We are people of all genders, of Ohlone, Black, Filipino, Portuguese, Mexican/Chicano, Chinese and Japanese heritage. We have grown prunes, sugar beets, tobacco, apricots, tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, corn, cucumbers, raspberries, grapes, cherries, and run dairy farms. In 2020, 43 different languages were spoken in the family homes of students in our elementary schools. Many of our non-white families have been in Gilroy for up to 14 generations, yet we are not included in the art or contents of the time capsule created to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of Gilroy.
Carol Peters is a respected and talented local artist with deep roots in the community and a personal history of working with students of all backgrounds in our schools. However, although the artist was directed to “give the residents in 2070 a feel of what Gilroy was like in 2020,” the capsule is disturbingly devoid of ethnic diversity and does not feel to us like an accurate depiction of our community.
Through the lens of this artwork it would seem that Gilroy is a place populated entirely by Italian-Americans and white cowboys, with garlic as the only crop. Where are the people who plant, harvest and process that garlic? Why is there no reflection of our rich and diverse cultures, the generations of hard-working families employed in our canneries and fields, or the trailblazing women of our community who have made history? (In fact, there is no depiction of women at all.) Where are our veterans—our grandfathers, fathers, brothers and sons in every war, who gave their lives for our freedom?
This is not the Gilroy that we know and love, nor does it include the people that we see everyday and count among our neighbors, friends, coworkers and family-members. Without farmworkers, cannery workers, artists, musicians, restaurateurs, farmers, beauticians, mechanics, butchers, dairy farmers, vaqueros, veterans or trailblazers, it would not be Gilroy at all. Are we invisible?
People of color have not only harvested the crops, but contributed to every sector and industry, providing Gilroy with the economic growth and development that created the community that we know and thrive in today. Those of us who grew up here, stayed and raised our children here, built our professional lives here, volunteered and contributed to the diverse beauty of our festivals, community events and civic organizations are missing from this lens. We continue to contribute, and yet we are forgotten.
We are disappointed and hurt that our neighbors and friends on this committee do not see us. As the Sesquicentennial Committee was choosing a newspaper article to teach future generations about the Covid-19 pandemic, the people who are not represented in the capsule—essential workers, largely people of color—were risking their lives, day in and day out, to plant, pick, process, deliver, stock, sell and serve the food and essential items we all relied on, to staff the hospital, to care for our elders, to clean and sanitize workplaces and homes to keep our community safe.
Although the committee was appointed by the previous mayor, and the time capsule created with private funds, the choice to display the time capsule in Gilroy’s City Hall makes it of public concern and implies the City of Gilroy’s endorsement. It is therefore incumbent upon the City of Gilroy to take responsibility for this misrepresentation of the hardworking and diverse people of Gilroy, and to take action to honor all Gilroyans with full inclusion in the story of our shared history. The time to retire the myth of an all-white Gilroy is now, just as the time to exclude women, Ohlone, Black, Filipino, Portuguese, Chicano/Mexicano, Chinese and Japanese people has long since passed.
We ask that the current City Council request that the Sesquicentennial Celebration committee reconvene with additional members that represent and reflect the beautiful and diverse profile of our community, that can advocate for a complete and inclusive telling of our story, and that will work with the talented artist to create art that is truly reflective of the character, culture and diversity of all of the people of Gilroy in 2020.
This column was signed by:
Gabriel Lerma Duenas
Guillermo Tlacayaotzin Suarez
Sandie Silva Lovecchio
Capt. Gilbert Rodriguez
Ester and Augustin Santiago
Marie Miceli Romero
Sal and Annie Tomasello
Evelia Morales Rosso
Adilene Jezabel Moreno