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May 30, 2023

Juan Carlos Pozo: Watsonville’s fortitude

I am a teacher in Watsonville, California, a community forged in the frost of adversity and the fire of its fortitude. I find joy in my work and dedicate myself to it, not just because of my vocation or love for art—although both are arteries of my system—but because it’s here that I’ve grown in my love of truth and serenity of the heart, a vital process in the building of personal happiness. 

And what made me prefer life as an ascetic to one indifferent to bills? 

As the great Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset once said, “I am me and my circumstance, and if I don’t save her, I don’t save myself.” For me, the students are the surrounding reality, the environment that provides the climate for the orchard of the soul to continue bearing fruit. They are half of me, and the other half is myself. I’ve heard echoes of this sentiment during my years of teaching three generations of students. Colleagues have asked me, “Why don’t you go to a district where they can pay you more?” But how could I abandon this garden, where the flowers thrive and the land is fertile? Why change the pace of the world if the universe knows what it’s doing and at what speed? 

Genius, existentialist, you predicted me, sorcerer! You already had my story ready.

My colleagues, likewise, are oaks that follow the same laws of synchronicity and gravitation between them and their circumstances. They are trees from the same orchard with long branches to embrace, noble shade to offer, and solid roots to continue producing fruit. From our vantage point, we see the school calendar cross our valley like a river, constantly bringing us new waters that refresh us and make us temporarily forget about the insidious and damning salary clot. Ah, the great paradox of being a teacher: there’s no salary that pays for what we do, and what we do just doesn’t give us a salary to live. While those on the floor above ask for and receive new transfusions of money immediately, our requests are just sleeping soundly the dream of the just. 

Watsonville is a mecca for strawberries, Chihuahua dogs and school soccer. It’s located in a blessed geography with an unbeatable climate, sea, and country breezes, and abundant food. It is relatively calm and it doesn’t allow for unchecked growth. To continue urbanization, the city would have to grow upward, but fortunately, that hasn’t been accepted. People know the place they live in and don’t let go of their homes. Grandfathers bought those homes with sun, cracks, and sweat, and their sons returned to take care of them. And now, the grandsons who care for both of them at home, sit at the same desk in the classroom. 

Watsonville, baron of sanctuaries, sprouts good people who respect the dignity of others, even as they have had to defend their own with humility or fierce determination. They work hard because they see that they can make it here. They work all day and a little more; they do their job well and honestly, and they’ve been paying taxes for 30 years without even visiting a doctor. Several generations of examples and rich customs come together in a single essay, in a brief oral presentation: from the field to the village, from the village to the asphalt, from asphalt to war, from war to the ground, and from the ground to the classroom. These are spiritual people who carry faith in a divine light, which offers peace and love.

This is my environment, the stage where I stand every week and leave every day with an idea lighting up my mind and a smile reborn in my desire. This is the joy of life, the nuances it gives us, and the impetus with which we enjoy them, despite that bloody clot of stagnating wages. 

I am a Watsonville teacher, not only out of vocation or art but because it’s only here, with my other half, that I am truly whole.

Juan Carlos Pozo is a teacher in Watsonville. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.


  1. We appreciate you teaching our youth Juan, and also have a love of living here. My dad’s family came to Santa Cruz County in 1856 and my mother’s family came to Watsonville in 1920. I will never leave. It’s heaven to me. All my family was educated in Watsonville schools and then California colleges (Berkeley, USF, and Stanford along with Cabrillo). We need our youth educated so they can also advance in our society. Keep up the good work.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words. You are right. Watsonville is a very special and unique place. We are really fortunate not only to live here, but also for being able to contribute enriching the culture of the community.

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  2. Thank you for teaching my second period class Mr. Pozo, I respect your hard work. I have major respect for my grandfather and I agree that he built the foundation for my life with his hard work and sweat in the fields. The same goes with my parents, who are always there for me. I am fortunate enough to be able to grow up in this beautiful town. Thank you again for your hard work as a teacher.

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    • Thanks a lot Jose. I dont know exactly what second period you are referring to, but I am sure it was a pleasure to teach them.
      Un cordial saludo.

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