Enrique Ayala is a lifelong Oak Cliff resident, and he represents his ’hood everywhere he goes. Sometimes that’s North Dallas; sometimes it’s Machu Picchu. The 34-year-old is a backpacker who has traveled all over South America, and he wanted a way to show off his hometown wherever he went. So last year, his girlfriend’s mom helped him make an Oak Cliff flag. They borrowed the design from the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce logo, and they used white and green to symbolize peace. Ayala and his girlfriend, 26-year-old Christina Lomeli, took the flag with them on a trip to Colombia, Peru and Bolivia in January, and to Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, in April.
Backpackers traditionally collect patches from the places they visit and sew them onto their packs. Ayala used to do that, but he found that once the backpack wears out, the patch is wasted. That’s why the lower half of his flag is reserved for patches. Ayala and Lomeli have spent time in La Paz, for example, but they enjoy getting to know people in small towns and traveling to less-than touristy destinations, such as the Yungas Road in Bolivia. Formerly known as “the death road” because so many buses plunged off the mountain, it’s no longer open to vehicles. “Some places we go are so cool and interesting, but they’re so small, they don’t even have patches,” Ayala says. His goal is to travel to every country in South America, then hit the road in Asia and Australia. Once the flag fills up with patches, he plans to retire it and make a new one, always representing Oak Cliff. “The thing about Enrique,” Lomeli says, “he really loves Oak Cliff, and he really gets involved in the neighborhood. He can walk down the street and see people he knows.”