Ojai Valley News
California labor movement icon Dolores Huerta was the guest of honor as Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation broke ground at 2161 Etting Road in Oxnard on Oct. 4.
Sandwiched in between two cemeteries — the Japanese Cemetery established in 1908 and the Masonic Cemetery established in 1898 — the Etting Road site will be home to 58 affordable units for farmworkers and veterans. CEDC has been championing this project since 2012.
According to the Ventura County Continuum of Care, the number of unhoused veterans in Ventura County nearly doubled from 2022 to 2023. CEDC groundbreaking host David Cruz kicked off the day’s ceremonies, and as a wind kicked up out of seemingly nowhere, multiple speakers noted, “The ancestors are with us.”
“Groundbreakings have been a tradition for thousands of years in different parts of the globe,” said CEDC CEO Margarita de Escontrias. “(In those many traditions), breaking the Earth was never done without an ofrenda. There is a ceremony done to break the Earth, to prepare the land. We’re making a sacred deposit. … What is our ofrenda? Affordable housing for farmworkers, and for veterans in our community.”
Representatives from the offices of Assemblymember Steve Bennett, state Sen. Monique Limón, and Rep. Salud Carbajal’s offices were in attendance, along with Ventura County Supervisor Vianey Lopez, Oxnard Councilmember Gabriela Basua, and Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza
“This project signifies hope,” said Basua. “This gives people the best gift ever.” Lourdes Castro Ramirez, state Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency secretary, spoke at the event, saying, “80,000 units of affordable units have been funded (under Gov. Gavin Newsom). Communities like Oxnard, like Ventura County, are rising to the occasion. … It takes all of us working together to create a thriving society.”
Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, the precursor to the United Farm Workers’ Union, with Cesar Chavez, and has championed for workers’ rights, including the right to safe and affordable housing — ever since.
“Before we started the United Farm Workers, Cesar and I started another organization that had a strong track record here: the Community Service Organization,” recounted
Huerta, saying she felt Cesar among the spirits present for the groundbreaking. “When we belonged to that group, they were trying to level La Colonia … I’m from Stockton, and they did that in Stockton; they literally tore down all the farmworker homes. You know, farmworkers spent a lot of their money to be able to buy the little homes that they had. And they tore down a whole area they had … under the title of ‘redevelopment.’ And they were going to do the same thing in Oxnard. … So we organized to make sure the same thing did not happen here in Oxnard … and we were able to save La Colonia, and it is still here today.
“We know that homelessness is one of the major issues in our country right now. We have so many people that are homeless, so many people out in the street. So when we see what’s happening here today with all of you, with the Cabrillo Development Corporation, I think it is amazing.
“One other note, too, since a lot of the housing here is going to farmworkers: This is where Cesar Chavez started his organizing … right here in Oxnard. This is a very historical moment.”
Lopez said: “Having you here, supporting our work, is really incredible. You really are exemplary, for all of us.”
Huerta said: “This area here has a very rich history when we talk about the farmworkers’ movement. We know that farmworkers throughout the state of California do have an
issue finding housing. The fact that you’re doing this, that you took that step … you are filling the needs of so many people. I want to thank the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation for thinking of these people, and for naming this after me.”
Visit cabrilloedc.org to learn more about the Dolores Huerta Gardens.
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