“Who writes for his people ought to use the past with the intention of opening the future, as an invitation to action and a basis for hope.”
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 232
It is essential to mention, as I focus my research and writing on the history of Mexicans in La Colonia, it’s not a random topic to me. My mother’s family migrated into the Oxnard Plain during the 1930s as agricultural workers. They first settled in the free abode housing off 5th Street, then moved into the Meta Street neighborhood near Oxnard Blvd. And finally they brought a lot in La Colonia in the 1940s.
I have deep roots in Oxnard and La Colonia. Also, my research and writing are connected to my twenty years as a community organizer! I have first-hand knowledge of police brutality in my neighborhood.
I have spent many years collecting materials on the history of Mexicans on the Oxnard Plain. In that time, I spend hours in the microfilm room in the local library examining the local newspaper, the Oxnard Press-Courier (OPC) My goal was to develop a historical timeline by utilizing the local newspaper as a primary source in the development of the Mexican community in Oxnard, especially La Colonia neighborhood.
As I connected the dots in linking the Mexican community to numerous struggles in labor, politics, and education, it became clear to me that the local newspaper also played another part in the historical narrative. The OPC was utilized to construct stereotypes of the Mexican community! Over and over in the pages of the local newspaper, city officials, growers, police chiefs & officers, and other community members labeled Mexicans as criminals, uneducated, or as disposable labor!
And those stereotypes continue into today. As the local newspaper spread those stereotypes, the Oxnard Police Department (OPD) played an important part as the enforcer by using violence toward the Mexican community.
It is evident that the OPD is not our friend! This can be seen in the police killing of Robert Ramirez and Alfonso Limon within the last eight months of 2012. So, it is vital to support the organizing of the Todo Poder Al Pueblo, Union del Barrio, and other organizations in their mission to expose the crimes of the OPD!
Please read the following article on the current violence against the Mexican community; “No Justice, No Peace”: The People of Oxnard Continue to Gather Strength in the Fight Against Police Brutality. Also, check out the following videos.
The violence toward the Mexican community is not new to Oxnard; it has a historical past.
The following is an excerpt from my manuscript (rough draft), Searching for Memories in La Colonia: Migration, Labor, and Activism In Oxnard, California, 1930-1980, highlighting some of the tension and violence toward the Mexican community during the 1940s & 1950s by the Oxnard Police Department.
In the Mexican neighborhoods of Oxnard during the 1940s, tension and conflict continued between the police, growers, and Mexicans. This tension could be seen in the way the Oxnard Police Department (OPD) interacted with the overall Mexican working-class community. The OPD was utilized as the enforcer of Oxnard’s power structure to keep Mexicans in their place or neighborhoods. A clear example of enforcement occurred on January 31, 1942 in the Meta Street neighborhood, as the police threw tear gas into a crowd of working-class Mexicans, who were watching people dancing in the street. The police labeled it a riot and arrested a number of Mexicans for disturbing the peace.
Conflicts between the police and Mexicans continued into the 1950s with a number of so-called riots. In 1955, the police responded to a fight off Cooper Road in La Colonia, which sparked a clash between the police and residents. The tension led to a number of residents throwing bottles and spitting & cursing at the police. The police responded by throwing a teargas bomb into the crowd of two hundred residents. In the end, one police car was damaged.
The following years, another police riot rocked La Colonia. On August 26, 1956, more than one thousand residents were attending a church bazaar sponsored by the Christ the King Church on Cooper Road. The riot was touched off by the arrest of Richard Madrid, a few blocks away from the bazaar. Again, like the previous riot, tension between the police and residents led to the police being bombarded with rocks, beer cans, and bottles from the crowd. The police responded by launching more than 50 tear gas bombs into the crowd. In its aftermath, several officers and residents were injured and ten individuals were arrested, with five being juveniles. They were charged with disturbing the peace and failure to disperse. Police Chief Carl Hartmeyer stated, “we had to break the riot up and since the mob wouldn’t disperse, we had to use drastic measures. I’ll say this: tear gas is a lot better than shotguns.”
Sources: “Police use tear gas against local crowd,” Oxnard Press-Courier, 2 Feb 1942; “Police quell Colonia riot,” Oxnard Press-Courier, 23 Apr 1955; “5 men, 5 teenagers arrested in rioting, several injured,” Oxnard Press-Courier, 27 Aug 1956; Juan Soria, Interview by Frank Bradacke, Oxnard, Ca, 25 Jan 1996.