“Watsonville is in the Heart”


Saturday, November 23, 2013

How many people exhibited objects?


How many people came but did not bring objects?



Santa Cruz MAH

Geoffrey Dunn

Watsonville Public Library

Posted by Pop Up Museum Intern Lauren Benetua

What was it about?

The Pajaro Valley has served as an agricultural engine in Santa Cruz County for more than two centuries. This history includes California Indians and Mexican vaqueros, Irish wheat farmers and Chinese strawberry growers, Danish, Italian and  African American vegetable growers, Croatian orchardists and Spanish beet pickers, Portuguese grain farmers and Italian and Japanese truck farmers, Filipino lettuce pickers and Dust Bowl “fruit tramps,”braceros from Jalisco and high-school apricot cutters, lechugeros from Michoacan and mushroom packers from Oaxaca, women shed and cannery workers from around the world, and newly arriving immigrants in the fields from Chiapas, Central America, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

How did it go?

This pop up museum was the last of our "Santa Cruz is in the Heart" series with local historian Geoffrey Dunn.  And just like the former, it surfaced powerful stories:

Geoffrey Dunn has mentioned freely that his social and documentarian approach to Santa Cruz local history has been largely impacted by Filipino American author, Carlos Bulosan who wrote the prolific book, America is in the Heart.  While an in-depth analysis of this book is not appropriate here, it is important to contextualize the main theme that for Filipino immigrants to the United States, the promise of what "America" offers (freedom, bounty, and opportunity) is vastly separate from the harsh realities of migrant workers (racism, oppression, injustice and extreme marginalization).  Filipinos in America are known as the "invisible minority", and what is largely understated is the fact that this is applicable to so many other "minority" communities in the US, especially in Watsonville.

This pop up museum delivered raw piece of living history to its minority-majority community.  This event offered us what is not taught in California history common core classes.  At least, not until this year.  Filipino farm workers in California, and the rampant racism included, has remained ignored in history classes until just this October, 2013.  That history is one of multicultural history--the multi-ethnic and multi-generational developments that have occurred within California included.  Filipino families predominanted this event's attendance, and while the pop up museum did not have any objects or items on display, the stories that were shared transformed the space into an intimate, family history sort of exchange.

We screened Geoffrey Dunn's short documentary film, Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance, which interviewed Filipino manongs and members of their families, if they had family.  The term 'manong' is a Filipino honorific title given to a male who is older - a brother or uncle, for example.  In California in the early 1900s, the Filipino farm workers were mainly a bachelor society who were kept segregated from the rest of society.  Posters sporting the phrase "Positively no Filipinos Allowed" were plastered over establishment doors, and slurs like "Go Home Monkeys" were commonly heard.  Filipinos were degraded and referred to as "little brown brothers" --infantilized, unintelligible, and primitive.  Filipino-Americans in California and possibly the rest of the country now know the term 'manong' to reference this part of unspoken history.

As we watched the documentary, hearing a manong utter the words, "it hurt if you were not white-thinking" bespeaks the psychological and emotional warfare of oppression and racism that was experienced then, and even reflects the current postcolonial mindset of today.  Families and children of some of the manongs and manangs showed in the film were in attendance of this pop up museum, and spoke about navigating the complexities of being mestiza or mestizo.  Anti-miscegenation laws were not lifted until quite recently in our history, and the violence one could be exposed to just for being born to a mixed-race couple is considerable.  After the documentary ended, we gathered in a discussion of family histories, sharing memories and thanks.  While we would love to end with a feel-good conclusion to this pop up museum, it would be a disservice not to raise awareness that this event exposes a rich history that deserves more attention.

It makes us proud that the Santa Cruz MAH and the Watsonville Public Library can offer a hand in getting this history out there.  We are grateful that Geoffrey Dunn advocates the awareness towards the Filipino migrant community in Santa Cruz county. As we continue to pop up with different collaborators and raise conversation around various cultural histories, we hope to not only help facilitate our collaborator's stories, but also reach unpredictable audiences. Sometimes working with one group or collaborator can limit access to the pop up. We found most of the attendants to be Filipino. During our 3rd Friday event series at the MAH, we collaborate with diverse groups for the same event, providing a means for bridging community gaps and getting people together who might not ordinarily meet. Perhaps we can carry some of this philosophy to the pop up museum, and work with more than one collaborator to widen the participant pool.


Santa Cruz MAH

Watsonville Public Library

Watsonville Riots 1930s

Dollar a Day, Ten Cents A Dance