MB Hanrahan: Artistic Director Moses Mora: ProjectCoordinator
The Tortilla flats Legacy and Mural Project explores and documents the stories and lives of the people who lived in the early to mid-20th century westside Ventura neighborhoods whose heart was “Tortilla Flats.”
It is a story of a population who were born in the first decades of the 1900s, but whose lives were grounded in the previous century. They lived through the Depression and wars and a society that was changing far too fast to even comprehend. They were the first generation who gave the township of Ventura a sense of community, by participating to an unprecedented degree in the town’s social, economic, political, and cultural life. In other words, they built this town.
This neighborhood was displaced when the 101 (Ventura) Freeway expanded north from Los Angeles through Oxnard and Ventura in the 1950s-1960s.
Their stories are universal and reflect the common experiences of many working-class people. We have used their past as a foundation to examine our own sense of identity and place. Their particular history is rarely told. Before their experiences pass away completely from memory, we wanted to capture their simple but resonant stories. We began by contacting the people directly: collecting oral histories; personal photographs; and
reconstructing neighborhood maps.
Recognizing that many folks in the neighborhood had lost contact, we realized that we needed to organize what became the first Tortilla Flats Reunion. That impetus continues today, through the public presentations,reunions and active archive gathering activities of the Tortilla Flats Legacy Committee.
3 murals have been created, based on this grass roots research that has been ongoing from 1994 though to the current time.
In the course of collecting oral histories, (we had yet to make a drawing or put paint to a wall,) we decided to use the $1500 grant money to throw what turned out to be the first Tortilla Flats Reunion, in Nicholby’s Nightclub, then located on the corner of Oak and Main Streets, downtown Ventura.
We brought Lalo Alcaraz, a cross over Mexican American favorite of the residents’ era, to perform at what became an annual reunion event that continues today.
We continue to this day to record and transcribe (thanks to Punky-) oral histories, and to collect photos and relevant historic materials. This thanks to the Tortilla Flats Reunion committee, another branch of the Legacy project that developed from the early days of the first mural.