Behind Every Woman

By Maylyne Togafau |Staff Writer|

The 2,400-mile-long Route 66, coined the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck, has an even longer history that circumvents the contribution and impact of women.

On Wednesday, April 26, the history department invited project director Katrina Parks and historian Mark Ocegueda to present a short lecture and several films on Parks’ upcoming documentary, The Women on the Mother Road.

Cherstin Lyon, history department coordinator, expressed her excitement for the event because of the relevance and importance of the route to San Bernardino since it could be beneficial to the students and community.

The documentary reveals untold stories from families and relatives about how the contributions of matriarchal figures during the boom of Route 66 shaped the following generations.

These women of Route 66 were not just caretakers; they were archeologists, teachers, travelers, advocates and even entrepreneurs.

Mitla Café, Inland Empire’s oldest Mexican restaurant, founded by Lucia Rodriguez in 1937, celebrates their 80th Anniversary of operation this year.

Notorious for continuing the traditional Mexican atmosphere and original recipes, Mitla Café is famous for their classic homemade hard-shell tacos.

However, fewer people know that Mitla Café inspired more than just loyal customers; they arguably inspired the multimillion-dollar company, Taco Bell.

Mitla Café had waves of traffic flowing through its business, and since many route travelers were seeking opportunity, there was rising competition surrounding the fast food market.

Across the street from Mitla’s, Bell’s Burgers and Hot Dogs Owner, Glen Bell, reportedly walked into the café and asked Lucia’s then husband to show him how the infamous tacos were made.

A few years later in Irvine, California, the first Taco Bell establishment opened.

Even the famous song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” written by Bobby Troupe—and later adapted by Nat King Cole—was birthed from the mind of his first wife Cynthia Hare.

Although the short films initially seemed to have little correlation besides the route itself, the project brought to life the history of the everyday hero.

For student Sara Ledesme, the route strikes a chord “because my grandparents were migrant workers, and this was my family’s source of income that was a steppingstone for progress in this nation.”

Ledesme shares how Parks’ efforts in collecting the information along the route have inspired her to do similar research in her own family’s history along the route.

According to Parks, an important contributing factor to the success of the documentary is the hope that it will inspire others to desire to unearth the vast history of stories and perspectives untold.

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