Our concern in the next three chapters is to relate the general elements of a vulnerability framework as outlined in Chapter 2 with the localized effects of the earthquake in selected communities. The interest is in contextualizing vulnerable conditions and identifying some of the mechanisms by which these conditions create greater risks for certain households on the one hand, or limit their access to recovery resources on the other. Here we begin to explore the utility of a vulnerability framework in understanding local factors associated with resources, risks, and social protection in the four research communities. Understanding the production of vulnerability within a local context requires an examination of the root causes of vulnerability in historical and geographical factors that create unsafe conditions and insecure populations (Blaikie et al. 1994). This context-focused discussion of vulnerability issues, in turn, provides the background for discussion of methodology and data sources used in the research.
Despite Ventura County’s ongoing transformations into a peripheral high technology sector and low density bedroom communities for Los Angeles (Scott 1996), its historic development and current ethnic composition has been closely tied to agricultural production. Cattle ranching was introduced by colonizing Spanish missionaries with the establishment Mission San Buenaventura (now the city of Ventura) in 1782. By the 1860s, Ventura County experienced an influx of European merchants, Chinese workers, oil speculators, railroad investors, and farmers, who collectively overwhelmed the small, rural populations of Spanish and Mexican merchants and ranchers. Ethnic differences, land disputes, transformation of the agricultural environment, and establishment of new communities set the stage for the growth and development of the four communities examined here by early in the twentieth century.