Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Zoot Suit Riots

Very few fashion styles have become so representative and symbolic of rebelliousness and independence, youth and music culture, racial identity and discrimination as the Zoot Suit.

The word “Zoot” is believed to have originated in the African-American community of Harlem. While some feel it was a corruption of the word “suit,” most semantic historians agree that the term arose in the slang used in Jazz clubs and referred to “anything worn in extravagance.” Malcolm X described the zoot suit as, "a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell".

Second Generation Mexican American youth, both male and female, adopted and adapted the Zoot Suit, wearing it as a symbol of their disassociation with both the Anglo culture and the Spanish speaking homeland of their parents.

The Hispanic Zoot Suit of the Pachuco generation featured wide lapels, exaggerated shoulder pads, high-waisted pegged pants, distinctive patent leather wing tip shoes, a broad brimmed hat, and a watch chain that dangled below the knee.

A female wearing a Zoot Suit was committing a quiet subversive act in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Long-held beliefs in gender roles dictated how men and women should dress. A woman donning a male’s suit and parading about in public was nothing short short of unthinkable. Thus, amid the slightly more timid, another variation of the female Zoot Suit evolved. It included a modest knee-length full skirt beneath the standard zoot suit jacket. If she could afford one, a girl might sport a heavy gold pocket chain.

The typical Zoot Suit cost it’s wearer $45 to $75, which was no small sum in the lean war years of the early 1940’s. Yet, for the wearer, a Zoot Suit was priceless. It defied the norms of segregation and the unwritten rule demanding that people of color remain unseen and unheard while frequenting public spaces. However, in times of war, when social boundaries are rapidly changing, questions of allegiance and conformity become invested with particular significance. Thus, the Zoot Suit quickly became associated with gang membership and subversive activity and Pachucos themselves viewed as "proof of Mexican degeneracy."

World War II produced changes in American life, some trivial, others profound.
White men had gone off to fight in a segregated military, while women and people of color filled the jobs in the defense industry traditionally reserved for white males. For many Mexican-Americans, jobs in the defense industry provided an escape from the desperate poverty of migratory farm labor.

Changes also evolved in the realm of fashion. To conserve wool and cotton, dresses became shorter. Vests and cuffs disappeared, as did double-breasted suits, pleats, and ruffles. In March 1942, the War Production Board's first rationing act regulated the amount of wool to be used for suits, thereby in effect outlawing the creation of Zoot Suits.[i] Among the some U. S. servicemen, the use of so much fabric during a time of war was seen as extravagant, wasteful and therefore unpatriotic.

Southern California served as a key military location with bases scattered in and between San Diego and Los Angeles. Consequently, up to 50,000 servicemen could be found in L.A. on any given weekend. Tensions between servicemen and civilians arose as thousands of military men, looking for some fun while on leave, ventured into the nightlife Los Angeles.

In the segregated ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles, servicemen who presumed the prerogatives of white privilege were met with righteous indignation. Yet, groups of sailors often hurled insults at Mexican Americans. Any serviceman foolish enough to walk through the barrios alone and inebriated risked being "rolled" by Pachucos hoping to teach them proper respect. Whisper campaigns were begun. In the barrios, rumors spread about sailors taking advantage of innocent Mexican American girls. On the military bases, stories circulated about the violent reprisals suffered by sailors who dared to date Mexican American females. Other sailors complained bitterly about their wives or girlfriends being subjected to the sexual taunts of young Mexican Americans.

Tensions grew quickly and fighting erupted. While white servicemen and civilian youth of all colors clashed in the streets, confrontations most frequently occurred between white servicemen and Pachucos.

