Look closely between the chain restaurants and vestiges of deindustrialization on Columbus’s West Side, and you’ll notice a few colorful gems jutting from the landscape. One of these is Panaderia Oaxaqueña – a business located on 63 South Murray Hill Road that boasts some of the best Mexican pastries in town. This week, Dímelo features Genesis Cruz-Santos and his insight on the changing Latino community of the city.
Almost 15 years ago, Genesis Cruz-Santos’ father, Francisco, made an executive decision to bring his family to Columbus, Ohio. The ever-climbing price of living in Escondido, California made the promise of good-paying jobs in the Midwest increasingly appealing. When the family arrived in the Lincoln Village area [just west of the Hilltop], they were one of very few Latino families in the neighborhood.
This has changed, as Cruz-Santos explains; there’s been growth especially in the population of immigrants from Oaxaca – the Mexican state Cruz-Santos’ parents grew up. The burgeoning Latino community is reflected by the very business his mother, Bertha, started. People wanted a taste of home, and upon seeing this need, she began baking breads and pastries in her home kitchen before eventually establishing the Panaderia. As the community grow, so did the Panaderia’s offerings – now they sell the famed Jarritos sodas, beans, candles, candies, chips – things that cover the basic needs of the surrounding community. Listen more to Cruz-Santos experiences on this week’s ¡Dímelo, Columbus!:
Moving to Ohio, the “Virgin State:”
🎧 Listen (2:01)
“My parents decided to migrate from San Diego, California to Ohio because the cost of living in California at that moment, they were not making it… At that point, in ’98 & ’99, there was a lot of migration to Ohio from California… Why Ohio? It was just a new opportunity in life. The jobs here paid more, they were more welcoming it was a city that was still rising. It was the ‘virgin state’ for the Hispanic community, because there were so few Hispanics here.”
Culture shock in Columbus, Ohio:
🎧 Listen (2:08)
“Adjusting to culture, That 70s show, I’d never seen it – also, Friends and all those shows. Over here in the midwest, everyone grew up with those. And not me, I grew up with a completely different culture of TV, music, reading, and education wise. That was a big shocking thing for me… I could speak both languages… so I wanna say just the culture was shocking.”
Cruz-Santos stands in front of Saint Bernardo – the saint for which his town in Oaxaca, Mexico was named – holding one of their signature cakes.
Galletas are abundant in this delicious panaderia (bakery)!
Many from the community on the West Side visit La Oaxaquena for a taste of home. A special favorite are these signature Oaxaquena breads.
A taste of home:
🎧 Listen (4:58)
“All the Hispanics came to the West Side because they had their cousins over there or an uncle… so that’s when the community started growing. We started putting stuff in the little bakery: beans, your Jarritos – which is a carbonated beverage, tortillas, all the basics the Hispanic family needs…”
“There are a lot of people from Oaxaca on the West Side… The bakery was a staple for the community for Oaxaqueños, they can find this piece of home here in Columbus…On Sunday mornings you have a lot of people lined up here to buy breads… and it’s like a meeting point… We have a saint back there because he is the saint of our village. Every village in Oaxaca, the name of the village is the name of the saint. We are from San Bernardo and that’s the saint San Bernardo. It’s a staple for the community here in Columbus and back at home.”
Educating the community:
🎧 Listen (2:31)
“Eventually Columbus is going to get to a point where there is going to be a Hispanic population like there is in Chicago, California, Miami… We should not discriminate with the Hispanics who are immigrants in the community… Some of these people just come from a small farm village in Mexico and they’ve never been to a big city, they come here to America and it’s complete culture shock… Education is the key. And you also have to lead by example.”
🎧 Listen (2:50)
“I would describe myself as Genesis. That is my name, it is a very unique name, not very common. Depending if you believe in religion or not, it stands for the beginning. So I feel like I’m a unique person, I have a unique background, unique trades.”
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text are copyrighted to Leticia Wiggins. Music for introduction & interlude by The Original Soundtrack (thanks, guys!).