Santiago Tehandon
Santiago Tehandon, 80, died on Christmas Day of COVID-19 and an underlying heart condition.
(Courtesy Tehandon family)
Pandemic Life

Santiago Tehandon, 80, retired Watsonville maintenance technician, food bank volunteer

In March 2020, Tehandon was named “Hunger Fighter of the Year” by the U.S. House of Representatives, and was honored by the city of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in response. He died of COVID-19 related complications on Christmas Day.

Santiago Tehandon, 80, of Watsonville, died on Christmas Day of complications related to COVID-19. A retired maintenance technician who worked at the Watsonville Martinelli’s facility for 36 years, he spent most of his free time helping feed the community with Second Harvest Food Bank, where he’d volunteered for more than 15 years.

In March 2020, Tehandon was named “Hunger Fighter of the Year” by the U.S. House of Representatives, and was honored by the city of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

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His son, Juan Castaneda Tehandon, recalled beaming with pride as he watched his dad receive the honor at a ceremony at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz. He described his father as a humble, hardworking man who loved serving others.

A few days later, the two celebrated by going on their annual father-son trip to Santiago Tehandon’s home, the small town of Cherán — in the Mexican state of Michoacán.

On their last visit to Cherán, a place where people “see my family in my face,” Juan Castaneda and Santiago Tehandon went to a sanctuary they know well.

Santiago Tehandon's proclamation.

Tehandon, a very religious man, always insisted upon going to one of the largest churches in the town of San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro, twice every trip — once when they arrived in Michoacán, and once when they were leaving.

Inside the gold-accented church, the men performed a traditional stepping dance. They moved their bodies together, from the entrance of the church up to the altar. It was a dance people traveled from all over Mexico to do, Castaneda said, an unspoken ritual he and his dad completed every trip.

The central plaza of Cheran, Mexico.
Residents walk through the central plaza of Cheran, Mexico.
(LA Times)

Tehandon didn’t need to explain its purpose to his son — Castaneda knew. “It was to ask for safe travel,” he said.

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