On May 30 1943,a group of about a dozen sailors and soldiers walking in downtown LA spotted a group of young Mexican American women on the opposite side of the street. Some of the sailors and soldiers crossed the street and attempted to meet the girls. However, two servicemen continued walking and passed a group of Pachucos in Zoot Suits. Seaman Second Class Joe Dacy Coleman, U.S.N., fearing he was about to be attacked, grabbed the arm of one of the Pachucos. Coleman was almost immediately struck on the head from behind and fell to the ground, unconscious. The Pachucos furiously attacked the sailors with rocks and bottles but the servicemen managed to escape and carry Coleman back to the safety of the Naval Armory.[ii] On June 3, approximately 50 sailors left the Naval Reserve Armory with concealed weapons. Intending to revenge the attack on Coleman, they targeted the barrios near the Armory and attacking anyone wearing a Zoot Suit. They began on Alpine Street where many previous confrontations had occurred but were unable to find any Pachucos there. Proceeding downtown, they stopped at the Carmen Theater. After turning on the house lights, the sailors roamed the aisles in search of someone to take revenge upon. Their wrath fell upon two boys, merely 12 and 13 years of age. Ignoring the protests of the other patrons, the servicemen tore the suits from bodies and beat the boys with clubs. The shredded suits were then set ablaze.

On June 4, Pachucos drove back and forth in front of the Armory, hurling epithets at the guards until approximately two hundred sailors crammed into twenty taxicabs, formed a “task force” and stormed into the barrios of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights beating and stripping naked anyone wearing a Zoot Suit. The police could never locate the fleet of taxis but did find the beaten Pachucos and immediately arrested them.

Young men beaten and stripped during zoot-suit riots.

The San Francisco Chronicle, ran a front page head- line screaming, “Zoot Suit Warfare: Los Angeles Front is Near Anarchy Official Says.”

The local press lauded the attacks, describing the assaults as having a “cleansing effect” that rid Los Angeles of “miscreants” and “hoodlums.”

On June 5 and 6, uniformed servicemen wear seen marching abreast down the streets, breaking into bars and theaters, and assaulting anyone who dared stand in their way. They drug Pachucos out into the street and beat them in front of stunned onlookers. Their vicious attacks were widened to include Blacks, Filipinos and young Mexicans wearing regular street clothes.

In a sensationalist move, the Los Angeles Times reported that there would be trouble on Main Street on the night of June 7, 1943. The article drew throngs of thrill seekers all eager to witness a night of rioting. Estimates of as many as 2,000 – 5, 000 soldiers, Marines, and sailors, some from as far away as Las Vegas, eagerly joined in the assaults. Part of the mob headed south for the predominately African American section of Watts and another group headed east for Mexican American East Los Angeles. Al Waxman, editor of the Eastside Journal, a small Jewish newspaper, witnessed the event. He described a "mass of humanity locked in violent struggle, arms swinging, legs kicking, shrieking with anger."
Servicemen invade a streetcar

“Marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, a mob of several thousand soldiers, sailors, and civilians, proceeded to beat up every zoot suiter they could find. Pushing its way into the important motion picture theaters, the mob ordered the management to turn on the house lights and then ran up and down the aisles dragging Mexicans out of their seats. Streetcars were halted while Mexicans, and some Filipinos and Negroes, were jerked off their seats, pushed into the streets and beaten with a sadistic frenzy”

~Carey McWilliams, journalist

The Los Angeles Police Department was unwilling to step in and protect civilians. One officer later explained: "You can say that the cops had a 'hands-off' policy during the riots. Well, we represented public opinion. Many of us were in the First World War, and we're not going to pick on kids in the service."
In the first car jacking ever recorded, white sailors forcibly dragged Pachucos out of their cars, beat them, and left them naked in the street. The sailors then pushed the cars into the nearby canyons.

Military commander Clarence Flogg reported that there were "hundreds of servicemen prowling downtown Los Angeles mostly on foot -- disorderly -- apparently on the prowl for Mexicans." The Navy reported that "Groups vary in size from 10 - 150 men and scatter immediately when Shore Patrol approaches. Men found carrying hammock cues [clubs], belts, knives and tire irons..." Leery of the potential of negative press that could result from mass arrests, Admiral Bagley appealed to his sailors' "common sense." It seemed that the Admiral had little to fear. Time Magazine reported that, "The police practice was to accompany the caravans of soldiers and sailors in police cars, watch the beatings and jail the victims." Police arrested over 600 Pachucos as a 'preventive' action. Only nine sailors were arrested. Eight were released with no charges and only one was required to pay a small fine. Finally, on June 8, senior military officials attempted to bring the riot under control by declaring Los Angeles off-limits to all sailors, soldiers, and marines. The Shore Patrol was ordered to arrest any disorderly personnel. The following day, the Los Angeles City Council passes a resolution banning the wearing of zoot suits in public, punishable by a 50-day jail term. The governor ordered the creation of a citizens' committee charged with investigating and determining the cause of the riots. When the committee issued its report; it determined racism to be a central cause of the riots. However, Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron came to his own conclusions. He asserted that the riots were caused by juvenile delinquents and by white Southerners and that racial prejudice had not been a not a factor.

