A place of longing: From the gold rush to Silicon Valley: dream city San Francisco
TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates
Bonn (AP) - Earlier this month, the city government of San Francisco declared the American arms lobby organization NRA a domestic terrorist organization. With this provocative decision, the West Coast metropolis once again attracted worldwide attention.
Fifty years after the Woodstock Festival, the capital of the hippie movement from this Thursday (12 September) to 12 January 2020 will be the focus of a major exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn: "California Dreams - San Francisco: A Portrait".
There is hardly another city that has historically been a longing to realize its own dreams - from the Gold Rush of 1850 to today's Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. Those who have made it this far, do not want to leave because he has arrived in the Promised Land.
Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that the city center is built on ships: During the gold rush countless luck seekers wanted to go to San Francisco and from there further inland - but hardly anyone wanted to go back. As a result, an armada of abandoned sailing ships was accumulating in the harbor. Over time, the windjammers were converted into hotels, bars or shops. All around, land was heaped up and the piers turned into roads. Today, the wrecks are excavated by archaeologists.
From the beginning, San Francisco was regarded as a tolerant and liberal vanishing point - more generous than New York, which was also influenced by the Puritan Protestant spirit. That is why German Jews preferred to settle here. One of them was the Franke Levi Strauss (1829-1902), who invented the blue jeans - but never wore them, because they were clothes for workers. The Bundeskunsthalle shows a many-hole-patched and patched jeans, which the miners Homer Campbell from Arizona in 1920 reclaimed: After three years, the part was no longer useful, he complained. He received a new one for free.
By 1900, a quarter of the population was German-speaking. "San Francisco was always the second major immigration port next to New York, but it's surprisingly Pacific," says curator Henriette Pleiger. Especially the Chinese were long felt as a threat. Chinatown emerged in response to marginalization by the white population.
"The Chinese then turned their district into a Disneyland, a tourist attraction, as a survival strategy," says Pleiger. The "Chinese Exclusion Law" of 1882 not only denied Chinese immigrants American citizenship, but also limited them to a few occupational fields such as running restaurants and laundries. "That's why we always see the Chinese cook or the Chinese scrubber in Hollywood movies."
The exhibition does not exclude such chapters. The city's leading environmental and climate protection status today is based on past bad experiences, Pleiger says: "The Bay of San Francisco is still contaminated with mercury because gold was dissolved with mercury during the gold rush." Another Shadow side of the dream city is the widespread homelessness due to the enormously high rents and house prices.
And yet: "San Francisco remains a very courageous city," says Pleiger. "Especially with regard to migration, it remains a pioneer and impulse generator. That's very inspiring - and we can cut a slice of that here. "
Information about the exhibition