Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

What's in a name: Oaxacalifornia


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Juan Antonio, proprietor of the Oaxacalifornia Café Juice Bar in South L.A.

The name of this modest little juice and snack bar inside South Los Angeles's Mercado La Paloma caught my eye the other day as I stood in line, along with an immigrant from Ghana, watching a couple of employees whip up tropical-fruit licuados and dish out black mole tamales. When owner Juan Antonio peered out from the kitchen, I mentioned to him that I found the name intriguing.

He told me he was sitting around the dinner table with his family seven years ago when he was preparing to open his business, trying to think up names, when "Oaxacalifornia" popped into his head. "It represents the Oaxacan presence in California, the food, the culture," Antonio said. "There's a big Oaxacan community in California."

He's right about that. A five-year-old Migration Policy Institute study placed the vast majority of immigrants from the southern Mexican state in the Los Angeles area.