By Luis Alejo
Chairman, Monterey County Board of Supervisors
Earlier this year, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to support a process to adopt the first, official flag for the county. Currently, only 24 out of 58 counties in California have adopted an official flag and Monterey County will become the 25th to do so. Other local counties, including Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Clara Counties, have already adopted theirs, and the City of Watsonville did the same back in 2010.
However, if there is any county that merits an official flag, it’s Monterey County. We were the site of the first California Constitutional Convention at Colton Hall in 1849 where 48 delegates petitioned to become the 31st state and drafted our bilingual, State Constitution. Prior to that, Monterey County held the state capital in the City of Monterey under the Mexican and Spanish-eras of our state. With so much historical significance, we have never had our own official flag and the time has now come.
Our amazing, local history is also a true microcosm of what took place throughout our state’s history starting with the Ohlone native people, the Spanish Missions system and the many waves of diverse immigration after that. Our county’s name, like the city bearing the same, was derived from Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino naming the Monterey Bay in 1602 in honor of the “Conde de Monterrey” or the “Count of Monterrey” (double “R” on the spelling) who at that time served as the Viceroy of New Spain.
Today, our county is home to the most beautiful coastlines, breathtaking parks like the Pinnacles, the richest agricultural lands in the world and some of the best wines anywhere. It’s no wonder why Wine Enthusiast Magazine once put Monterey County on the top 10 “Wine Travel Destinations” for our amazing pinot noirs and chardonnays.
Currently, our county’s population is estimated at about 435,000 residents and our diversity is really a source of strength and cultural richness. Today, 70 percent of Monterey County residents are people of color and we have had many distinguished persons who rose out of our local communities or called this place their home, including Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, Ansel Adams, Clint Eastwood, Leon Panetta, Cecilia Burciaga and actress Betty White. Most recently, HBO’s award winning series, “Big Little Lies,” has once again placed Monterey County on the map after winning record numbers of Golden Globes and Emmy Awards.
The Board of Supervisors is inviting artists from Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties to submit their volunteer art proposals by the March 30th deadline for consideration of the first and permanent flag for our beautiful county. Artists may consider, in their designs, the history of Monterey County, its diverse people, color schemes and elements from various parts of the county, such as historic landmarks and local wildlife, agriculture, coastline and rivers, and mountain ranges.
For more information on how to submit your proposal by March 30th, click here: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=61212
Although this is an all volunteer effort, this is rare opportunity where one local artist will shape an important and permanent symbol of civic pride in our county’s history in perpetuity.
Supervisor Luis A. Alejo is the chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and represents District 1, which includes most of the City of Salinas.