A couple weekends ago, I facilitated a Pop Up Museum in Watsonville about migrant farm worker history. I work as an intern in community programs and outreach at the Santa Cruz MAH (museum of art and history), and I would consider myself a seasoned veteran at hosting pop ups.
As a Filipino American, I already knew what was in store for this event. Normally our pop up museum themes are a so open that you never know what you’re going to get. Lately, we have been running a series of pop up museums with local historian Geoff Dunn, so instead of being arts-based, our themes have been entrenched in local history and culture. Watsonville is known to most conscious Filipino and Filipino Americans as being one of the main loci for rampant racism and oppression of Filipinos in America. The Watsonville Riots in 1930 caused Filipinos in the Philippines to stand in solidarity and protested the ‘opportunity’ to send their men–sons, fathers and husbands–to such a fate.
As the intern and writer of the MAH’s Pop Up Museum Blog, it was difficult for me to represent the face of the museum while having the inside knowledge of how the manongs (or Filipinos in America in general) were treated. This history is a part of my family history; my uncle Raymond lived through it. We knew other men who died here with absolutely no family. Men who worked all day, laboring in the fields for just one dollar a day. And when they passed away, they had nothing.
When it came to write this post for the museum, it ate at me, knowing that even as harshly I could write of racism, oppression and ignorance, readers still might not grasp how much it still hurts. The families that showed up to this event, first of all, were family. They were the sons and daughters of manongs who were lucky enough to marry outside their race. They were sons and daughters who lived with a sense of fear just for being mestizo/a. This history continues; when you think of the word ‘history’ you think it is over, and that it is a distant, far-off past removed from our own lives. This pop up museum proved that history stays with us; this history is alive and we are still dealing with it.
As a part of the FilAm community, I have high expectations of myself to advocate our heritage, identity and position within society. I consider myself accountable to reassert the way we have been viewed or continue to be viewed. That said, this pop up museum hit extremely close to home, and I struggled editing my personal voice from my professional voice. My only hope is that I’ve made people seriously consider how marginalized and invisible Filipinos are made to be in America. Please read my original post and share what you think.