Watsonville is in the Heart


Watsonville is in the Heart (WIITH) is a community-driven public history initiative to preserve and uplift stories of Filipino migration and labor in the city of Watsonville and greater Pajaro Valley. In 2022, the WIITH team launched a new archive documenting the plight, struggles, vitality, and resilience of Filipino migrants who first settled in the Pajaro Valley in the early twentieth century. The archive features Filipino farm worker experiences and those of their families through oral history accounts, photos, personal records, and material culture objects.

In addition to the archive, WIITH has created high school-level Ethnic Studies lesson plans drawn from its original research. In 2024, the team will also debut a culminating art exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History that brings together the WIITH archive and the Bay Area and Central Coast artist communities.

View the Watsonville is in the Heart Digital Archive here:

Visit Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley at the MAH, April 12–August 4, 2024

Learn more about Watsonville is in the Heart at:

The project is spearheaded by Dioscoro Recio, Jr. (The Tobera Project) in partnership with UC Santa Cruz faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students: 

    • Co-PI’s:  Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez, Assistant Professor of History; Steve McKay, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Labor Studies
    • Doctoral Candidate Researchers:  Christina Ayson Plank (HAVC) and Meleia Simon-Reynolds (History)
    • Undergraduate Researchers: Julie Fintamag (Building Belonging/Koret), Jose Maciel (Cultivamos Exelencia), and Humanities Public Fellows — Ian Doyle (History), Maia Mislang (History), Janeth Pérez-Quirke (Literature and Education), Jacob Press (History), Sharan Sethi (Literature and History), 
    • THI Research Programs and Communications Manager, Saskia Nauenberg Dunkell

Organizational Partners: Watsonville Public Library, Asian Cultural Experience

This project has received support from The Humanities Institute, the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, the Ow Family Foundation, the Filipino Community Center of Watsonville, California Humanities, the UCSC Committee on Research New Faculty Research Grant, UC Humanities Research Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, UCSC Hellman Fellows Program, and the UCSC Arts Research Institute.

Recent News

KQED – Fathers at the Heart of Santa Cruz Exhibit Celebrating Early Filipino Farmworkers June 2024

THI Event Recap – UCSC Night at the Museum – From the Archives: Conversations on Filipino America June 2024

UCSC news – UC Santa Cruz Night at the Museum spotlights Filipino American stories from the Pajaro Valley May 2024

KAZU – Pajaro Valley Filipinos tell their communities’ stories in new museum exhibit April 2024

LEAD California Announces Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez as 2024 Richard E. Cone Award Recipient March 2024

UCSC news – Upcoming exhibition will shine a light on vibrant Filipino American life on the Central Coast February 2024

UCSC news – National Endowment for the Humanities honors Watsonville Is In The Heart with a prestigious $75,000 project grant April 2023

UCSC news – Watsonville Filipino history digital archive now available for public viewing April 2022

UCSC news – Meleia Simon-Reynolds: Documenting the local Filipino-American experience March 2022

City on a Hill Press – Watsonville is in the Heart: Honoring the Manong Generation in California’s Central Coast 

KSBW 8 news video – UC Santa Cruz debuts digital archive of the first Filipinos in Watsonville news – California museum launches digital archive on Filipino pioneers

The Pajaronian news – Watsonville in the Heart to launch digital archive

KION news video – Filipino history digital archive is unveiled at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

KSQD community radio – New Archive Celebrates Filipino Heritage

Good Times event information – Things To Do in Santa Cruz and Good Work: Digital Restoration

UCSC news – Watsonville Filipino History Archive Set To Launch At April 9th Public Event

UCSC news – Preserving the legacy of Watsonville’s first Filipino immigrants

KSBW 8 news video – Project CommUNITY special: AAPI Heritage on the Central Coast

Cal Humanities – “Watsonville Is in the Heart” Sharing & Archiving the History of Migrant Filipino



Night at the Museum – From the Archives: Conversations on Filipino America June 5, 2024

Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley April 12–August 4, 2024

2nd Annual Filipino American History Month Festival – Tobera Project October 2023

Tobera Project Talk Story: 1930 Anti-Filipino Watsonville Race Riots January 2023

Watsonville is in the Heart: Digital Archive Launch & Community Talk Story
April 9th, 2022, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Online Screening: Talk Story II: Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance
January 30th, 2022, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Watsonville is in the Heart: Oral History Project Panel
June 17th, 2021, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm


  • Photos (clockwise from top left): 1) “Ted’s Barber Shop” (c. 1969); Ted Alminiana clips the hair of one-year-old Alvin Tabios. Ted’s Barber Shop was next door to the Philippine Gardens restaurant in downtown Watsonville. 2) Dioscoro R. Recio, a descendant of the local Manong Generation, stands on Main Street in Watsonville, c. 1930. Photo courtesy of The Tobera Project and Dioscoro “Roy” Recio. 3) Photo courtesy of Eva Monroe. 4) A group of workers pick green beans at the Rosser-Lazo ranch on San Miguel Canyon Road in Watsonville. They are filling an order for a large agricultural business under the guise of “share-cropping.” Photo by Johnny Rosser, c. 1950s.  5) Manong Leon DeOcampo holds his niece, Veronica DeOcampo (b.1958), in 1959 at the Rosser-Lazo Ranch on San Miguel Canyon Road in Aromas. They are pictured in front of a sugar pea field. Photo courtesy of Johnny Rosser.