Peralta Hacienda Historical Park: Where History is Just Half the Story - Featuring: Holly Alonso
Wed Dec 06 2023 at 07:00 pm
Berkeley City Club | Berkeley, CA
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The name Peralta has deep resonance in local history. Luis Maria Peralta came to California from Mexico in 1776 with the de Anza Expedition. In 1820, he received one of the most valuable Spanish land grants in California, extending El Cerrito to San Leandro. His son Antonio built two adobes in what now is the Fruitvale District in Oakland, but an earthquake destroyed them in1868. They were replaced by an Italianate Victorian in 1870, which today serves as a museum and the centerpiece of the six-acre Peralta Hacienda Historical Park.
But history is only half the site’s story. This award-winning park has become a thriving multi-cultural center that, among other things, provides year-round programs for local youth and houses a food pantry that gives 630,000 pounds of fresh food a year to 500 low-income families. Its extensive community gardens are cultivated by refugee elders; Salvadorian Soccer teams play on its field; and an elaborate Cambodian New Year celebration takes place there every April, one of many such ethnic festivals.
Holly Alonso, executive director of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, will share both its modern and ancient stories in an illustrated Arts & Culture talk on Wednesday, December 6, at 7 pm. She will explain the expanding focus of the park and how it encompasses the many groups that give the Fruitvale District its dazzling diversity.
Tickets for this program, available on Eventbrite, are $5 for club members and $10 for non-members. Please register early so we can be sure to accommodate everyone comfortably. Wearing masks for this event is strongly encouraged.
“The site not only is about the historic family that lived there; it’s equally about the community today and what we can learn about history from each other,” Holly explains. That community includes undocumented day laborers and Laotian Mien and Cambodian refugees and immigrants as well as teens and young adults of Mayan Mam, African American, Latinx, and other backgrounds.
“Each one of their inspiring, often heart-rending stories connects to the broader themes of our times,” Holly says, adding the museum has a growing archive of recorded stories in many languages. “When people tell their stories at Peralta Hacienda, they see how we all are formed by — and help to form — the tangled, multi-layered tapestry we call history.”
That tapestry also features strong Native American threads, accounts of the Ohlone people who inhabited the East Bay long before the Peraltas. Holly and her staff have brought together descendants of the Peraltas and contemporary Ohlone in painful but productive public forums for the first time.
“We are making the East Bay’s native history and contemporary presence more visible, de-colonizing and renaming the historic site,” said Holly. In her talk, she will share the some works of art and interactive exhibits that highlight Ohlone history, myths, symbols, and customs.
Holly did not always intend to be an historian. She majored in music at UC-Berkeley and went to Europe under a Hertz graduate fellowship, where she performed as a singer of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music. She later toured the California missions with her group La Corte Musical, which inspired her to delve into California history. When she was volunteering to help with voter registration, she visited Fruitvale for the first time, and fell in love with the district. She later learned that it had one of Northern California’s most important historic sites, which happened in search of an executive director.
Since then, for nearly 25 years, Holly has worked to forge an innovative model of community engagement by bringing together residents of Fruitvale, historians, artists, Oakland officials, and partners from the public and private sectors. She has led the organization through many challenges, including the shuttering of the museum during Covid 19 as well as dealing with the complex issues facing many urban parks, especially those in low-income communities, such as homeless encampments, graffiti, theft, and vandalism.
Where is it happening?Berkeley City Club, Berkeley, United States
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