Councilman Emilo Martinez is accusing fellow Councilman Manuel Bersamin of being racially divisive in a letter to the manager of Malo, a band scheduled to perform at the Monterey Bay Berry Fest on Aug. 1 and 2. The festival is a rival to the city’s own Watsonville Strawberry Festival at Monterey Bay, to be held the same weekend downtown.
A story about the letter will be published in Wednesday’s Sentinel. Here’s the letter, which Martinez requested and received from city staff.
Dear Mr. Gonzalez,
MALO is booked to perform at the Monterey Bay Berry Fest in August 1 and 2, 2009.
This Berry Fest that MALO is booked for is not the original Watsonville Strawberry Festival. The original Strawberry Festival was controlled by the City of Watsonville City Council for many years.
The promoter has taken our Strawberry Festival from a Latino city that has a population of low-income immigrant Mexicanos.
The Watsonville City Council is a Latino majority council. Most of us are Chicanos who have supported MALO all of our lives as younger men. Now, as mature men,we are the Latino leaders of the city that we grew up in. We are the sons of Mexican immigrants who came to Watsonville to work in the fields to harvest lettuce, apples and strawberries.
We are proud of our Latino heritage and we are fighting to uplift our Raza. Under our Latino leadership on the city council, this Strawberry Festival was meant to honor our fellow Mexicanos working in the fields.
The promoter of the Berry Fest event that MALO is booked for in August lied to our city by saying he would hold the event within the city limits. We have held this event within our city limits so that the low income Latinos who make up 90 percent of the city’s population could easily walk to and attend the event after a hard days work in the fields. Most of the people in Watsonville are Latino and many of the residents, like myself are children of low-income farmworkers.
The Watsonville Strawberry Festival was founded to honor the product of strawberries. When Latinos gained control of the Festival, we wanted to honor the workers and we decided to make the festival easy to get to here in the city limits.
The Anglo Promoter has decided on his own to move the festival out of town and CHANGE THE NAME to the Monterey Bay Berry Fest and not even mention our city name. It could be that he moved the Strawberry Festival out of Watsonville so in order to gain more non Latinos to attend his festival. Many Anglos in our region will not travel to a festival in Watsonville because sadly, they believe negative stereotypes about Mexicanos. They are more likely to attend a Festival that does not mention Watsonville because they will think of being near Mexicanos. He is calling his new festival, the Monterey Bay Berry Fest.
By moving the Festival out of city limits, the Latinos of Watsonville will lose the one festival that they could call their own city festival. Most of all, our Mexican community will think that our Latino city and community was not considered “good enough” to have our own festival as a people, as Raza.
I know that you did not know about this when you signed the contract but you should know what this promoter has done. You can call me or our Mayor, Antonio Rivas, or Vice Mayor, Luis Alejo, to verify the facts. (Bersamin told me he included the names of Rivas and Alejo because of their positions on the council. He did not ask their permission.)
Please do not support the taking away of a Festival from a city that is 90 percent Latino and from a community that has always supported you. We deserve the right to maintain our own Watsonville Strawberry Festival to honor the workers who harvest the strawberries.
We want our city to be known for the Watsonville Strawberry Festival and not just the negative stereotypes that non-Latinos have of Latino Cities. We want our youth to be proud of their hometown. This promoter has taken that away from us.
Manuel Qunitero Bersamin
City Council, District 1
City of Watsonville