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Faces of the Community

About the Project

In 2015, I had the opportunity to complete a documentary project, Faces of the Community, which engaged local members from Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) Parish in Ontario, CA. Through a series of personal one-on-one interviews, I was introduced to the diverse personalities and rich life experiences of individual members of the parish. The interviews concluded in a small graphite portrait of each individual which were displayed at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art and then again in 2016 at the Ontario Museum of History and Art in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of the city. This project was a collaboration between CCMA and the Ontario Museum of History and Art with funding by The Community Foundation. 

About the Book

In September 2015, the Ontario Museum of History & Art, Associates was awarded a second grant from The Community Foundation to publish the Faces of the Community project into a book. Many thanks and gratitude are extended to all who helped make this project possible. 

The Book Release celebration took place at the Ontario Museum of History and Art. All participants were given a framed reproduction of their portrait and autographed copies of the book to share with their families. View more photos...

Opening reception at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art on March 15, 2015. Portraits were displayed with participant's bios next to them, along with Spanish translations. The reception attracted 150 attendees, for many it was their first time visiting an art museum.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ontario, CA, where most interviews took place, located on the corner of Sultana Ave. and Nevada St. This parish attracts thousands of residents over the weekend. All worship services are offered in Spanish. 

Mary Helen Armijo

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Mary Helen was born in Dallas, Texas in 1930 and moved to California at the age of 16.  She was married a few months later and has since lived in the surrounding neighborhoods on California Street, Campus Avenue and Ralston. She devoted her service to the parish for over 30 years and was employed by the Diocese for 13 years working in the church office. She remembers when the church moved to its current location in 1948, and how she would bring the volunteer construction workers beers after a hard day at work. Mary Helen taught catechism for many years and remembers an occasion where a student ran out during the lecture. She chased after him and was able to catch him, keeping him in her class. Before working for the church, Mary Helen was a homemaker who volunteered at Euclid Elementary School in the cub scouts and baseball. When her children grew older, she enrolled in Richards Beauty College and graduated an award-winning student from the program. She eventually opened her own salon for several years called “Mar-tones Hair Fashions” on the corner of Holt and Laurel Street. Mary Helen is now fully retired and reminisces on her decades at the parish, the different priests she worked with and the church retreats where she chaperoned many children. Many people remember her fondly as a second mother. 

Carlos Paez

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Carlos Paez was born in Jalisco, Mexico and has been a resident of Ontario since 1984. He has been an active member of the parish for over thirty years. He enjoys every aspect of the church – serving the parish, connecting with other members and attending traditional festivities. He participates in the weekly masses as part of the group of Eucharist and is active in the prayer group held every Tuesday. In the 1980s, Carlos was the subject a documentary by a local reporter of the Daily Bulletin, where his life as an immigrant was captured on film. In 2000, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Carlos enjoys spending time with his family, living an active lifestyle through sports and exercise, and baking cakes with his teenage daughter.

Carmen Hernandez

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Carmen has lived in the Ontario area since the early age of 12 or 13 years. At the time the community was known as Guasti – an area covered by eight blocks of vineyards, on the modern day grounds of the Ontario Airport. Guasti was a small self-sustained agricultural community that included stores, houses, schools and churches for the migrant workers. Amongst many other memories, Carmen vividly recalls the discrimination towards immigrant students in school during the 1960s by other pupils (including first generation Hispanic Americans and Chicanos) and her fear of attending public school. She also remembers many other well-known aspects of the time such as the gangsters and car cruisers, the big beehive hairstyles, mini skirts and hot pants that were in fashion. After her husband passed away in 1999, Carmen searched for deeper spiritual guidance and a way to cope with her grief by devoting her time and service to the church. She has been a member of the parish for over 50 years and is involved in various volunteer groups. She enjoys taking painting classes at the Armstrong Community Center and shares her talents with the parish by painting designs on the drapes in the temple. 

