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Ralph Sonny Trujillo

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Ralph Sonny Trujillo was born in Watsonville, California, in 1961. He migrated to the Central Valley a few years later, where he lived until 1979. Sonny is the oldest of ten siblings and has four daughters, numerous grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In 1985, as a young man, he went to prison in San Quentin, and in 1990, he was sent to Pelican Bay’s solitary confinement Security Housing Unit (S.H.U). In 2018, he was released to the general population at Pelican Bay and spent the next seven years working towards earning his suitability for parole. He was released from prison in May 2024. While incarcerated in the S.H.U. in a windowless cell, a plain sheet of paper became his window to the outside. He found he could draw what was past the walls. Drawing became his salvation, a form of survival, and a way of maintaining his sanity in a place where one could easily lose it. Since transitioning back into society, he has found a new world full of possibilities and an eagerness to learn. Sonny has been a Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos collaborator since the early 1990s, contributing with his art and assisting the Barrios Unidos’ communities and youth. He is a current artist in residence at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, and is looking forward to sharing his experiences and art with others.

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