Linda Lucero is the executive and artistic director of Yerba Buena Arts and Events, a leading San Francisco presenting organization dedicated to enhancing the vitality and quality of life in the Bay Area through the performing arts.
Who had the biggest influence on you in your life?
My father, Fred, without a doubt. Orphaned at age 13, he mined coal in southern Colorado, picked beets, herded sheep, rode the rails during the Depression, worked Alaskan fisheries and married a few times. He joined the Navy at age 35, fought in the Pacific and married my mom after his discharge. Even though there wasn’t a lot of money around, he managed to spoil all five of his kids — each of us thought we were his favorite child! He taught us, by example, to respect ourselves, to respect others ... except he detested Nixon, and Reagan even more. He was proud of his Pueblo heritage. “If anyone ever says you’re not an American,” he’d say, “You tell them your ancestors were waiting here on the shore when the Mayflower arrived.”
To whom do you turn in tough times?
To my wonderful husband, Ray, and to my sisters — both blood and heart sisters.
Where do you find inspiration?
In my son, Marcelo, and in the children of my friends who have grown into young adults, passionate, opinionated and engaged about politics, music, theater, poetry, the environment, life.
Everyone has a story. Listen.
What one book or piece of writing has had a large impact on you?
The most amazing book I’ve read recently is Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” the story of a 300-pound Dominican-American geek who is dealing with the curse of history. Diaz’s writing is pure music, and as an aspiring writer, I admire his deft interweaving of the personal and the political.
How did you come to work at Yerba Buena?
Good fortune combined with experience. I know and love great performing artists and along the way acquired the juggling skills that go into running a nonprofit organization — an art in itself.
What are some upcoming highlights of this year’s Yerba Buena Gardens Festival?
Highlights are many! We’re featuring Tom Rigney’s Cajun music with dance lessons on Thursday. The Nice Guy Trio on Sept. 4. Tango vocalist María Volonté on Sept. 16. What’s looming large is the festival’s official 10th anniversary pachanga [big party, in Spanish] on Oct. 3 with the legendary congüero Poncho Sanchez, who epitomizes Latin jazz and community. All free of admission in Yerba Buena Gardens. Bring a picnic and join the party.
What was the strangest job you ever had in your life?
In middle school I worked in the attendance office. Every morning, my job entailed calling the homes of absent kids, to ask why they were absent. One time, the person on the other end informed me in a tragic voice that the kid had died. I was devastated. When my supervisor found out, she immediately dialed the number and ordered the kid to show his face or risk suspension.