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May 17, 2021

‘Watsonville in the Heart’ continues to highlight Filipino history

WATSONVILLE—Last October, members of Watsonville’s Filipino community and other residents came together for a special “Community Call Out” at the Freedom Branch library.

Participants brought with them old photographs, newspaper clippings and other artifacts. Families told their stories and revealed their histories. 

Organizer Ray Recio said he was delighted with the turnout and that he hopes it signals more participation in the future. 

“We had professors from UCSC and Cabrillo, and people from as far away as Salinas and Santa Clara,” Recio said. “It seemed to bring people out of the woodwork.”

The Call Out was just the first step in a project called “Watsonville in the Heart,” inspired by Carlos Bulosan’s 1924 book “America is in the Heart” about the Asian-American working class.

Recio hopes that the ongoing project will help preserve the history of Filipino people in Watsonville, something he says is of vital importance.

“It should have been done a long time ago,” he said. “And if we don’t do it now… who will?”

In December Recio worked to create a 2020 calendar featuring the items and stories people brought to the October event. The calendars can now be purchased at Kelly’s Books, 1838 Main St.

The calendar items will then be on display at an exhibit opening at the Watsonville Public Library on Feb. 1. The exhibit will also touch upon important historical events, including the riots of January 1930, when a young Filipino-American man named Fermin Tobera was shot to death on San Juan Road.

“There are no Filipino markers to signify us and our history [in Watsonville],” Recio said. “I wish we could do more. We need a mural. There needs to be a statue of Tobera, or a street named after him.”

“Watsonville in the Heart” will continue with a film screening on March 28. “A Dollar a Day, A Dime a Dance,” a short documentary about the history of the Filipino farmworkers in the Monterey Bay Area, will be shown.

“We are part of the fabric of American history,” Recio said. “This is to show that importance… to shed a light on how crucial it is to remember who we are. This is all from the heart.”


“Watsonville in the Heart” calendars can be purchased at Kelly’s Books or by contacting Recio at [email protected] Proceeds will support ongoing projects and events.

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business and agriculture.


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