Sergio Pedroza

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Sergio Pedroza was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and came to the U.S. as a young adult in pursuit of the American Dream. He resided in the San Gabriel Valley before moving to Ontario in 1989, in search of a safer neighborhood and better schools for his daughters. His wife was employed by the Diocese and was an active volunteer at the parish for many years. When she passed away he decided to continue her legacy by giving back to the community through volunteer services. Sergio coordinates weekly rehearsals for weekend ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms, and communions. He is active as a lector, is involved in the weekly prayer group, and in the Ministry of Eucharist. In the past he assembled a group for social activism and arranged for attorneys to offer legal counsel on immigration reform. His group succeeded in creating open dialogues and town hall meetings with the local law enforcement. He hopes to find the resources and man power to revive this group again. Sergio acknowledges the significant impact the church has on the lives of its members - instilling good morals, values, and confidence in the youth, to create good citizens that will contribute to the community at large.  

Maria Guadalupe Gamboa

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Maria Guadalupe was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated to California 25 years ago.  She lived in Baldwin Park for a few years before getting married and settling in Ontario. She is a proud mother devoted to her daughter and son. Guadalupe takes pleasure decorating interiors and homes. She has been a member of the parish for 10 years, when she first enrolled her children to take communion classes. Guadalupe spends countless hours seeking spiritual guidance, serving the parish in volunteer groups, and coordinating the monthly food drives for others in need. She enjoys meeting new people and learning from others. Amongst other siblings, Guadalupe has a twin brother who currently lives in Mexico.

Anahi Gamboa

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Anahi works as an office assistant at the church office. She has lived in Ontario and has been a member of the church her entire life. She is a full-time student at the University of La Verne where she studies in the Radio and Broadcasting program. Anahi is active in the parish as a lector and serves as the youth group coordinator, organizing the weekly meetings for teenagers. Her job at the church has allowed her to develop positive relationships and gain mentorship from her co-workers and the priests. She treasures the sense of community, friendliness, and the welcoming environment the church provides. In her spare time she enjoys going to the movies and trying out new restaurants with her best friend.

Alma Magallanes

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Alma Delia Magallanes Lopez grew up in Ontario, CA attending Our Lady of Guadalupe parish with her family since she can remember. She has been employed as the church secretary for the last 6 years - a profession she finds challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Working at the church office allows her social personality to help others as she takes pleasure organizing numerous events for the parish. Outside of the office, Alma is heavily involved in many church activities. In her free time she keeps busy by attending the weekly services, participating in the church choir, playing in the church soccer tournaments, and spending time with her 7-year-old son, Israel Gamino. She enjoys practicing her Catholic faith and sharing her spiritual gifts with others.

Father Pavol

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Father Pavol was born in the former Czechoslovakia during the communist reign. In his youth, while serving as an altar boy and lector, he found a strong spiritual connection to the church and an escape to the communist opposition. He studied the formation of the priesthood in Germany, where he lived for nine years. After his first year of priesthood, he spent eight years deep in the jungles of Columbia during the civil war, protecting and preserving the lifestyles of the natives. While living with the natives he had the opportunityto experience a different culture, different spiritual and religious ceremonies, and arts. After living in Columbia, Father Pavol relocated to another parish in San Bernardino, California where he lived and served as a priest for two years before arriving in Ontario. He has served this parish for the last 4½ years and enjoys living in this community, as it gives him the opportunity to meet a variety of interesting people with unique personalities. Father Pavol relaxes by playing soccer, skiing, and reading, and is an avid art enthusiast who appreciates going to museums. 

Juan Reza

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Juan was born in Guerrero, Mexico and traveled to the United States in the 1980s looking for better employment opportunities. He spent several years working in Chicago where he met Leonila, and were married in 1982. In 1986 after attaining Amnesty, he brought his wife and son to Ontario, CA. Juan reminisces on his life experiences - from picking strawberries and oranges in the fields, working in a plastics factory, and other manufacturing jobs in other states including Florida and Wisconsin. He is proud of his accomplishments and remembers his humble beginning – a small farm boy who grew up poor, worked seven days a week to get ahead, and attain a share of the American Dream. He has been a church parishioner since 1989, where he instantly felt welcomed and at home by the same religious traditions practiced in the churches of Mexico. 

