Pacific Coast Producers Tomato Cannery, Woodland, CA
1376 Lemen Avenue, Woodland, CA
UC Davis Chicana/o Studies Mural Workshop
Directed by Maceo Montoya
Painted on five 8′ x 8′ panels at Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer and later installed at Pacific Coast Producers Tomato Cannery
Status: Good condition
Photographer: Maceo Montoya, Workshop participants
Pacific Coast Producers’ Cannery Mural
The beginning of our mural depicts the deep-rooted relationship between the cannery and its workers. The tomatoes and fields represent one of the largest segments of Yolo County agriculture. The large hands serve to both emphasize and humanize the worker’s contribution as the emerging vines turn into roads, the cannery production line, and eventually become the hair flowing from Mother Earth on the far side of the mural. The large tomatoes dispersed in this panel symbolize the dreams and hopes of those who come to work at the cannery, including the many immigrants who make up a large portion of the work force. The figures in the lower left represent a migrant family, but it can also represent anyone venturing into the unknown to seek a better life. At the top right corner, a mother is shown leaving her sleeping son in the middle night, exemplifying the sacrifice workers make to give their children a better future.
The second panel depicts the importance of time in the cannery and in the lives of its workers. The central image is the farmer’s almanac representing the different stages of the tomato from its beginnings as a seed until it becomes part of the cannery process. The farmer’s almanac is also a representation of the sun that bears light on the cannery process and the huge amount of work that occurs inside the plant doors. The workers toil beneath the roads, representing their often unseen and underappreciated work. The workers simultaneously hold up the road, performing work that is essential to our community’s wellbeing. The road also symbolizes the journey not only of the tomatoes from the fields to the plant, but also the journeys of the people who work at the cannery, whether that’s a daily commute or an annual migration.
The life of the cannery revolves around work. It is easy to focus the eye on the overpowering machinery, but what really creates life in the plant are the people inside, a community working together toward a mutual end: the nourishment of our society. The large hourglass again emphasizes the importance of time in the cannery, as all the workers diligently complete their respective tasks. This panel attempts to capture the energetic movement that encompasses cannery life. Workers across the spectrum are represented together, from the sorters to the supervisors. Each worker has his or her role, each role as importance as the next. Included in the background is a woman forklift driver, showing that whereas some jobs are dominated by one gender, both men and women participate in every aspect of the cannery process.
This panel shows the lunchroom where workers are engaged in different activities representing both the importance of community and diversity to life at the cannery. The male figure studying signifies an individual’s desire to learn and seek self-improvement. The three figures in the right corner represent the unity of different ethnic and gender groups. The three figures in the background symbolize leisure and relaxation as they play cards and chat. Lastly, the man in the far background sleeps, representing both the rigor of the cannery worker schedule, but also the dreams of each and every individual. An agricultural setting can be seen through the window representing paths and directions as well as a continuation of the patchwork fields (further explained in Panel 5). In the banner, a quote will read, “Together we contribute to the health and growth of our community,” and in Spanish, “Juntos contribuimos a la salud y al crecimiento de nuestra comunidad,” which speaks to the overall theme of working collectively and giving to those around you.
The final panel ties the work that takes place at the cannery to the greater cycles of life, including the generations of workers who have passed through the cannery doors, represented by the figures of different ages in the foreground. A Mother Earth figure dominates the right side of the panel. She is envisioned as an old woman, a witness to the passing of time; she is weathered but empowered, continuing to give life and to provide nourishment. The image of the growing tomato plant embodies this idea, showing earth’s fruits as gifts that must be cared for and protected. The patchwork fields in the background represent the different cultures, nationalities, languages and ethnicities present in the cannery community.