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The Purpose of These Pages:
Today’s world tends to look at our issues with a retrospection that extends back in time only as far as history can be digitized. This truncated perspective obfuscates and bedims rational and critical thought. We tend to think that as it is now, it always was and that as it is now, it will never change. This contemporary view is not very productive, for if we don’t know where we have been, it is hard to know where are, much less where we are going. And if we don’t understand the the crux of our problems, then, it is difficult to find solid solutions.
Thus, we look at Agriculture on the Central Coast and in the Salinas Valley. If we were only to solve our problems based upon some truncated vision of today, we would find very few solutions. It is only by understanding the challenges of the past, the resolve to address those challenges, and the players involved that we truly understand the problem and find a path forward.
The players were of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Each ethnicity added a layer of complexity and accomplishment to the agricultural industry. Each brought their unique ways of thinking and cultures to create the Central Coast social fabric and agricultural industry that we know today.
Today’s industry pioneers are the sons and grandsons of immigrants. As today’s leaders, they stand on the shoulders of men of grit, hard work, innovation, and perseverance. These were opportunists and visionaries. These were competitors, who would put aside individual promotion to advance the industry.
The following excerpt of the Oral History of a local who grew up in South Salinas Valley during the first half of the 20th Century. She captures the many facets of immigration that have shaped the Central Coast. She mentions some ethnic groups that perhaps are not typically associated with this part of California.
“…this area of California grew up [on], and I think all California probably grew, up on imported labor… When I was a child, there was a Chinese store in King City, run by somebody named Lon Sing, and my mother and father both traded there. That was a very nice store, and you always had firecrackers on the fourth of July. My first recollection of people working on the railroads were the Hindus [Sikhs] with the turbans. There were many Hindus; and Spreckels Sugar Company [had] a big ranch, it's out of King City, andthey had Hindus working on the beets. And you don t forget them, because they had turbans. And then I remember the Filipinos around Salinas, working in the strawberry fields and the lettuce fields. Andthe Japanese… The Hindus that I saw were at Spreckels, and on the railroad too. Andthen, probably, there was some act that didn t allow them to come in any more. [Interviwer}: Where did the Hindus, who were here, go? Some went to the Imperial Valley. I know a man that s half Hindu and half Mexican, from the Imperial Valley. Very bright man. His last name is Mohammed. His father was one of the Hindus that came here. And there are several of them in the Imperial Valley. His mother was a Mexican from Mexico. I never can remember his first name. I always can remember his last name; but his first name is odd, and then they have contracted it to a nickname. [Inteviewer]: Was there Chinese labor too? I don t recall them very well; but everybody had a Chinese cook. I'veheard people talk about it. But the only one I really remember was a Chinese cook that went around with a cook wagon for a threshing machine crew for Bill Casey. But I ve heard that they were quite common, and I heard my father talk about the Chinese cook he had just before he was married. And about their queues. And of course, I was in San Francisco, and I was very familiar with Chinese people. That s why I say I usually know Chinese and I recognize their voices. Then I remember the bracero program very well, when I was first married, and the prisoners-of-war were here, in the fields. [Interviewer]: From Italy? Rosenberg: Germany, these were Germans. I think we had both, but those that were here I particularly remember as being Germans. There were Italians, too, but we didn t have any contact with them. But I saw them in the fields.
Books and References
Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley: A History of America’s Salad Bowl. Monterey County Historical Society. 2000.