Watsonville digital archive honors 1st Filipino immigrants in California

California Watsonville digital  1st Filipino immigrants
Filipino immigrants in the first exhibit of the “Watsonville is in the Heart” digital archive, More than their Labor: Sites of Manong Leisure in the Pajaro Valley. Credits to Christina Ayson Plank.

The Watsonville digital archive honoring the first Filipino immigrants in California’s Pajaro Valley has been unveiled in the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in the United States.

Dubbed “Watsonville is in the Heart”, the digital archive aims to preserve and uplift the stories of the “manong” generation (Ilokano/Tagalog for “older brother”), the first wave of Filipino migrant farmworkers and their families who arrived in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.

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The community archive features oral history recordings, original documents, photos, and family artifacts highlighting Filipino history in the city’s Pajaro Valley.

The new archive was publicly unveiled during a launch event held at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in California, U.S.A. on April 9, 2022.

The event hosted a talk story panel titled “Women of the Pajaro Valley,” highlighting three women community members who are at the forefront of the project: Juanita Sulay Wilson, Eva Alminiana Monroe, and Antoinette DeOcampo Lechtenberg.

The “Watsonville is in the Heart” initiative is led by Dioscoro “Roy” Respino Recio, Jr., the founder of the Watsonville community organization, The Tobera Project, in partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

The partnership is named after the novel “America is the Heart” by Filipino American immigrant poet and writer, Carlos Bulosan.

The Watsonville is in the Heart project team is composed of UCSC professors Dr. Kathleen “Kat” Cruz Gutierrez and Dr. Steve McKay, UCSC graduate students Christina Ayson Plank and Meleia Simon-Reynolds, many diverse undergraduate students, as well as community members Amanda Gamban and Olivia Sawi.

According to the UCSC, a K-12 ethnic studies curriculum will also be developed around the archive materials as the project continues to expand. The archive collection efforts will culminate in a 2024 exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

Filipino-American farm labor hero and activist Larry Itliong, who belonged to the “manong” generation, has been honored by the California Hall of Fame. A new park in California will also be named after the labor hero who served an instrumental role in the Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s.

Union City’s Alvarado Middle School was earlier renamed Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School to honor Filipino-American labor leaders Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to the team behind the “Watsonville is in the Heart” digital archive which honors the first Filipino immigrants in California’s Pajaro Valley in the United States.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.