Docuseries The Women on the Mother Road features San Bernardino’s iconic Mitla Cafe

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Photo courtesy of the Mitla Cafe and Historian Mark Ocegueda: Founder Lucia Rodriguez in front of the Mitla Cafe with her daughters on Route 66 in San Bernardino, CA.

A three-part docuseries coined The Women on the Mother Road is airing on American public television and features San Bernardino’s iconic Mitla Cafe, which is located along the historic Route 66.

The Mother Road, known as Route 66, was paved in 1926 to connect struggling economic cities with larger cities to help sell goods and barter. 

“Back in the late 1920s, when Route 66 was started, women were discouraged from going to school and typically only attained an eighth-grade education. As a result, women were limited in areas of politics and public life. But Route 66 provided women with an economic opportunity that they never had before, as it helped them earn money and become financially independent,” said Katrina Parks, director of The Women on the Mother Road. 

After the Great Depression, which ended in 1939, women lobbied for good roads across the U.S.

Film Director Katrina Parks, Dr. Denise Sandoval of California State University Northridge, film producer and historian Dr Mark Ocegueda of Brown University with his daughter Olivia and Monse Segura at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Route 66 was the result, which begins in Chicago, Illinois and ends at the Santa Monica Pier. It spans 2,400 miles and truly helped San Bernardino’s beloved Mitla Cafe capitalize on vehicle traffic, as Route 66 starts as Cajon Blvd., before becoming Mt. Vernon Ave.

“In my docuseries, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitla Cafe Owners Patty and Rochelle Oquendo, who shared how the restaurant’s founder Lucia Rodriguez was a trailblazer in operating an all-female operated business on Route 66,” said Parks. 

Lucia started the restaurant in the 1930s and hired her daughters to help run the business while her husband worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. 

“Lucia, the matriarch of her family, pulled all her teenage daughters into helping her run their new family business. She was strict, but her efforts paid off, and the business flourished. In the 1950s, Glen Bell, who owned a hotdog stand across the street, took notice of Mitla Cafe’s success. It informed his next business venture, Taco Bell,” 

Today, Mitla Cafe is still inspired by Lucia’s legacy. The recipes they inherited are attributed to the ongoing success and heritage of the restaurant built at the cusp of Route 66. 

The Women on the Mother Road is now available for streaming online at route66women.com.