As the riots subsided in Los Angeles, the petulance across the country, igniting act after act of racial violence in cities such as Phoenix, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Philadelphia and New York and lasting throughout the summer of 1943.

Robbing Pachucos of their “bravado” police officers took delight in shaving the young men’s hair. An officer quoted in the Pasadena Star News causally remarked, “Nothing takes a would-be gangster down so much as losing his long hair, and we have a perfect right to trim ‘em under a sanitary ordinance.”

On June 16 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt characterized the rioting thus, “The question goes deeper than just suits. It is a racial protest. I have been worried for a long time about the Mexican racial situation. It is a problem with roots going a long way back, and we do not always face these problems as we should.”[iii] Her remarks led to an outraged response by the Los Angeles Times and it printed an editorial accusing Mrs. Roosevelt of stirring “race discord.”[iv]

[i] OE Schoeffler and W Gale Esquire's Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Men's Fashion New York 1973 p 24
[ii] Pagán, Eduardo O. "Los Angeles Geopolitics and the Zoot Suit Riot, 1943." Social Science History (2000). JSTOR. Pg. 242-243
[iii] Los Angeles Almanac. http://www.laalmanac.com/history/hi07t.htm. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
[iv] Eduardo Obregón Pagán. “Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A”. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2004.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Not All of Them

This mysterious woman was motherly toward 15 year-old Uncle Raymond

When discussing racism, it is important to recall that no matter what the time period, there were good people of every race, religion, and color, quietly going about their lives, completely ignored by history.

When we arrived at this photo, I teasingly asked Uncle if this was another of his girlfriends. “Oh no, not her!” Uncle then explained that she was the wife of the farm owner for whom he worked when he first arrived in Mt. Eden and that she was “very good, like a mother to us.”

I asked Uncle her name, which he told me. Her surname was unusually, Uncle even spelled it for me. I was certain I would remember it but I promptly forgot. Despite the generous assistance of Diane Curry, Curator of the Hayward Area Historical Society, I have not been able to re-learn her identity.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Union Activism and Organization: Legacies from the Manong Generation

Facing intolerable working conditions, the Manongs who had sought employment in California’s agricultural fields came to recognize that they occupied the bottom of the wage scale, were being met with increasing discrimination, and lacked a sovereign government to speak on their behalf. These Manongs, disillusioned by the harsh reality of working in the fields, were ready to bring about social change.

"The manongs who came in the 1920s were children of colonialism," Abba Ramos, a veteran organizer in the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, says. "They were radicalized, because they compared the ideals of the U.S. constitution, which they were taught in the islands, and of the Filipinos' own quest for freedom, with the harsh reality they found here."[i]

Many white farm owners viewed Filipinos as docile and unintelligent because the Manongs had often accepted wage-scale cuts without question. Adding to this perception was the debilitating fact that Manongs usually worked usually under a contractor who dealt with the farmer. Farmers enjoyed this system as it relieved them of the responsibility of contact with their own employees. In turn, the contractors made a substantial salary by keeping part of the Manong’s pay as an “agent’s fee.”[ii] Most farmers believed that Filipinos, by nature, would be unwilling to join unions and that labor organization would prove too complex for the Manong, who often not yet out of their teens, to ever master. These farmers, mistaken in their belief, were in for a rude awakening!

The Manongs of California’s agricultural fields took action. Citing the example of three thousand Filipino and Japanese sugar plantation workers who had struck in 1919 to demand that Hawaiian sugar planters pay higher wages, provide an eight-hour work day, create an insurance fund for retired employees and offer paid maternity leave, Californian Manongs united in hopes of improving their living and working conditions.

