March 23, 2001

Carlsbad Sisters Make History With The Barrio Museum

By Yvette tenBerge

Lola's 7-Up Mexican Market and Deli, located on the corner of Roosevelt Street and Walnut Avenue in Carlsbad, pulsates with the sounds of community life this Monday morning as it has on virtually every weekday morning since it was first opened by the Jauregui family in 1943. Sunlight beams into the store through propped-opened glass doors, and Mariachi music serves as a backdrop for the lively sounds of conversation and cooking coming from within.

Ofie Escobedo flips through some of the many photos in the Barrio Museum.

Today, the market is owned and operated by Connie Trejo and Ofelia "Ofie" Escobedo, daughters of the original store owner, Lola Jauregui. Mrs. Jauregui worked with her husband, Reyes, to supply the surrounding, predominately Mexican community with anything from kerosene and government rationed items to Mexican products. Not exactly used to the convenience, the majority of the roughly 3,000 people in the area had fled Mexico in the early 1900s in order to escape the revolution.

Although Ofie continues to run the market with obvious dedication, and even though the food from her deli has been featured on cooking shows and has been written about by the Unkown Eater, her true passion in life lies not in her store, but across the street within the walls of the "Barrio Museum."

The Museum is a one-room building whose walls are adorned with an impressive collection of meticulously matted newspaper articles, photographs and letters, as well as with colorful blankets and crafts. Each of these items belongs, or belonged, to members of the Latino families whose lives transformed Carlsbad from a tiny tent-city into a bustling barrio.

"Connie and I took over the store in 1985 at a time when the neighborhood had really deteriorated. It made me really, really sad to see our area going in that direction," says Ofie who, with the encouragement of her children, decided to leave a 22-year career with McDonnell-Douglas in Orange County in order to work with her sister to revive their family's store. It was a few years later that they began their effort to also help unite the community with the Barrio Museum. "Our main objective [with the Museum was] to try and preserve the history of this area. Back in 1991 [when we put the Museum together], people were hesitant to bring in any information or pictures. They were afraid that they might lose what they had. After they saw what we did with them, [though,] they all wanted to share and participate."

Ofie is able to list the names of each of the barrio's "pioneer families" with a confidence and an enthusiasm usually found in Museum curators as they discuss their prized collections. Not only can she tell you where these people lived and how to spell their names, she can also provide stories about their lives and give updates on the accomplishments of their offspring.

Ofie Escobedo stands in front of the Barrio Museum.

Ofie's pride is obvious as she describes her neighborhood at a time when members of her family owned businesses on three of the four corners of the street now called "Roosevelt" and the avenue now known as "Walnut." Standing amidst the carefully gathered years of her museum, she shares a bit of her own history.

"In the 1950's, my uncle started his store across the street called Aranda's 7-Up Market. He and my mother each had their own customers. When she did not have something in stock, she would send customers over to him and vice versa. Both he and my mother catered to the Mexican community during the war. My mother was in charge of giving people their allotted amounts of [rationed items] like coffee, cigarettes and sugar. My uncle sold many of the same things, but he catered a lot to the braseros. I remember him often delivering [supplies] to their camps," says Ofie, adding that her mother, who worked as the cashier, and her step-father, who worked as the butcher, put in long hours. "My mother was a very good, shy person, and [she and my step-father] helped a lot of people here in Carlsbad. They worked from morning to night. Since we lived next door to the store, [my mother] would often start her day as soon as people came over [in the mornings] and knocked on our door."

Even though the Barrio Museum is not listed in the phone book, and despite the fact that the Museum is not open to the public on a daily basis, the Museum is well-known to those in the community. Along with hosting fiestas in the building at various times during the year, Ofie allows different community organizations to hold their meetings there, free of charge (providing them with meals at a cost of four dollars per person upon request). She also grants area university students the use of the Museum for research purposes and opens the Museum's doors for Carlsbad's third graders, who tour the museum each year with their teachers in May.

"Last year, we had all of the schools in Carlsbad visit [the Museum]. Some of these children had never been to an old section of town. The reason we take them through is to give them a glimpse into a different culture," says Ofie, as she surveys the some of the older items in the collection, which includes a land grant for the Marron family dated October of 1842. Her eyes then come to rest on one of the Museum's much newer items. She walks over to a newspaper article written in 1991 about Ruben Orosco, a neighborhood boy who was one of two people to be honored as a Student of the Year for the state of California.

"When the kids come, I tell them that [Ruben] is my pride and joy. He was raised by a single mother who never asked for any help in [caring for] her family. [Ruben] started as a Boy Scout, became an Eagle Scout and was, then awarded [ Student of the Year] by the State. I want the children who come through here to know that [people of all cultures] have the same ideas and aspirations. We all want the same things for our children and for ourselves. We all want safety, employment, and to be able to put food on the table."

Noting the approaching lunch hour, Ofie quickly locks the Museum doors and the black, iron gates that guard them. She makes her way across the street to Lola's Market where she continues her family's legacy, that of providing the neighborhood with food that reminds them of home as well as a place to come together.


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