Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley

A community-driven exhibition that preserves and uplifts stories of Filipino migration and labor in Watsonville and the greater Pajaro Valley of Central California.

Artboard 1

April 12–August 4, 2024

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Solari Gallery
2nd Floor

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Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley explores Filipino labor and migration to the Pajaro Valley from the 1930s to the present. The exhibition brings together oral history, archival materials, and contemporary works of art to feature multidimensional narratives across four themes: labor, gender, conflict, and memory. Sowing Seeds celebrates the perseverance of a Filipino American community to transform the Pajaro Valley into a home in the face of racism and exclusion.

The migration of Filipinos to the United States occurred at the dawn of U.S. colonization of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. The U.S. government appealed to Filipino farmers to travel to the U.S. and fill low-wage agricultural jobs. Roughly 100,000 Filipino men and women traveled across the Pacific to labor in fields. This generation of migrants is known as the manong and manang (“older brother” and “older sister”) generation. The Pajaro Valley was one major agricultural center where Filipinos worked and where some stayed.

Unfortunately, many of the manong and manang have long passed. Their stories live in the memories of their descendants. Sowing Seeds views these memories as key sites of historical and artistic research. By featuring family photographs, heirlooms, and recorded interviews, the exhibition highlights the stories that descendants seek to memorialize. Sowing Seeds also investigates how and what memories are remembered as a way to further explore diversity, difference, and multidimensionality. Eight California-based contemporary artists were invited to interpret these memories in order to visualize the social complexities of this Filipino American community.

The artists featured in Sowing Seeds include Minerva Amistoso, Binh Danh, Ant Lorenzo, Sandra Lucille, Johanna Poethig, Ruth Tabancay, Jenifer Wofford, and Connie Zheng.

The exhibition features archival materials from 17 family collections found on the Watsonville is in the Heart Digital Archive:

Alminiana Family, Ancheta Family, Asuncion Family, Bersamin Family, Bosque Family, Carillo Family, Cawaling Family, Deocampo Family, Fallorina Family, Florendo Family, Irao-de los Reyes and Ibao Family, Lopez Family, Mariano Family, Millares Family, Nabor Family, Recio Family, Reyes Family, Sales Family, Sulay Family, Tana and Tabios Family, and Tuzon Family.

The exhibition culminates a four-year research initiative between community members, UC Santa Cruz students, scholars, and curators called Watsonville is in the Heart (WIITH). WIITH collaborates with The Tobera Project, a grassroots organization based in Watsonville, CA. In 2020, Dioscoro “Roy” Recio Jr. initiated a partnership with UCSC to confront the unevenly documented history of Filipino Americans in the Pajaro Valley. With his leadership, the initiative has expanded to include several projects including oral history interviewing, digital archiving, and K-12 curriculum development.

Header images (from left): Two Manongs in front of a House, Collection of Millares Family; Reyes Brothers as Cowboys, c. 1953, Collection of Reyes Family; Aladina Cawaling Standing Around Flowers, c. 1960s, Collection of Cawaling Family.


Tony Callahan, 4th of July Filipino Women's Club Car, 1957, Photograph, 8" x 10", Collection of Sulay Family.

Sandra Lucille, Dear Watsonville, 2023, Video, Collection of Sandra Lucille.

Alice Wiggins, "The Beginning," c. 1942, Photograph, 3.5" x 5", Collection of Mariano Family.

Johanna Poethig, Manong Freddy, 2010, Handcasted Plate with Decals, 8.5" x 5", Collection of Johanna Poethig.

Asuncion Family Picnic at Sunset Beach, c. 1953-4, Photograph, 5" x 7", Collection of Asuncion Family.

Binh Danh, Manuel Bersamin, 2023, Daguerrotype Photograph, 12 3/4" x 10.5", Collection of Binh Danh.

Sowing Seeds is curated by Christina Ayson Plank with Meleia Simon-Reynolds, Dr. Kathleen Gutierrez, and Dr. Steve McKay in collaboration with The Tobera Project. The exhibition is organized by WIITH and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. Advisors for the exhibition includes:

  • Jasmine Alinder, Dean of Humanities, UCSC

  • Rick Baldoz, Associate Professor of American Studies, Brown University

  • Catherine Ceniza Choy, Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

  • Dan Fallorina, The Tobera Project Member

  • Anna Fallorina, The Tobera Project Member

  • Rudy Guevarra Jr., Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies, Arizona State University

  • Trisha Lagaso Goldberg, Artist and Independent Curator

  • Theodore Gonzalves, Curator of Asian Pacific American History, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

  • Rebecca Hernandez, Community Archivist, UCSC

  • Eva Alminiana Monroe, The Tobera Project Member

  • Dioscoro “Roy” Recio Jr., Founder of The Tobera Project

  • Jessica Rubenacker, Exhibit Director, Wing Luke Museum

  • Analyn Salvador-Amores, Professor of Anthropology, University of the Philippines, Baguio

  • Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Dean of the Arts, Distinguished Professor, Film & Digital Media, UCSC

  • Modesto Tuzon, The Tobera Project Member

  • Rita Tuzon, The Tobera Project Member

  • Juanita Sulay Wilson, The Tobera Project Member

  • Allen Wilson, The Tobera Project Member

  • Alice S. Yang, Associate Professor of History, UCSC

  • Antoinette DeOcampo-Lechtenberg

  • Maurice Carrillo

This exhibition is presented with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities, UCSC The Humanities Institute, UCSC Arts Research Institute, UCSC Arts Division, UCSC Office of Research, UCSC Division of Social Sciences, UCSC Center for Labor and Community, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, UCSC Committee on Research, Society of Hellman Fellows, and Rebecca Hernandez of the Rise Together Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. The exhibition is made possible with the generous contributions of Cristana DeGuzman, Greg Reyes, and George Ow, Jr.

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