Leonila Reza

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Leonlia was born in Guerrero, Mexico and grew up in the town of Dolores. While working at a plastics factory in Chicago, she met Juan, and they married in 1982. She returned to live in Mexico for a few years while her husband worked in California. After her husband attained Amnesty she moved permanently to Ontario, California with her infant son. In 1990 her second son was born. Leonila maintained her Catholic tradition and baptized both of her sons at this church. She has felt at home since the first day she attended services in 1989, and appreciates that sermons are offered in Spanish. When she is not busy working, she enjoys spending time with her grandsons and attending the sacred events at the church. 

Cesar Martinez

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Cesar was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and immigrated to the Unites States when he was 11 years old. When his family was traveling to California they were involved in a tragic car accident that resulted in the deaths of his dad and brother. Since an early age Cesar felt the need to work very hard to support his family. He graduated from high school in 3.5 years and was accepted into the Social Work program at San Jose State University, where he received his BA. In 2000 Cesar became a naturalized citizen and obtained his Masters degree in 2002. During grad school Cesar met this wife, who had grown up in Ontario and they decided to make it their home when she received a job offer. After arriving in this community, Cesar and his wife searched for an opportunity to offer their time and volunteer service to others. Ultimately they found themselves at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, were they have been helping for the last 10 years. Cesar works as an Attendance Counselor at a high school in Los Angeles, a profession that allows him to help and council the youth. At the parish he has taught First Communion and Confirmation classes. He emphasizes the importance of community involvement in his students and enjoys the new ideas and energy they bring.

Celio Ruvalcaba

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Celio was born a premature baby in Jalisco, Mexico, a condition doctors thought would hinder his developmental abilities. When he was 8 years old his family moved to Ontario, California where he has lived for the past 25 years. Celio has grown up in this parish with his volunteer service beginning at the age of 16. His father passed away when he was young, causing him to become depressed and socially withdrawn. By joining the prayer group, Celio was able to open up and develop more interaction with others. He attended Chaffey College and then transferred to Cal Poly Pomona pursuing a degree in Landscape Architecture. As a university student, he faced an uphill battle, as he juggled the demands of school and working long hours to support his family financially. Ultimately he preserved and accomplished his goal of getting a Bachelors degree. Celio volunteers at the parish by serving in the church council. He also volunteers at the Archdioceses in Los Angeles - teaching bible study, Catholic philosophyand the doctrines. In his free time, when he is not taking care of his mother, he enjoys being in the outdoors - camping, hiking and playing sports. Celio aspires to return to school to study theology, which he feels is his true calling.

Laura Salazar

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Laura was born and raised in Ontario and remembers growing up in this parish where her family brought her as a young child. After she graduated from Chaffey High School she began volunteering at St. George, as a catechist and was eventually offered a job as church secretary at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. She has been employed at the parish for the last 5 years where she is in charge of the administrative operations for the office. Laura has many positive memories of the parish, but the most profound impact was her religious education and she loves running into former peers from her classes. She is a dedicated mother to her two children and is excited to welcome her third child she is expecting.

Catalina Santos

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015. 

Catalina was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and came to the United States at the age of 15. Since her arrival, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been her home. She has played soccer in the church league for nine years, practicing every Wednesday at Anthony Munoz Park. For the last four years she has devoted her time and service to the church helping in all ways possible – from cleaning, assisting with building maintenance, decorating, arranging the altars and anything else she can offer. Outside of this parish, she also volunteers at the popular annual fiestas of San Lorenzo in San Fernando/North Hollywood. Catalina studies Business Management at Mt. San Antonio College and strives to be a good role model forher daughter, Joelina.

Rosa Magallanes

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Rosa left her hometown of Jalisco, Mexico in 1980 to come to California. She spent her first few months living in Redlands, and then moved to Ontario looking for work. She has been a member of the parish since 1980 when she was drawn in by the Spanish worship services. Rosa worked for many years at a shoe warehouse and at the Hershey company packing chocolates. She is currently involved in the prayer group and enjoys visiting the sick in their homes, offering comfort. In the last four years she has sang in one of the choir groups, where she was sent to take vocal lessons at a church in Hollywood for a year. Rosa enjoys the environment at Our Lady of Guadalupe, as it follows many of the traditions of the churches in Mexico. She especially loves the large courtyard where one can sit and congregate with friends after the services. She enjoys having coffee dates with other parishioners and the priests. 

