Oaxacans in Los Angeles want neighborhood recognition

Oaxacan Angelenos parade down Pico Boulevard east of Crenshaw in traditional outfits at the annual Convite Oaxaqueño. Community members are lobbying to rename this stretch of street the Oaxacan Corridor. Photo by Andrea Bautista/KCRW.

Little Tokyo, Historic Filipinotown, El Salvador Corridor — all around LA there are dozens of enclaves that have been named after ethnic communities. As it turns out, getting that designation requires legwork. 

Take it from Mauro Hernandez-Mayoral, who has been working on getting a stretch of Pico Boulevard between Crenshaw Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue dubbed the Oaxacan Corridor. That area is home to more than a dozen Oaxacan businesses, and hosts an annual parade known as the Convite Oaxaqueño.

“In 2014 … we submitted our application to the City of Los Angeles,” explains Hernandez, the president of LA’s Regional Organization of Oaxaca, which organizes the Convite every year. “But it didn't succeed basically because the pandemic … interrupted it.” 

Angel Martinez lives in the area. He says he’s seen how the street has transformed into a Oaxacan business center over the years. “To see the entire strip go from nothing, to every other block having a Oaxacan tiendita … it's really nice to see that development,” he says. “It makes me proud to be like, ‘Yeah, I'm from Oaxaca.’” 

Hernadez-Mayoral decided to start the process again earlier this year, after the leak of a racist conversation between LA City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León, and Gil Cedillo. In the tape, former City Council President Nury Martinez demeaned Oaxacans for their height and went as far as calling them ugly. 

Mauro Hernandez-Mayoral says the project now has support from LA’s City Council. However, when asked to comment on the project, neither Councilmembers Heather Hutt nor Eunisses Hernandez, who represent the area, would accommodate multiple interview requests. 

LA’s Regional Organization of Oaxaca has organized the parade known as the Convite since 2014. Photo by Andrea Bautista/KCRW.

At Carniceria La Oaxaqueña on Fourth Street and Pico, owner Eloisa Maldonado supports the new neighborhood identity. “All the people … not just from Los Angeles, but outside of Los Angeles, would know how to find any Oaxacan business quickly.”  

Brenda Mata, who attended the annual Convite this month with her family, is also in favor. 

Both of her parents are from Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte region, and Mata says the city designation would honor her family’s Indigenous origins. 

“It's a nod that says we know you're here, we acknowledge you, and we respect you,” she says.

But not everyone is on board with the project. Oaxacan Angeleno Fernando Isaí says he’s not against the representation it would bring, but he has some concerns. 

“What is going to happen with this corridor? It's for tourism, it's for gentrification, it's happening in Oaxaca, like it’s happening here,” he says. “Representation only goes so far … without agency.”

Special thanks to Maricela Bautista for reporting assistance.