What is the Castro?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2019
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The Castro is a district in the city of San Francisco, California which is probably most famous for its very active and out gay community. The history of this area is actually much older; it was originally a suburb inhabited primarily by Scandinavian immigrants, and some legacies of the Scandinavian population endure, including a Finnish bath house. This neighborhood is a popular stop for visitors to San Francisco who are interested in seeing the city's gay culture on display.

The core of this district is Castro Street, named for Jose Castro, a prominent figure in California's early history. As a general rule, the boundaries of Castro Street are agreed upon as Market Street in the North to 19th Street in the South, with the district running West to East between Eureka Street to Church Street. The MUNI underground railway has a stop at Castro and Market Streets, and the F Streetcar line also runs through the district, along with an assortment of buses.

The demographic nature of The Castro began to shift in the wake of the Second World War, when the neighborhood had a more suburban feel, and ex-servicemembers, many of whom were gay, began to settle in the area. By the 1960s, the Eureka Valley area, which houses The Castro, had become decidedly middle class, and in the 1970s, it came to be seen as a gay mecca.


Today, The Castro is far from a working-class neighborhood. San Francisco's infamously high rents approach stratospheric levels in the area, with some gays and lesbians complaining that the high rents have made it very hard to live. The traditionally gay district also began shifting demographically yet again in the early 21st century, when many families started to move into the neighborhood, perceiving it as safe and pleasant.

A number of landmarks can be seen in the region, including an assortment of famous gay bars, The Castro Theater, and various parks and plazas, including Harvey Milk Plaza, dedicated to one of The Castro's more famous residents. The district also has a number of gay-oriented shops, along with an assortment of restaurants.

This neighborhood is often bedecked with rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay community, and during Gay Pride, a number of pride-oriented events are hosted at The Castro. It is also famous for its raucous Halloween party, which the City of San Francisco has attempted to suppress since 2006, when several attendees were shot and injured.


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Post 1

A 'castro' is a hilltop Bronze-age-or-older fortification. 'Castro' is the Spanish word for this. In England this is known as a 'camp', as in Cadbury Camp.

Presumably there is a region in San Francisco which previously had an ancient fort similar to this from Spanish or pre-Spanish times.

Perhaps it is not too far a stretch of the imagination that from this and the lamentable behavior conducted in more recent times in San Francisco, we have the word 'camp' extended to other less-innocent meanings.

Whether it is or it isn't, I don't need to know, thank you.

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