Adios from the People's Democratic Latino Republic of Ventura
By Jan Schulman 01/17/2013
To Forrest Mize, happily ensconced in Idaho:
This morning I went with my husband to his dentist appointment after having first picked up my coffee and Thursday (1/3/13) copy of the Reporter. While he was being treated, I proceeded to read through the paper and came upon one of the most horrible articles I have ever read in the Reporter. (Power to Speak) It is one thing to have a different opinion from others; it is another to be so blatantly racist and evil that it actually hurts one to read those words. I gasped and remarked to another woman in the waiting room about my shock at what I was reading. She asked me what paper I was reading and I told her: the Ventura County Reporter. She looked at me and responded: I’m shocked that they would publish something with that kind of language in it. Me, too.
So, on that note let me continue with my day. After my husband finished with his appointment, we drove back to Oxnard and went into B.G.’s, a longtime restaurant/coffee shop in downtown Oxnard. It is owned by Latinos, run by Latinos and (gasp!) frequented by Latinos — and whites, and African Americans, and Filipinos, and Japanese and so on. The food is delicious. The owners are delightful. The service is great. And it seems that everyone in there is always in a good mood, customers and servers alike.
OK, then we walked over to the Oxnard Plaza where the farmers market was taking place. We walked through as the mariachis played and the smells from the tamale truck made my mouth water uncontrollably, even though I was still full from breakfast. We walked along the vendors and bought squash and tomatoes and cucumbers and kiwi. At the end of one booth, an elderly lady was cutting up something into small pieces. I asked what it was and she responded in Spanish. Since my Spanish fluency is limited to “gracias” and “adios,” I had to ask someone else in the booth what she was saying. He explained that she was cutting up cactus and then it was sautéed with onion and garlic and cilantro. She continued speaking to me in Spanish and I to her in English and somehow we connected. Didn’t matter if we didn’t know the words, we understood our feelings. I felt as if she were my grandmother.
As we exited the farmers market, I saw that some men were taking down the Christmas decorations. It was a bright, chilly gorgeous California January day, as only we can have. I turned to my husband and said: “God, I love it here! I love all the faces and languages and smiles and children.” I felt as if I were on top of the world. Then we passed a Latino woman with a small child in a stroller. The child was Down syndrome and did not speak, but she could sign. She was adorable and after I showed her what was in my bag (not candy, which is what she was signing, but squash), I bid her and her mother goodbye and proceeded to join my husband in our car.
So what does this Jewish white 75-year-old American woman have in common with Mr. Mize’s “lowlife criminal Mexicans”? Well, to begin with, they feel like family. I was born and raised in East Los Angeles (Boyle Heights) and love/need the look of faces of color around me to feel at home. A sea of white faces not only bores me, it disturbs me. I moved to Oxnard 26 years ago and have loved it from day 1. Not only is the weather like paradise (keep your snow and your jackets, Mr. Mize; we can have it when, and only when, we want it — we don’t have to live in it, freeze in it, shovel it — and the rest of the time, we get California … beautiful, sunshiny, clear, clean, ocean-breezed Ventura County, California), but the people here are wonderful. Do we have criminal activity? You betcha. Is it committed mostly by Latinos? Well, considering that the majority of our population is Latino … you do the math. Did you ever notice that when a white person commits a crime, nobody rushes up to scream: “Those lowlife criminal whites”? Haven’t heard that — ever. But if a criminal act is committed by a person of color, then of course that whole ethnic group is condemned. Why doesn’t somebody notice this. please?
So I love Oxnard, I love Ventura County, I love the state of California; I wouldn’t give up what I have found here for anything. As for Mr. Mize, I believe the air in Ventura County is a little lighter and clearer now that he has moved away. I hope he, and everyone who thinks as he does, moves away — and stays away. Leave this glorious God-given land to the people who love it.
Jan Richman Schulman is a resident of Oxnard.