They first turned to the all white American Federation of Labor (AFL). However, AFL leaders viewed Filipinos as direct competition and made it abundantly clear that the “Filipino labor menace” would never be included in their union.

This rejection did not sway the determination of the Manongs who set about creating their own unions. One of the first was the Agricultural Workers League which was organized in 1930. Other Manongs found support from the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) which had ties to the communist Trade Union Unity League.[iii]

In August 1930, the American Legion in Monterey began a campaign to ban the employment of Filipinos in sardine canneries claiming they were “Reds.” Protests made by the Filipino National Society declared that Filipino employees were exposed to public hostility and threatened with violence. However, the protests fell on deaf ears and thirteen canneries eliminated their Filipino employees “as far as possible.”[iv]

In May 1932, pea pickers in Half Moon Bay lead a 24 hour walk-out asking for wage increases, improved housing and medical services in exchange for their return.[v] This strike proved unsuccessful due to poor organization and presences of armed deputies.[vi]

Undaunted, the CAWIU carefully organized a November orchard pruner’s Strike in Solano County. The unsuccessful strike lasted until January 1933. Manongs requested “basic minimum wage of $2.50 for an 8 hour day, time and a half for overtime, free transportation and work implements, union recognition, cessation of evictions, and rehiring without discrimination on grounds of race, color, or union affiliation.”[vii] Violence marked the strike. Police often clashed with the strikers and local vigilantes kidnapped the union organizers, shaved their heads, and painted their bodies red.[viii]

The CAWIU regrouped and called for a militant state wide “general strike” in 1933. On April 14,1933 pea pickers in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties struck, asking for wage increases.[ix] Uncle Raymond vividly recalled this strike, declaring, “That was us!” He also found it laughable that anyone would believe him to be a Communist.

By August 1933 more groups joined the general strike. Lettuce workers in Salinas and Watsonville and grape pickers in Kern County struck for wage increases. Beet workers in Oxnard demanded the elimination of labor contractors and the recognition of their Union. In all there were twenty five strikes. Twenty one of the strikes resulted in wage increases and only four of the strikes were lost.[x] Sadly, the pea pickers strike in Alameda County, in which Uncle took part, was lost. Many acts of violence and intimidation were perpetuated upon the Manongs during the general strike. Police visited the labor camps arresting or evicting any Filipino who refused to immediately return to work. Even the local charities conducted a most uncharitable survey aimed at refusing aid to “able-bodied men who refuse to work in the fields.”[xi]

“The Filipino is a real fighter and his strikes have been dangerous... Once the Filipino attempted to organize, he ceased to be a desirable worker.”[xii]

During the general strike of 1933, farmer owners were plotting their own strategies. The newly formed Farmers Association (which was controlled by the biggest farm corporations) pushed through anti-picketing legislation in 20 rural California counties and pressured courts and police to arrest CAWIU leaders.

“In 1933 Rufo Canete and other Filipino labor leaders met in Salinas and formed the Filipino Labor Union (FLU). In less than a year, the FLU launched a drive to organize farm workers of all nationalities around the goals of an increased minimum wage (to 35 cents per hour), an eight-hour day, employment without racial discrimination, recognition of the union as a bargaining agent and the abolition of labor contractors.

Under the leadership of Canete, D.L. Marcuelo, Johnny Estigoy, Nick Losada and others, the FLU grew rapidly to seven chapters and over 2,000 members. Soon after the demands were rejected, the FLU called the first strike. Almost 7,000 men and women employed in the lettuce fields and packing sheds in Salinas went on strike. The Salinas Lettuce Strike completely shut down the lucrative industry and the union's demands were soon granted.”[xiii]

In January 1934 spinach cutters in San Mateo County struck for wage increases and in February brussel sprout workers in Pescadero also demanded wage increases.[xiv]

