By Gladys B. Vargas

Young women competed for a royal title and academic scholarships in the Señorita Fiestas Patrias 2023-2024 at the new Marez Event Center in Oxnard, Saturday, where three winners were crowned from a group of six contestants, amidst a crowd of more than 200 family members and friends.

The celebration was hosted by the West Coast Cultural Arts for the first time in the Fiesta’s more than 50-year history. It was previously hosted by the Comité Mexicano Cívico Patriótico, and the Ventura County Mexican American Chamber of Commerce before them. This pageant is the first organized by the nonprofit West Coast Cultural Arts, according to board president Angelica Cisneros.

In order to qualify for the event, the women had to be between 18 and 25 years old, with a connection to Mexican heritage as well as dedication to their schooling and their community. A panel of judges, including an educator, an activist, actresses and more, decided the winners.

Mexican Consul Miguel Herrera crowned Evelyn Martin del Campo, from Sinaloa, the queen. Stephanie Galicia, representing Oaxaca, was crowned first princess by Sheriff James Fryhoff, and Ventura County Public Defender Claudia Bautista crowned Sidney Rocha, representing Coahuila, second princess.

“The love for my state is so huge, that I take every chance to continue learning its cultures and traditions, and speaking the Mixtec language from my region,” first princess Stephanie Galicia said. “I have many goals, but the most important for me… is to demonstrate that the work and sacrifice of my parents’ immigration was not in vain.”

Cisneros said the organization was “so proud” to have Oaxaca represented in this year’s festivities. The other states represented this year were Zacatecas, by Bárbara Cosio Hernández, Jalisco, by Ayxa Agraz, and Guanajuato, by Amaia Vargas.

Much of the planning for the fiesta was done by a small team of youth interns at the organization, who are, like the contestants, also largely dedicated to their communities, according to Cisneros. Alexa Vargas, Sarai Carillo, and Viviana Magaña are three high school students and first-generation Americans from Ventura County who spent months looking for funds and coordinating the entire event.

“I have a lot of love for my country,” Cisneros said, “and I am proud of my interns for having love for Mexico. They thought of the name, they are involved with the paperwork, involved in every single step. This nonprofit is their dream, their achievement, their initiative…all I am doing is helping them grow, helping them continue their education.”

Honored guests and speakers at the event included representation from both the offices of Congresswoman Julia Brownley and California Senator Monique Limón, as well as Oxnard municipal leaders such as Commissioners Celina Zacarias and Mary Anne Rooney. Also in attendance were Port Hueneme City Mayor Bobby Martinez, Oxnard city council member Oscar Madrigal, and District Attorney Erik Nasarenko.

The main sponsor of the event, was La M radio station, among other sponsors and supporters.

“The glory of our country isn’t in our territory, but in the hearts of each one of you,” Consul Herrera said in a toast to the contestants. “Mexicans are great. We are great because we’ve contributed to humanity in many ways, and we are great because despite adversity, the path of this country to suffer and work, to strain ourselves, we always move forward,” said Consul Herrera.