PROUD HISTORY Participants of the second annual Watsonville Pride march into the City Plaza in 2009. —file photo by Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Every August for the past five years, Watsonville organization Pajaro Valley Pride (PVP) has held an event to show support for and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in South Santa Cruz County.

But due to Covid-19, the annual march and celebration were canceled, sending organizers back to the drawing board. They began working with other groups across Monterey Bay and eventually settled on having a virtual event.

Connected in Pride brings together PVP, Salinas Valley Pride (SVP), Monterey Peninsula Pride, Rainbow Speakers and Friends, Queers and Allies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), the Epicenter of Monterey, two groups from CSUMB and more this Saturday for an online celebration.

“We are really excited,” said Eric Mora, Board Secretary at SVP and graduate student at MIIS. “It’s been so interesting working together… There is so much diversity in our organizations. We all had different perspectives.”

PVP President Jorge Guillen had similar thoughts.

“Having multiple organizations participate has really helped manage our time and effort,” Guillen said. “We made it work by figuring out how to work together.”

The three-hour Connected in Pride event will begin at noon with introductions and a drag performance, but Guillen said the bulk of the event will be geared toward community engagement. 

The Watsonville Film Festival will present a Q&A with the filmmakers of “Libertad,” which the organization is now offering free to watch through its virtual program. A screening of the award-winning film “Tangerine” will also be held, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History will host a virtual tour of its Queer Santa Cruz exhibit. 

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Guillen said that it was important for PVP to be involved, not only because of the ongoing pandemic but also the mounting racial tensions and protests throughout the country.

“Pride began as a protest, pushing back against systems of oppression,” he said. “We want to remind people that we’re here to support anyone who is marginalized… To keep that activism alive in our community.”

The history of Pride celebrations in Watsonville is a rather recent one. While Santa Cruz has been holding marches and events since the 1970s, South County hadn’t had its own until 2008.

PVP Marketing Coordinator Danielle Elizalde was on the planning committee for the very first Watsonville Pride, which was founded by local organization Somos LGBT. Elizalde and her friends heard about a meeting taking place to organize the event, and were eager to help out.

“I hadn’t seen anything like it in Watsonville,” Elizalde said. “There was an amazing turnout… It was overwhelming to be part of something that huge. It really felt like I was taking part in history.”

PVP was eventually formed after Watsonville Pride participants decided they wanted to take things in a new direction. They held their first march and celebration in 2016. Last year, the event moved from downtown Watsonville to the YWCA.

While Connected in Pride will be a completely different sort of event, Elizalde said she is excited to participate.

“It’s a new way that Pajaro Valley Pride is showing up for the community, and maybe something we can keep doing in the future,” she said.

Organizers acknowledge that while a virtual event can reach and connect many people, there are some downsides.

“There are young people out there… who might not be in an accepting environment, who share a computer with family. Logging in would be challenging,” Mora said. “We are trying to be mindful of that… looking for alternatives so that all can participate.” 

Mora added that everyone—including friends, families and other allies—is more than welcome to attend.

“Pride celebrations are for everyone,” he said. “They are great ways to learn, to show support and to expand your own humanity.”

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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, nonprofits and agriculture.


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