Posted Mar 02, 2023 | By Rebecca Baker

Oxnard’s Mexican-American Heritage

Celebrating Diversity & Culture on the California Coast

Oxnard celebrates its Mexican-American culture every day. That’s a big claim, but we believe it because we live it. There’s a richness in history here due to the hardworking migrants whose efforts built Oxnard's agricultural industry we see today.

Oxnard’s Migrant History and Agriculture

Did you know you can visit the former house of Cesar Chavez in Oxnard? Chavez moved to his home on Wright Road in the El Rio neighborhood during the late 1950s when he was advocating for the local farmworkers. He launched a local chapter of the Community Service Organization, a civil rights group that helped him lead the farmworkers to unionize. Chavez himself had been the child of migrants, who had previously worked in the fields in Oxnard. His model of peacefully protesting the unfair treatment of Mexican workers with boycotts, marches, and sit-down field strikes added to a national movement of unionizing and successfully advocating for the previously underrepresented minority farmworker in the US.

You can visit the plaque celebrating Cesar Chavez’s legacy at 452 N. Garfield Ave.

Rice Road in Oxnard and Maulhardt's crew circa 1910
Rice Road and Louis Maulhardt's crew circa 1910; From the personal collection of Jeffrey Maulhardt.

The city of Oxnard was officially incorporated in 1903, but it had been a Spanish settlement with ranchos and pueblos since the missions were established in 1782. When California joined the Union in 1850, many immigrants from the east coast and Europe came west to find their fortune in farming. The temperate, often cool-aired climate in Oxnard makes it one of the most fertile farming valleys in California to this day. In the 19th century, the main crops were barley and lima beans, but eventually the farmers moved into producing sugar beets.

Matt Borchard plowing between rows of lima beans in Oxnard
Matt Borchard plowing between rows of lima beans on the family's ranch off Ventura Road and Gonzales Rd, circa 1910; From the personal collection of Jeffrey Maulhardt.

If you’re up for more history, be sure to visit the Oxnard Historic Farm Park. Henry Oxnard, for whom the town is named, set up such a successful sugar beet venture that he and his brothers opened the American Beet Sugar factory in Chino, and the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a stop right near the factory in order to expedite the processed beets. The success of this crop brought many families to Oxnard, with businesses and residences appearing almost overnight. Many Japanese, Chinese and Mexican workers migrated to the area to work year-round at the sugar beet farm. While the sugar beets put Oxnard on the map, the valley also produced citrus, avocados, and more. At the Oxnard Historic Farm Park, you can visit historic buildings and see ancient groves and vineyards. Pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful grounds, or head into town for dinner.

You can’t stay in Oxnard without enjoying a day at the beach. Start your day bright and early at Oxnard State Beach/Mandalay State Beach, which has golden dunes, grassy rolling hills and wide, smooth bike paths. There’s even volleyball courts, skating and a jogging path for residents and visitors to utilize. Stake out a great spot on the beach and you’ll see Channel Islands National Park on a clear day. Stay for a picture of the quintessential, pink-sky and palm tree-studded sunset.

Cultural Celebrations

Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday where families welcome the souls of their deceased family members for 24 hours on the first of November. This is a celebration of life that brings family and friends together. Dia de los Muertos celebrations are centered around “the ofrenda table,” an altar that holds cherished pictures and beloved items of deceased family members. Oxnard celebrates Dia de los Muertos with a huge community “ofrenda” altar in Downtown Oxnard on the steps of the Carnegie Museum. Community members can contribute to the altar by bringing a photo of a deceased family member to be put on display. Oxnard Performing Arts Center also hosts a Dia de los Muertos celebration with live performances from regions of Mexico, community sponsored altars and more.

Fiestas Patrias- El Grito
Mexican Independence Day is September 16 and is celebrated with a weekend long celebration during Hispanic heritage month. Starting with the event of "El Grito”, meaning the cry, typically on the Saturday of that weekend leading up to the big festival of Fiestas Patrias. This takes place in Plaza park with live music, local foods and fun for the whole family.


Oxnard Salsa Festival
The last weekend in July, we celebrate the Oxnard Salsa Festival in the Plaza Park downtown. With free parking and free admission, anyone can come enjoy live music, spicy food, and local, artisan vendors. Don’t let anyone in the family miss out– there’s a Kids Zone even for your young ones filled with rides, crafts and games.

Oxnard Tamale Festival
The first Saturday in December is almost always dedicated to Oxnard’s Tamale Festival. With something for everyone, this festival perfectly captures the holiday spirit with the many local vendors, food and drink, and even a kids zone!

Start celebrating the holidays the right way with live music and activities for everyone.

Maybe our favorite way to celebrate our Mexican-American heritage is through the amazing Mexican food scene we have here in Oxnard. Food isn’t just about fuel. It’s one of the most fun and innovative ways to learn about culture and identity. We’ve created the Oxnard Taco Trail so you can discover the best taquerias, food trucks and sit-down restaurants to enjoy your favorite tacos.

For the food-truck taco experience with elevation, try House of Tacos. The restaurant interior is adorned with artwork of Catrinas and your favorite Mexican film stars. All the meats come grilled to perfection, and they're known for their soft, handmade tortillas. They source their veggies from local farms, so everything comes out hot and fresh. Get your camera ready because these tacos are IG-worthy.

House of Tacos

If you’re looking for a sit-down dinner in a fun space, look no further than Lalo’s Family Restaurant. This family-run restaurant has quickly become popular with locals and tourists. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’re bound to find something mouthwatering on their innovative menu. We recommend their shrimp or fish tacos, as well as trying some tequila from their full bar. Whatever you choose, it’s going to be delicious!

Lalo’s Family Restaurant in Oxnard
Lalo’s Family Restaurant

This isn’t your average dessert run. Dessert by Xielo Artisan Desserts is a fusion of Mexican pastries and crepes, blending artisan cooking and cultures. The baked goods, or ‘reposteria’, feature their signature twist on cactus bread, orange bread, jericalls, and more. There’s even shaved-ice, inspired by dessert makers in Guadalajara, if you’re visiting during our warmer months.

Artisan Desserts Oxnard
Juan Carlos Ramirez, owner of Xielo Artisan Desserts; Photo by Cali Godley

About the Author:

Rebecca Baker (Digital Storyteller)

Rebecca Briggs Baker is a digital storyteller who loves living on California's beautiful central coast. She builds community and promotes artistic and strategic collaboration with her company, Chicken Riddle Media. When not crafting strategy, she's hiking, volunteering, or reading a great mystery.

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