Castro Valley Culture and Identity: Isabel Duenas

In this short piece, outgoing CV Today intern Isabel Duenas reflects on the early history of Castro Valley and its connection to her own culture.


Castro Valley, once home to chicken ranches and a few stores with people of Portuguese and German descent in the early 1900s, is now a bedroom community, the second largest unincorporated area in California with over 60,000 people. Castro Valley today is filled with people of all different backgrounds. It is a place where people can express their culture and identity within the community.

The Ohlone (or Coastanoan) Indians were the first people to occupy Castro Valley. Then came Don Guillermo Castro, a Mexican soldier and rancher who acquired a land grant of 28,000 acres that included areas of Castro Valley, Hayward and San Lorenzo. With a Mexican heritage, I have always felt I had a connection to the area and its Spanish street names. Being born and raised in Castro Valley, I have seen Castro Valley develop as I grew up.

In elementary school, I was one of the few minorities in my class. However, I always felt like I was a part of Castro Valley as a community. Castro Valley is a town where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everything. I’ve seen many different retail stores and restaurants come and go.

Even though Castro Valley is small, its community is enriched with many different cultures and backgrounds, and Castro Valley’s cuisine reflects that richness. This is one of the many ways that people connect their culture and identity to Castro Valley as well as a great way for people to express and share their culture with others. Growing up in Castro Valley, I have learned more about Asian cultures through my eating experiences in Castro Valley, including copious ways to eat Asian food according to different cultures and traditions.

I am among those students who have connected to my culture and to others while at CVHS through clubs and other experiences in the classroom. Castro Valley is filled with many different landscapes for people to connect, and its different restaurants and cuisines offer many opportunities.