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Monterey County Cultural Heritage

Sometimes it’s fun to create a painting for an exhibit that has a theme. I was notified of an upcoming exhibit at Seaside City Hall’s Walter Lee Avery Gallery.  The exhibit was entitled “Celebrating Our Cultural Heritage.” 

I got right on it. But to create a painting that would tell a story, I needed to decide…whose story would I paint.

I decided to address the cultural heritage of Monterey County, and more specifically, the cultural heritage of 4 groups of people whose history had been affected by specific events.

To do this, I created a map of Monterey County, upon which I displayed the sordid events of 3 groups who had been literally decimated and whose cultural history was lost:  The Chinese/Japanese whose fishing village was burned to the ground, the Esselen Indians who were wiped out by Spanish missionaries, and the Mexican immigrant workers who were deported en masse during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and “Operation Wetbacks 1954.”

The 4th group of people whose cultural heritage was affected were the African Americans who inhabited the city of Seaside. When Fort Ord was shut down in 1994, the soldiers and their families had to relocate, ending many years during which African Americans had shared their common cultural traditions in a bustling neighborhood.

I hope this painting raises discussions about cultural heritage and the importance of histories and traditions. We must all be grateful that some descendants have survived and that some have returned to their seaside city.