Rebozo Festival Celebrates Warmth of Latino Culture

By Tim Pompey and Carlos Garcia

The 15th annual Rebozo Festival was held at the Camarillo Ranch on Sunday, May 19. Nestled under the giant evergreens, palms, and the 126-year-old Moreton fig tree, the festival sold an estimated 1,000 tickets and provided a large gathering to financially support nonprofit agencies throughout Ventura County.

Launched in 2005 as a fundraiser by founder and director Irma J. Lopez, it began in her backyard with a much smaller group of 250 people. From there it grew rapidly each year.

“I live in a cul-de-sac,” said Irma. “As it grew, the people would fit in my yard, but the cars wouldn’t fit on the street.”

Today, its size is indicative of the large community of “madrinas” (Spanish for godmothers) who support it.

The money raised from sponsorships and ticket sales is donated to nonprofits who submit a grant proposal to Las Madrinas.

“They write a grant and in September, we make the choice and then they receive the money this year,” Irma explained.

The rebozo, a colorful Mexican scarf, is the symbol of the festival. The scarves which are sold at the festival are selected from various locations throughout Mexico. Director Yolanda Lopez and other madrinas take periodic trips down to Mexican locations such as Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Jalisco.

“We make a visit once or twice a year,” said Yolanda. “We purchase them from the people who make them.”

They vary in texture, pattern, and materials from state to state, according to the area’s culture. For Irma, the rebozo is symbolic of Latino warmth and generosity.

“It embraces the warmth of our Latino culture to our community,” she said. “It’s a symbol of love. We carry our babies in it. We carry groceries in it. We use it for festivals like today.” This year’s recipients of the Festival’s 2019 Grants were: - Primary Recipient: Many Mansions, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable housing sites throughout Southern California. - Secondary Recipient: Assistance League - Conejo Valley, a nonprofit that identifies, develops, implements, and funds ongoing philanthropic programs to improve the lives of children and adults. - Secondary Recipient: The Discovery Center for Science and Technology, an educational nonprofit that provides hands-on-science programs at schools and local community venues. Other individual honors announced during the Festival included: - Matilde “Mati Sanchez, 5th honorary madrina of the year award - Gerardo “Jerry” Ascencio, master of ceremony - Dr. Manuel M. Lopez, special recognition as Oxnard Harbor Commissioner and former Oxnard Councilmember and Mayor

As part of the day’s festivities, music was provided by the Trio Los Principles, the Ballet Folklorico Mestizo under the direction of Matilde “Mati” Sanchez, and Estefani Lopez, otherwise known as “Mariachi Girl,” accompanied by the Oxnard Mariachi Águilas.

To highlight the rebozo, a fashion show was hosted by the Señoritas del Rebozo and chaired by Madrinas Yolanda P. Lopez and Nallely Miranda. The participants included Claudia Guerrero, Sofia Paz, Valeria Galvan, Karla De La Cerda, Lenica Corona, and Cynthia Alvarez.

The winner of the show, Karla De La Cerda, is graduating from Oxnard College with a degree in Culinary Arts. She plans to attend California Polytechnic University in Pomona and to eventually own her own restaurant.

Karla comes from a family of cooks who migrated from Jalisco. Her father owns the Taqueria Caporales restaurant on Hueneme Road in Oxnard. She is excited to move on with her studies. “I’m ready,” she said. “It’s a big move. I’m the first person in my family to go to university. It’s kind of nerve wracking because I’m just graduating from college, but university is a whole other step.”

Her hobbies include going to the beach, traveling, animals, and of course, cooking. She considers herself a top-notch baker.

Karla received a $1,000 scholarship from the Rebozo Festival, which was matched by the Oxnard College Foundation, for a total of $2,000.

“I am very, very happy because that money is definitely going to help for when I go to Cal Poly,” she stated.

For Festival founder Irma Lopez, the Rebozo Festival is her chance to make a difference in her community. Originally, from Camarillo, she attended St. Mary Magdalen School at the chapel that Adolfo Camarillo helped to build. She is excited to have the festival connected to his legacy as a benefactor in the local community.

“I feel that he’s up there in spirit,” she acknowledged, “looking down and seeing that we’re sharing the traditions of his heritage. I think he’s very happy.”