Published by Capitola Book Company with support from
Ow Family Properties and the Borina Foundation

Of all the immigrant groups who flocked to California in the last two hundred years, probably the least known are the Croatians of the Dalmatian Coast.

Often identified as Austrians, Slavonians or Dalmatians, they came from a glorious background of international traders, sailors, and political thinkers few people in America knew about, and brought with them knowledge that would change the way the United States did business. At the same time, they transported their customs and beliefs to their new home and established a way of life that was vibrant and rich in traditional folkways. Blossoms Into Gold tells their story for the first time, from their fabled past to their economic innovations in the Pajaro Valley. Enriched with over 170 rare photos and illustrations, the book records an important segment of American history.

Donna F. Mekis holds degrees in both Anthropology and Education from UC Santa Cruz. She has had a forty-year career in higher education, working at both UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. At Cabrillo, Donna developed and directed both the Transfer Center and the Honors Transfer Program. Most recently she has served as the President of UCSC’s Alumni Association.

Kathryn Mekis Miller did her undergraduate and graduate work at UC Berkeley. She and her husband Marshall Miller opened their first retail store in Santa Cruz in 1971. They have developed a number of successful businesses under the umbrella name Sun Shops, which has now become a second-generation Santa Cruz business. In 2009, Sun Shops was honored as the Business of the Year by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.


“In this detailed and warmly human history, Donna F. Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller chronicle and celebrate the story of an entrepreneurial immigrant group in a favored portion of the Golden State.”

Kevin Starr, University of Southern California

“Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller have done a remarkable job in showing how the Croatians, using the historical traditions and skills they carried from the old world to the new, became important commercial innovators whose methods revolutionized the way business was done in the world’s agricultural markets.”

Jane Borg, Director, Pajaro Valley Historical Association

“It took two of the [Croatian] community’s own daughters, Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller, to tell the story. And what a story it is. The book you are holding is the result of these two women first gaining the trust of the community of their birth and then weaving together a complicated history that bridges half the world and many languages.”

From the foreword by Sandy Lydon, Historian Emeritus, Cabrillo College, Aptos, California, and author of Chinese Gold: The Chinese in the Monterey Bay Region

“This book tells the story of the world I remember. Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller have given Watsonville’s Croatians the gift of their own history.”

Nita Gizdich, former president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, State Delegate to the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture’s ‘Woman of the Year.’”

Invite Kathryn Miller and Donna Mekis
to speak at your next event

Inquire regarding dates, technology requirements, and honorarium

This hour-long video shows the book launch event, from the arrival of 400 people; the introduction by Sandy Lydon; and the slide presentation by Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller.

This 30-minute video tells the story of the authors being invited to Croatia to present their research in Čilipi, Konavle, Croatia (near Dubrovnik). It takes you with them on their journey.

This two-hour video includes the full class — lectures, walking tour of Croatian-built buildings on Watsonville’s Main Street, the interior of the Resetar Hotel, Sambrailo Packaging, Gizdich Ranch, and a tour of the Croatian mausoleums at Valley Catholic cemetery.

All three videos were filmed and edited by videographer, Peter McGettigan.

If you have questions or comments about Blossoms Into Gold, please email us.

Additionally, if you would like to send us your stories about Watsonville’s Croatians, we will collect them and give them to the Pajaro Valley Historical Association. Please include your name, and your family’s Croatian surname.

    Scroll to Top
    Scroll to Top