After our Facebook post on June 16, 2020 titled “The Fillmore Citrus Association Mexican Band,” we received an email that asked us to consider the policies and attitudes that led to the formation of the group. Specifically, a community member asked us to remember the segregation that existed in the community, including in schools, and asked the pointed and poignant question: “How many kids lost opportunities based on being in the ‘Mexican’ programs?”
We provide this expanded story to shine light on the community practices that influenced the creation of the band, and its impact on those very same practices.
Many Mexican immigrants came to the town of Fillmore between 1905 and 1915, before or during the Mexican Revolution. Most were fleeing that country in hopes of a better life in the United States. Mexicans came to Fillmore seeking work in the agriculture industry and, as in other towns and cities across the country, early accounts reflect a segregated society in which they were forced to live in designated areas and their children could only attend school there.
In Fillmore that area was known as the “barrio” and was located on the southeastern end of town. The barrio was split in two by the railroad tracks and each side was named by its residents: The “Barrio Santo” or “holy neighborhood” because of the churches located in its boundaries, and the “Barrio de las Flores” because of the its many homes with lush flower gardens. Along with Mexican residents, this area was also home to Asians or other ethnic minorities that lived inside the city limits and like the Mexicans were not allowed to live in other areas.
Although segregated, the residents of the barrio organized and formed clubs and groups that kept the community unified and encouraged patriotism to their homeland. Larger organizations such as the Alianza Hispano-Americana, or Hispanic-American Alliance, a mutual aid society, had a chapter in Fillmore and helped residents with events such as the celebration of Mexican Independence.
In the 1920s Fillmore Citrus Association manager, Frank Erskine formed a band made up of lemon pickers from the Association and aptly named it the Fillmore Citrus Association Mexican Band. The band was funded by the Association but also found funding and support from the Alianza to play up and down the Central Coast at different functions. While the band played at numerous Mexican celebrations, it also marched down Central Avenue every May in the Fillmore Festival parade and played at the Citrus Association’s annual barbecue. Most notably, as mentioned in the California Citrograph, at the 1928 barbecue held in celebration of the grand opening of the new lemon packinghouse located on the southeast corner of Sespe Avenue and A Street in Fillmore:
“Nearly 800 people attended. The barbecue was preceded and followed by a concert by the Fillmore Citrus Association’s Mexican Band, Frank Erskine, manager.”
Whatever Frank Erskine’s intent was in forming this Mexican band, it aided in creating a tolerance of the Mexican community in Fillmore during this time.
The photos are all promised gifts to the Museum Research Library.
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