One evening, as I sat chatting away in the warm, sweet smelling kitchen while he shuffled about making dinner, I was caught off guard when Uncle Raymond suddenly held a brussel sprout far above his head. “You like these?” he asked and without waiting for a response he was swept away in a rushing tide of vivid memories, telling me of working in a wide field filled with brussel sprouts plants. Uncle’s speech grew increasingly more rapid and his Tagalog accent more staccato as his story unfolded, “We cut with a big knife, long!” he exclaimed, showing the size of the knife then making sweeping motions with his hand and arm to demonstrate, “Like this!” I could see the stalks falling about his feet. Turning the brussel sprout to it’s butt end Uncle pushed it toward my face, wanting me to see, “And then here! Each one!” Uncle stared into my eyes for a moment, emphatic that I understand how much labor, exactly how many cuts, went into gathering that little bowl full of brussel sprouts. Satisfied, he toss the brussel sprouts into a pot of boiling water and his attentions again returned to making the family meal. The “way back machine” moment was over. Everything continued as placidly as if the intensity of his conversation, the fluid dance of farming gestures, and my close encounter with a brussel sprout’s bottom had never happened. But ,it was my turn to feel excited. Uncle had let me in again, given me another glimpse of his world, trusted me with the significance and magnitude of his story. So I just keep sitting there, listening, watching, and glowing.

The low wage earning Manongs were often the preferred employees of farmers who grew the most labor intensive crops. Filipinos comprised nearly the entire asparagus-picking work force in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. The asparagus growers found it profitable to employ increased numbers of Manongs per acre, ensuring an efficient and more productive harvest. However, this profit-making strategy decreased the already low wages of the Manongs. Therefore, in March 1934 asparagus cutters in Sacramento County struck for wage increases.[xv]

When in April 1934 Strawberry pickers in Sacramento County struck for wage increases, local authorities used tear gas to disrupt altercations in the fields.[xvi]

Remembering the traditional Filipino values of team work and laboring for the good of the entire community, members of the Filipino Labor Union (FLU), who handled over 80 percent of the Salinas Valley lettuce crop, formed an alliance with white packing shed workers backed by the AFL.[xvii] The two groups stuck demanding union recognition and improved conditions. Both Unions agreed to work together. Neither Union was to sit down at the bargaining table without the presence of the other. Weeks later, the farm owners and shippers agreed to meet with the Union and a tentative agreement was reached on a Saturday night. The meeting ended with farmers and shippers declaring, “Send your workers back to work immediately, and we'll negotiate on Monday."[xviii]

As the following day was Sunday, and by past practice had been a day of rest, none of the workers from either Union returned to their jobs until Monday morning. A curious shift of tone over took the negotiation. Farmers and union representatives from the packing shed workers sat down to negotiate. However, these same farmers refused with Union representatives for the Filipino lettuce pickers claiming that the Manongs had "violated the agreement to return to work immediately."

Thus, at the very moment the AFL broke their word and sat down to negotiations without the FLU present, organized gangs of white vigilantes burned Filipino labor camps, drove Filipino union organizers out of town, and brought in scabs to pick the lettuce. The Manongs had been rejected by the AFL once more.

“Violence was common during other strikes, as well. In 1933, 700 Filipino lettuce pickers struck in Salinas Valley, California. This union grew to 2,000 workers and joined the 1934 strike in Monterey with an AFL affiliate union, the Vegetable Packers Association. During this latter strike, labor leaders were arrested, two workers were shot, and the labor camp where hundreds of Filipino farm workers lived was burned to the ground.”[xix]

By the end of 1934, many of the CAWIU leaders had been arrested for criminal syndicalism and the Union became inactive.[xx] While short lived, the CAWIU left an important legacy to all unions by fostering interracial cooperation between Mexican, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Japanese, and white farm workers.[xxi]

The indomitable spirits of the Mangos would not be broken. With awe inspiring courage they continued to organize and cry out against unfair labor practices. In February of 1935, pea, celery, lettuce pickers in Santa Ana stuck for wage increases to 25¢ per hour and a nine-hour work day.[xxii]

1935 also saw the passage of the Wagner Act which made unionization legal. Filipino labor leaders were overjoyed. They strongly believed that the right to demand better wages would lead to social equality. Grudgingly, the AFL agreed to grant a charter to a Filipino – Mexican union of fieldworkers in 1936 and in 1937 a Cannery Union was formed by Manongs working in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

“Wage earners must be organized to have rights and promote their own welfare whether the method is collective bargaining with employers or the administration of law. With organization labor is all powerful: without organization it does not have power, authority or rights."

