Bienvenidos al Barrio Viejo

Bienvenidos al Barrio Viejo

Welcome to the Old Neighborhood

The Tortilla flats Legacy Project Website is a digital compilation of the hard copy archives created from 1992-2022, documenting the Tortilla Flats neighborhood displaced in the late 1940’s-early 1950s when the 101 freeway was built through westside Ventura CA (the 1960s).

 It contains the oral histories gathered from the neighborhood residents and the photos and drawings from which  3 monumental murals were created.

 It contains media coverage and bureaucratic maneuverings of said murals. It contains the photo collection and identification of Tortilla Flats families and places – the ongoing efforts of the Tortilla Flats Legacy committee, as well as documentation of their many neighborhood reunions.

It is our intention that this website function as an educational tool, an inspiration for future oral history gathering, and historical documentation of what is lost in the course of social “progress.”

It is our desire that those exposed to this project recognize that history is made when individuals record and make art celebrating what happened to people and places.

Our message: Make your own History. The technological power to document is in everyone’s hands, much more so than when we started in 1993. Don’t wait for others to recognize what you believe is important to archive.

Mural Projects

First Mural 1992-1995

The Tortilla Flats Mural and Reunion Project first presented publicly in the form of a neighborhood reunion in 1994, @ Nicholby’s Nightclub, and a 6 ’tall x 507’ long mural by Hanrahan and Mora 1995. This first mural was located on Figueroa Street across from the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Second Mural 2008

Location: 1903 building 2 West Main, West Main St., and South Ventura Ave. Ventura CA 93001, the east-facing exterior wall.
Designed by Moses Mora and MB Hanrahan; painted by MB Hanrahan

We painted the mural with acrylic paints, on Polytab. Polytab is a synthetic nonwoven material that one can paint on and then affix to walls or other surfaces at another time. The mural panels were then affixed to the wall with acrylic gel.

Tortilla Flats Legacy Mural 2020

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 Sts., downtown Ventura.  We brought Lalo Alcaraz, (sp?), a cross-over Mexican American favorite of the residents’ era, to perform at what became an annual reunion event that continues today.

Last Exit Exhibit at the Ventura County Museum

In 1993, I was completing the Avenue Liquor mural on Ventura Ave.(-a community mural, now destroyed, with quite a story of its own!)  Moses came by and started painting.  Also working on the mural was an African American artist who was doing research on early African American families in Ventura Co.  Her name is Yvonne Sutton.

Moses was telling her about the Tortilla Flats neighborhood and families he knew of.  I was listening to the stories, and, being a transplant from LA, I had never heard of the Tortilla Flats neighborhood- a neighborhood displaced when the 101 freeway was extended through Ventura Co. I remember saying something like “ that story needs to be a mural!”



Although Moses Mora was displaced from the Tortilla Flats neighborhood as a young child, his family was known to Tortilla Flats residents. We remind you this was 1993. We did not have the “search engines” and social media resources available today. This neighborhood was literally displaced, and with no documentation, its history was essentially erased.

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Moses primarily asked questions during the interviews, (while MB videotaped the session); where did you live, where did you go to school, where did you shop, how did you have fun, and what did your parents do? We began with an aerial view of Tortilla Flats pre-101 freeway. From there, we began reconstructing a map of the neighborhood- collecting pictures, collecting stories, collecting names. We became amateur oral historians.

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Thanks to the Tortilla Flats Reunion committee, another branch of the Legacy project that developed from the early days of the first mural.  Many of the families had lost contact with each other, since having to relocate when the Freeway came through in the fifties. Most of the folks we were interviewing were born in the 1920s and 30s. People in Moses’ generation were considered “youngsters”. Many families relocated up the Avenue, to the projects.

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77 painted panels and 44 photo-printed tiles set in mosaic, installed on 4 57’x13’ freestanding steel structures. In 2008, in partnership with and under the sponsorship of the City of Ventura the Tortilla Flats Mural was recreated. A new and original public art piece, based on the research of the first mural, was created by the project originators, artist MB Hanrahan and Moses Mora.

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Background: The building is owned by the Addison Family Trust. The owner was in total support of this mural, primed and repainted the wall, anticipating the eventual mural. The Addisons submitted a letter stating their support for and sponsorship of the project to the Public Art Commission and Historical Preservation committee approval for this mural on the historical 1903 building at the corner of Ventura Ave. and South Main St. Ventura CA.

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We positioned the individual mural scenes between the windows and doorways on the wall, preserving the 1903 architectural design. Referencing graphic novel style layout, and the historical tradition of painting huge advertisements on the sides of buildings, each historical vignette will be accompanied by a narrative in both Spanish and English.

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About the Project

What Happened?

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law. With an original authorization of $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System over a 10-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history through that time.

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Between 1956 and 1966 the construction of our major highways demolished 37,000 urban housing units per year, displacing hundreds of thousands in our cities across the country.

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Decisions Made

Highway planners and engineers were unsympathetic to the expertise and authority they had over communities during a time when their power rose from reforms in highway policy.

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The Bureau of Public Roads was made up of mostly middle-aged white men and is what allowed federal engineers to forge a national highway policy that worked with the National Interstate and Highway Defense Act and solidified the authority of those engineers.

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