Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Croatians in San Francisco? You've got to be kidding!

Well, not really. San Francisco is known for the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica building, gay marriage and Chinatown, but Croatians? Indeed. I’ve been lucky enough to know this secret for years, but it turns out that a number of Croatian Americans didn’t even know about each other until they showed up for the annual Tamburitza Fest at the Croatian American Center in the Outer Mission this week-end.

And the reason they showed up in such great numbers is two excellent articles in Thursday’s (Feb 17. 2005) San Francisco Chronicle by the Chron’s business writer (who happens to be Croatian American) Alan Saracevic. Check out his story on Croatian-San Franciscan history and the music. I’ve tried to write about the same story, but just couldn’t get it right. Thank you, Alan, for getting the word out.

Tamburitza music is a lively musical genre played on a family of string instruments of the same name. Though the musical instruments can be traced to the 16th century and spread throughout the South Slavic region of the Ottoman Empire, like any other folk music tradition, the locals gave it a life of its own wherever the music stuck. More than anywhere else, Tamburitza music has found its home in South Slavic communities scattered across the United States. Read more ...

I’ve been interested in Slavic music and dance for most of my adult life, and have made the Croatian American Cultural Center my social home since 1986. The lively music and the warmth of the Croatian heart is a healthy antidote to my inherited Scottish restraint, and there is nothing quite like an evening at the Center to get me to let down my reserve.

I've gone a step further in getting intimate with the culture by collecting oral histories of Croatian Americans living in San Francisco. I've heard stories of immigration, of family separation and reunion, of how politics can fracture families and how music can bring them together again. Read summaries at the SlavonicWeb Oral History Project. If any readers of Croatian descent living in the San Francisco Bay Area would like to be interviewed, please contact me at