I’m A Berkeleyan: Student Katalina Cortez on finding her cultural identity to pay it forward

November 1, 2022

I was raised in Watsonville, California. It’s a small city on the central coast near Santa Cruz that has a big agricultural industry: Driscoll’s, Martinelli’s: Every berry you could think of are picked from those fields.

My dad is from the Philippines, but as a military brat, he left around the age of 11 to live in America. After his father, my grandfather, retired from the U.S. Army, my dad and his four siblings worked in the strawberry and raspberry fields, and apple orchards of Watsonville.

From elementary school through high school they worked to help support their parents.

When my dad got older, he went back to his hometown in the Philippines, a province called Candon in the Ilocos region of Luzon. He met my mom, who lived in the same baryo — that’s a Tagalog word meaning village. They fell in love and got married. After my sister was born, my dad moved them all back to Watsonville, where I was born.

Growing up, my dad worked as a janitor for Calabasas Elementary School. He worked there until his retirement 10 years ago. My mom is a nurse and has worked at the Watsonville Community Hospital for nearly 20 years.

Berkeley News