Megan Wilson    
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GALLEON TRADE I ARTISTS
Cultural Backgrounds & Relationships with the Philippines & Mexico

< Return to Megan Wilson responds to Claire Light's "all eyes on the artists"

I emailed the Galleon Trade I artists to ask about their cultural backgrounds and relationships with the Philippines and Mexico. Here are the responses that I received:


Michael Arcega: I was born in Manila and emmigrated at the age of 10 in 1984. There was an exodus during that time. Excaping Manila. I've been back 3 times now (1993, 2004, and 2007). I've been to Tijuana, Rosarita, and Ensenada. I want to go to Mexico City.


with Momma Barrios
Eliza O. Barrios: My parents were born in the Philippines and I was definitely raised as a Filipina (food, rituals, cultural beliefs..etc). I've visited the PI: first - when I was 2 or 3 - my father was in the US Navy and was stationed in Olongapo for a year; in 1997 for 10 days -- I planned on being there with my mother to learn about where my parents grew up, learn about my family, extended family..etc. unfortunately was not able to meet mom, she discovered she had ovarian cancer...as a matter of fact - she was going through surgery while I was there; 1999 for 10 days -- I attempted to rekindle the plan to meet mom...then another medical problem arose so I couldn't join her. Also to introduce my girlfriend at the time to my culture; 2007 - for the Galleon Trade project...as well as to finally be there with my parents..possibly the only time in my lifetime as an adult.

Having practically grown up in San Diego..Mexico was my backyard. The specific towns I've visited have been Tijuana, Rosarito, San Francisco (Nayarit), Buena Vista (Baja - Pacific side) and La Paz. All have been for vacation...except for Buena Vista - best man for best friend's wedding.


Jaime Cortez: I lived in Mexico off and on as a child, in the border city of Mexicali, across the way from Calexico, and both of the twin cities were proverbial "third spaces," not really Mexican, not really American, but a special zone that is generated by both countries and their economies and cultures.  My parents were migrant farm workers for several years before we settled into agricultural work in San Juan Bautista, CA and Watsonville, CA. 

Richard Godinez: My relationship to the Philippines and Mexico: I've never been to either country, unfortunately; I was born here in the bay area--in Castro Valley to be exact--and grew up in Fremont.  (Yes, Fremont, cultural Mecca of the bay!)

Therefore, Galleon Trade was a fantastic opportunity for me on a lot of levels: no flattery here, but just to be able to exhibit with a group of artist like all y'all was humbling, and precisely because I don't have a strong connection to the P.I. or Mexico via my own family (my Mexican Grandma was born in not in Mexico but New Mexico, and my Filipino grandparents were born in the Philippines, but my Dad didn't speak the language nor maintain deep roots in the culture) the chance to "connect" to these places through Galleon Trade really excited me.



Gina Osterloh: My relationship with the Philippines is genetic, second-hand, dream-like, and most recently with Galleon Trade, incredibly inspiring.  My mother is from Cebu, so I grew up with stories of the Philippines. My father is German-American.  My mother's home was burned down in WWII by Japanese soldiers. She and her family survived, and she lived their until she was 29. Her stories are of war, of walking to school, of fun times with her sisters and brother, of superstition and enchanted trees. I went to the Philippines for the first time last year and met a thriving contingent of artists based in Manila - from video, peformance, painting, all disciplines and everything in between. Galleon Trade gave me the opportunity to re-link with many of these artists, Poklong Anading (video, photo, performance) ! Lara Agulto! (video artist and drummer for "Death by Tampon") to name a few.

Relationship to Mexico: I've been to Mexico City to check out art with Julio Morales and Eamon Ore-Giron, for about a week in 2005. Before that I was in Mexico City to visit a friend and check out graffiti, that was in 1999. I've also been to Baja a few times, all the way down to the bottom to surf. I've spent very short time in Hermosillo to visit family of Eamon.


Johanna Poethig: I was 4 months old when I took a month long ship journey with my family to Manila in early 1957.  I left when I was 15 years old. I did have furloughs every 4 years or so where we traveled through Asia or Europe back to the States to visit family.  I first went back to the Philippines when I was 20 years old for about 3 months. Then I went back in the early 80's for about 3 weeks after I did my first mural about the Filipino community - "Ang Lipi ni Lapu Lapu" (History of Filipino Immigration to the US)  and was sponsored by a Filipino American group that was part of the Senior Center I did the mural on (Dimasalang House in Yerba Buena neighborhood).  Then I went back in 1992 for a month with my family - a 20 year later return trip - and then the Galleon Trade this year.


Rocking with Romeo Candido
Megan Wilson
: Of the eleven artists included in Galleon Trade I, I was the only white, non-Filipino American (or Mexican American) artist. However, while my connection to the Philippines has not been one of a direct nature, indirectly I have been working with San Francisco's Filipino community in the South of Market district for the past 8 years as a supporter through my work with the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) and Oasis for Girls. Closer to home, I could relate at a very universal core level with the Philippines, as a country of people who have had to struggle and with many who live in conditions of poverty. I was forced to move out on my own when I was 16 years old. I moved into an unfinished concrete basement that had little light and also acted as the laundry room for the owner of the house. My living space was an area of approximately 10' x 10'; I had an area rug, a bed, and a dresser. To support myself, I worked at Burger King 30 hours/week, while also attending high school. I went on to work a myriad of low-paying menial labor jobs (working in the laundry room in the basement of a hotel, as a janitor, in a wood finishing plant, as a landscaper, waitress, bartender, retail, and counter person at a bakery) to help put myself through college.

In 1992 I spent 3 months driving through Mexico (starting in Oregon) to Guatemala. I then spent 3 months in Central America (based out of Guatemala with travels to El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) studying Spanish.


Christine Wong Yap: I've never been to the Philippines, this was my first trip. My husband's Fil-Am, and I grew up around Filipino culture a lot in Daly City (for example, my first job was working at Pacific Supermarket, which sells mostly Filipino and Asian groceries.)

My husband's aunts, uncles and cousins live in Cavite. I got to meet them for the first time on the GT trip. That was amazing. It was really cool to hang out with my cousin Emil Yap, who's a longtime social realist painter, public artist and activist. I got to see his studio. The terms of his engagement with art are very different than my own. Much of his formative years were spent as a people's artist. He said he painted jeepneys to lead the way for marches and protests. It was really interesting to see how he did or didn't relate to our work and the galleries we were showing in because of ideological or class differences. 

Being born in the US to parents who severed their ties to China, my relationship to China consisted of stories and media images, until I went on the ROOTS program trip through the Chinese Culture Center about six years ago. It's a one-of-a-kind program in the United States, and I feel really fortunate that I was able to participate. It's a year-long program, where 8-12 young Chinese Americans with ancestral roots in the Pearl River Delta region learn about China's history, conduct genealogical research and then, visit their ancestral village(s) on a three-week trip. I visited both paternal and maternal ancestral villages. When you see a village genealogy book that traces your ancestry back 23 generations, you realize how disruptive the political unrest and migrations of of the 20th century were. There's a huge sense of heritage and loss at the same time. It dramatically shifted my point of view towards my family, more thoroughly understanding my parents' migration stories and their sacrafices, and becoming familiar with contemporary Chinese culture and life. 

I've only been to Mexico very briefly, for a week on my honeymoon.  

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