~ American Federation of Labor

Still the fight for a living wage raged on. In February 1936, Manongs struck against H.P. Garin Company in San Diego County, seeking Union recognition, 30¢ per hour, and 60% union preference. This action showed courage as H. P. Garin Company owned three packing sheds and twenty two cottages for employees. They shipped fruits and vegetables all over the country using refrigerated railcars. Garin was a powerful company, controlling more than 30,000 acres across the state of California with a headquarters in Brentwood. [xxiii]

The right to legally for unions did not guarantee change for the better. In the fall of 1936, Filipino Union members in Santa Cruz and San Joaquin Counties struck for higher wages. For the most part, their demands were ignored.

The Filipino Labor Union also staged another lettuce strike in Salinas. Even with the backing of legislation and unions, minority farm laborers continued to face an onslaught of ruthless discrimination.

"When the sob sisters of America, particularly those of California, could not get rid of the Mexicans in any other way, the Filipino was brought in to displace him, the most worthless, unscrupulous, shiftless, diseased, semi-barbarian that has ever come to our shores."

~Pacific Rural Press, May 9, 1936[xxiv]

Feelings of Unionism became so strong that in Kern County, during the summer of 1937, Filipinos were warned that unless they were able to present union cards, or join the union local there, they would not be employed.[xxv]

“In 1938 representatives from all the Filipino organizations on the Pacific Coast voted to form the Filipino Agricultural Laborers Association. However, Filipino organizers such as Francisco Varona, Macario Bautista and Lamberto Malinab believed inclusion of all farmworkers was critical, and invited Mexican workers and other ethnic groups into their ranks. They later changed the union's name to the Federated Agricultural Laborers Association (FALA).”[xxvi]

By 1938 Woody Guthrie was making appearances in support of labor unions and wrote such songs as I Ain’t No Home in This World Anymore, inspired by his visits to migrant labor camps.

“In 1939 FALA won its most significant victory with a successful strike of the asparagus industry. After a one-day stoppage involving thousands of workers, all 258 growers signed an agreement guaranteeing unprecedented worker rights. The success in the asparagus industry prompted other victories in the celery, brussels sprouts and garlic fields from San Mateo to San Benito counties. By 1940, there were nearly 30,000 FALA members.”[xxvii]

In 1940, the AFL chartered the Filipino Federated Agricultural Laborers Association.

“Filipino labor activists not only organized unions, but fought to make them clean and democratic, responsive to the needs of their members.”[xxviii]

Not even in WWII were Filipinos treated with dignity. In the 1940’s, Filipino military recruits from both the United States and the Philippines were promised U. S. citizenship in return for their service to the nation. However in 1946 this promise was rescinded by the Rescission Act which took away Filipino WWII veterans benefits, services, and privileges. Futhermore, discrimenation against Filipinos was so rampant that all of the sixty-six countries allied with the United States during the war, the Philippines was the only country that did not receive military benefits from the United States.

The U. S. economy improved after WWII but the trickle down to those on the bottom rungs of the social ladder was minimal.

In 1956, Larry Itliong founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union in California. By 1959, Itliong had become a key Filipino labor organizer. Working in collaboration with Philip Veracruz and Pete Velasco, Itliong advocated for Filipino Unions to join with the AFL-CIO. Eventually his efforts lead to the creation of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC).

"On September 8, 1965, at the Filipino Hall at 1457 Glenwood St. in Delano, the Filipino members of AWOC held a mass meeting to discuss and decide whether to strike or to accept the reduced wages proposed by the growers. The decision was 'to strike" and it became one of the most significant and famous decisions ever made in the entire history of the farmworkers struggles in California. It was like an incendiary bomb, exploding out the strike message to the workers in the vineyards, telling them to have sit-ins in the labor camps, and set up picket lines at every grower's ranch… It was this strike that eventually made the UFW, the farmworkers movement, and Cesar Chavez famous worldwide."

