A Forgotten Community:  The Mexican Families of Rancho Sespe, Fillmore 

Kelli Magana and Dr. José Alamillo

Abstract

Rancho Sespe was part of a Mexican land grant in Fillmore and later became a citrus ranch owned by the Spalding family who hired Mexican workers and their families to pick lemons and pack oranges.   The ranch resembled a company town with over 200 housing units, a bunkhouse a store, a school, and a recreation building. Rancho Sespe was sold in 1979 to a private company and a labor dispute emerged between the United Farm Workers and owners during the 1980s that led to the eviction of families.  The scholarly literature has tended to focus on Mexican barrios in Santa Paula, Ventura, and Oxnard while ignoring labor camps and villages in smaller towns.   My research seeks to fill this gap, by focusing on the Mexican village in Rancho Sespe which faced harsh working conditions, inadequate housing, segregated schooling, and racial discrimination. I will be researching local newspapers and conducting oral history interviews of former residents to find out about their experiences living and working at Rancho Sespe. I will also explore the gender roles of Mexican men and women who lived and worked on the ranch. My findings show that Rancho Sespe’s Mexican residents overcome many racial and class barriers to build a strong sense of community that extended into the city of Fillmore.  Overall, these findings shed light on the strong sense of community of Mexican villages like Rancho Sespe that is often forgotten or dismissed as part of Ventura County’s citrus history.

Presentation

Session 1 – 1:30p.m. – 2:45p.m.

Room B – Sierra 1422 

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