In California, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties are home to the largest population of Oaxaqueños outside of Mexico. The population surge of the Oaxacan community began during the Bracero Program in 1942,

which permitted millions of Mexicans to work legally in the United States on short-term labor contracts. This continued in 1994 due to the Mexican Peso Devaluation and the establishment of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

​​Oaxacan cuisine is tied to Indigenous culinary traditions in Oaxaca, notably from Zapotec and Mixtec communities. Oaxaca is the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s thirty-one states: there are over 16 different Indigenous communities within Oaxaca’s 7 regions, each with unique languages, customs, and ancestral traditions. 

Before the popularization of the Oaxacan cuisine in California, there was limited access to traditional ingredients including insects such as chapulines (grasshoppers), escamoles (ant eggs), chicatanas (ants) and gusanos (maguey worms). In 1994, however, the opening of La Feria de los Moles and the Guelaguetza Festival in Los Angeles increased the visibility of Oaxacan cuisine in California.
Soon, Oaxacan ingredients filled the LA market, completely transforming the local Mexican dining scene. Through food, the diaspora community in California reconnected with their cultural roots: Oaxacalifornia was born.

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