, serve and love your community, family first, have fun. I’m very aware right now on the impact she left on many, her commitment to young folks, our family, and community work. One of the last things she did was speak at an Anti-Gentrification march. Personally, I’ve been sad, at a loss but Sandy’s work is not over. We still need to deal with gentrification in our neighborhood and youth violence.

Sandy Cuadra: The Heart of The Mission from SV De-Bug on Vimeo.

Sandys Legacy

Our families’ shared ancestors, future generations, our family collective losses and joys.

Sandy’s legacy lives in the moment you hear one of those oldies songs and you got to stop and sing it out load. Sandy’s legacy lives in your Giant’s jacket and Niners jersey because we’re a proud San Franciscan family. Sandy’s legacy lives in the young folks who’ve lived to see another day, another breathe. The young folks who’ve stepped up and stepped into new possibilities. Sandy’s legacy lives and breathes 24th St., Harrison, Mission. Sandy’s legacy lives in my grandmother prayers for us on earth and those in heaven. Sandy’s legacy lives in St. Peters Church. The crack at the pinata or a birthday cake smashed in someone’s face on their birthday. Sandy’s legacy cruises on Mission, lifts smoke from a danza Azteca prayer and tailgating at Candlestick. The trees she’s planted all over the city. The stories, the memories, the streets, the laughs. The Mission reunions to come,  her legacy lives in the painted faces of the kids at Dia de los muertos, the unforgotten dream of the next RAP school or youth community space, up coming community gardens and murals, rallied folks against gentrification, community organizing for a healthy neighborhood and city. Sandy’s legacy lives when you reach out a hand to someone who everyone else has forgotten or Bbq at a park with your family.

I know she’ll be there watching us, laughing, leaving dollar bills on the street in front of us to pick up when we least expect it or most need it. Personally I hope for her spirit to make it to the beach in El Salvador under the warm sun, sipping a fresh coco watching the ocean waves break as she watches the sunset. I’ll meet you there one day, but until then…Sandy, we love you so much. Rest in Paradise. -Jade Rivera 

Video and Photos by DeBug's Jean Melesaine. Photo of Sandy in memorial video on her steps of her home by Mabel Jimenez of El Tecolote.

This article is part of the categories: Community  / Dedication  / R.I.P  / Video 
This article is part of the tags: Frisco  / Jade Rivera  / Jean Melesaine  / Sandy Cuadra  / San Francisco Mission District  / The Mission 


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