(The Japanese Schoolhouse)
The Early Days: 1860s to 1930s
Castro founded the town in 1863
Juan Bautista Castro, from an important California family, subdivided his rancho
to establish a town. He was the first in the county to offer lots to attract settlers. Castroville is the second oldest town in the county, after Monterey.
Early immigrants took root in Castroville (1900s)
The earliest settlers were from New England, Ireland, China, and Portugal; and later from Japan, Italy and Mexico. Although the town was at a railroad crossroads, it grew slowly. In the 1920s Italians brought the artichoke to the area.
Japanese began to arrive in the 1880s
The first Japanese to come to the area were single men who replaced Chinese farm labors when they were excluded from immigrating. In 1907, wives came, creating a community of mainly tenant farmers. The U.S. government ended all Japanese immigration in 1924.
The school here opened in 1936
By 1935 about 25 Japanese families lived in the Castroville area. The Issei (1st generation), raised funds and worked together to build the school for the children. The Issei were prohibited from owning land so the deed was in the name of the Nisei (2nd generation).
The 1940s to the Present
Japanese-Americans were imprisoned unjustly during the war (1940s)
When the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, everything changed for those of Japanese ancestry. Executive Order #9066 gave the military the power to exclude anyone from coastal areas. The Japanese-Americans in this region were held without trial at a detention center in the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. Then, on July 4, 1942, the government sent the entire Japanese community to the Poston, Arizona prison camp.
After the war, the future was uncertain (1945)
After they were allowed to leave the camp, a few men used this school as a dormitory. Most returning Japanese owned no land and were met with great hostility in the Salinas Valley. They found jobs where they could, some in Monterey, where they were welcome. Some eventually farmed again in the Salinas Valley, but there was never another Japanese community in Castroville.
Japanese-Americans seek - and get - an apology (1970s & 1980s)
Japanese-Americans began to press Congress for acknowledgment of the injustice of their incarceration. In 1982, the investigating commission said the imprisonment was based on hysteria and racism, rather than any real threat to the county. The government apologized and paid compensation.
Children will use the schoolhouse again (2000s)
Today the majority of people living in and around Castroville are of Mexican descent, with many laboring in the fields nearby. Families are trying to make a good life for their children here. The schoolhouse will serve again as a cultural enrichment center "for the sake of the children."