Patricia Macias

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Patricia was born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico and moved to Los Angeles in 1975 where she lived for nine years. In 1986, she bought a house in Pomona, which she later sold, and moved to Ontario in 1991. Patricia is the coordinator for the Rosary group held every day at 3:00 PM. She has been a member of the parish for many years and has developed good friendships with all the priests. She also coordinates an Emotional Anonymous support group, led by a trained psychiatrist to help people cope with their emotions through the 12-step program. She hosts weekly movie nights at her home, where parishioners watch films based on real life challenges. Patricia is looking for the opportunity to start a women’s mentoring group, so she can help abused and mistreated women value their self-worth, and instill confidence. After she retires from her profession as a licensed Real Estate agent, she hopes to open a restaurant so others can enjoy her cooking and family recipes.

Martha Guzman

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Martha has been attending Our Lady of Guadalupe parish since she enrolled her son in youth classes 25 years ago. Her volunteer service for the Catholic Church began many decades ago when she lived in her hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. She is involved in the Eucharist group, has devoted time to visit the sick, and enjoys decorating the church for special events. She attends the masses regularly and can be found almost every day the church. Martha enjoys the traditional pueblo feel of this parish, the warm environment, and socializing with others. Her service at the church has given her great fulfillment. 

Carmen Cortez

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Carmen was born in Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico and lived in Tijuana for 11 years before moving to California. In 1960, she arrived in Ontario to live with her parents on Park Street. In 1973, she became involved in the parish starting as a lector, eventually joining the church choir where she sings every Sunday since 1975. One day when Carmen was enrolling her son in school, she saw another family struggling with the language barrier while trying to communicate with the office staff. She stepped in to help, and the person at the front office gave her an application for a job at the school. Carmen applied and was immediately hired by the Ontario-Montclair School District, where she has worked for the last 33 years as an instructional aide. Since 1975, Carmen sings with her husband and a friend in their group “El Romantico Trio Fantasia” at private events, weddings, and parties. Recently she has started learning to paint landscape paintings. Carmen is looking forward to a retirement where she can pursue painting, singing and traveling. 

Max Zavala

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Maximilano Zavala was born in Jalisco, Mexico where he worked as a farmer in a rural community. He began working in construction at the age of 20, and would eventually make frequent trips to work in California as a seasonal migrant worker. His volunteer service to the church began in Mexico, where served at a parish in San Julian, Jalisco. In 1992 after twenty years of traveling back and forth, he brought his family to live with him in California. He spent 5 years as a Eucharist in Los Angeles before arriving at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Max serves as a Catechist, coordinator of the weekly prayer group, and on the pastoral council, helping plan events for the church. He is also involved in the theatre group that performs during religious events. He enjoys working with the community and helping people he meets with his faith. After working 13 years for a construction company, he retired and runs his own contractor business.

Efren Diaz

5x7" Graphite on Bristol. 2015

Efren Diaz was born in Michoacan, Mexico and moved to Corona, California with his family at the age of 15. He lived there for six years before moving to Ontario in 1988.  Efren has been a member of the parish for 10 years, and became heavily involved 7 years ago. He leads the weekly prayer group, which has a regular following of over 90 participants. He also teaches classes for the parents while their children attend catechism on Fridays and Saturdays. Efren currently works for a landscaping company and devotes all his free time to serving the parish. He is grateful for the guidance and support the priests provide, and their attentiveness to the community’s needs. His involvement in the parish has allowed him to meet many interesting people, organize social gatherings and festivities, and become a better person. He aspires to become a deacon and assist the priests.

Thank you to all who helped make this project a success.


Many thanks are extended to the staff and volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Chaffey Community Museum of Art, Ontario Museum of History and Art staff, volunteers and Director John Worden, the volunteers at the Ontario Museum of History and Art Associates, Rudy Ontiveros and Solly Daza of the Ovitt Family Community Library, (for their Spanish language translations). And a very special thank you to all the project participants for their time and stories.

Ontario Museum of History & Art

Ontario Museum of History & Art enhances knowledge and understanding of our community through dynamic and vibrant experiences. More...

Chaffey Community Museum of Art

Community art gallery started in 1941 displaying contemporary pieces by regional artists. More...

The Community Foundation

Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy

The Community Foundation is a nonprofit charity serving the people of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties through grants and scholarships. More info.

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