(Grand Marshal Lisa Cisneros (right) leads the third annual Pajaro Valley Pride march around Watsonville Plaza Sunday. Photo by Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — People lined up along Main Street Sunday morning and let out a thunderous cheer as the third annual Pajaro Valley Pride March and Celebration officially kicked off.
Grand Marshal Lisa Cisneros of California Rural Legal Assistance led the group of parade contingents around Watsonville Plaza, down Maple Avenue and back, holding signs and chanting in support of South County’s LGBT+ community.
Representatives from Monterey Peninsula Pride, Salinas Valley Pride, Pajaro Valley High School, Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County and other local groups participated in the parade, with individuals and families joining in along the route.
Immediately following the march, participants formed a circle in the Plaza, where emcee Alex Santana handed over the mic to Cisneros for a brief speech.
“There is a stereotype about small towns that they aren’t open to diversity,” said Cisneros, LGBT+ Program Director for California Rural Legal Assistance. “Watsonville is pushing against that stereotype.”
Cisneros thanked everyone who came to Sunday’s event and also acknowledged the LGBT+ leaders and advocates who had been involved years prior.
“They are the ones who built the foundation for this event,” she said.
Jay Torres of Latizmo Hip Hop Productions gives a solo dance performance at Sunday's Pajaro Valley Pride celebration. Photo by Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian
The hundreds of people who attended were treated to live entertainment, including a solo dance set by Jay Torres of Latizmo Hip Hop Productions, bands, dancers and drag queen performances.
Booths lined Peck Street and a block of Main Street, where organizations handed out information, vendors sold their goods and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History offered craft activities. Food was provided by Ballesteros Catering Company.
PV Pride’s Marketing Coordinator Danielle Elizalde, who said she took place in the first Watsonville Pride event when she was 18 years old, expressed her appreciation to everyone who attended the celebration.
“It’s pretty amazing to see our community come together to support each other like this,” Elizalde said.
Similarly to Cisneros, Elizalde stressed the importance of recognizing the origins of Pride.
“To remember who started this — many of them trans women of color,” she said. “They had such an important role both nationally and here in Watsonville.”
This year’s theme of “Strength Through Unity” continued throughout the day, as Rob Watson of KSCO’s “Out in Santa Cruz” conducted on-stage interviews with various local leaders, including Santa Cruz County’s Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah, who spoke to the crowd about providing more for the county’s LGBT+ youth in schools.
Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah is interviewed by "Out in Santa Cruz" radio show host Rob Watson. Sabbah spoke about his plans to increase support for LGBT+ youth in the county's schools. Photo by Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian
“We have a long way to go,” Sabbah said. “But we can do it. We can create a community that wraps around our children, protects them and teaches them acceptance.”
Also speaking later in the afternoon was Adam Spickler, who was recently appointed to the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees, making him the first openly transgender man to hold public office in the State of California, according to PV Pride organizers.
This year’s Pajaro Valley Pride was sponsored by the First Christian Church of Watsonville and Faust Salon, and supported by other groups across the region. Organizers encouraged attendees to reach out to other local organizations and businesses so that the event could continue.
“Especially in these hard times, it can feel like there’s not a whole lot of hope,” Cisneros said. “But in reality, we have so much strength and diligence and power.”