~ Philip Vera Cruz

On September the 8th, 1965, Larry Itliong lead the grape strike in Delano in which began with a Filipino farm-workers sit down strike in the Cochella Vineyards.Two weeks later, the AWOC and Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Association combined efforts. The strike lead to a national boycott of California Table Grapes and the formation of the United Farm Workers (UFW).

“Together with another Filipino - Philip Vera Cruz, Larry Itliong convinced Cesar Chavez's predominantly Mexican NFWA (National Farm Workers Association) to join the strike and boycott in the Delano grape fields in 1965, demanding better pay and benefits from the grape growers. Thereafter, the Filipino and Mexican farmworkers groups joined together to form the United Farm Workers (UFW).”[xxx]

In 1967, with the formation of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) Larry Itliong became an Assistant Director to Ceasar Chavez.

“You are never strong enough that you don't need help.”

~ Cesar Chavez

Larry Itliong resigned from the UFW in 1971 when Chazer held meetings with Phillipine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. However, Itliong remained active in his fight for social justice supporting the cause of retired Manongs and community and civic projects.

In 1972, Itliongs distrust of Marcos proved well founded. Marcos declared martial law, prompting hundreds to flee in a search for political freedom.

Writing this section has been particularly poignant. My husband volunteered with the United Farm Workers in the 1970’s handing out information at grocery stores regarding the grape strike and unionizing farm workers. He is now the president of our local teacher’s union. I am also involved with the teacher’s union in a minor role, acting as a site representative. Would Uncle be proud of our service? Would he feel that we follow in his footsteps, embodying the ideals set forth be the Manong Generation? I hope so.

"America is not bound by geographical lattitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of men that are building a new world."

~ Carlos Bulosan[xxxi]

Dahil Sa Iyo! was the song the heard in the Delano Grape Strike film clip. Nat King Cole sings it like an Angel.

Dahil Sa Iyo
Lyrics and rough tanslation

Sa buhay ko'y labis
Ang hirap at pasakit, ng pusong umiibig
Mandin wala ng langit
At ng lumigaya, hinango mo sa dusa
Tanging ikaw sinta, ang aking pag-asa.

Long have I endured in my life
The pain and sorrows from Love arise
Then you came and redeemed me, my dear,
My only hope in my darkest fears

Dahil sa iyo, nais kong mabuhay
Dahil sa iyo, hanggang mamatay
Dapat mong tantuin, wala ng ibang giliw
Puso ko'y tanungin, ikaw at ikaw rin

Because of you, I yearn to be alive
Because of you, ‘till death (you) must realize
In my heart I know there is only you
And ask my heart, you’ll know that this is true

Dahil sa iyo, ako'y lumigaya
Pagmamahal, ay alayan ka
Kung tunay man ako, ay alipinin mo
Ang lahat ng ito, dahil sa iyo

Because of you, I found happiness
That to you I offer this love that is so blessed
Though indeed I may be a slave for loving you so true
It matters not to me, ‘cause everything’s because of you

Imagine my surprise when my husband, Rico, told me that Auntie Cora and Uncle Santos Beloy recorded this song in the 1960’s. Here’s Auntie Cora and Uncle Santos with their version of Dahil Sa Iyo in English and Tagalog. The green album cover from their 1964 record will be featured from second 6 to 13.

[i] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unions in American Agriculture” p.129
[ii] The Brawley News, December 19, 1935.
[iii] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unions in American Agriculture” p.129
[iv] The San Francisco Examiner, August 25, 1930.
[v] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.129
[vi] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.85
[vii] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” pgs. 85-86
[viii] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p. 86
[ix] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.129
[x] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p. 87
[xi] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p. 89
[xii] McWilliams, Carey. “Factories in the Fields” p.133
[xiii] Salomon. Larry. “Filipinos Build a Movement for Justice in the Asparagus Fields” Third Force, Vol. 2, # 4, Oct, 31, 1994, p.30
[xiv] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.129
[xv] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.129
[xvi] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.111
[xvii] DeWitt, Howard A. “The Filipino Labor Union: The Salinas Lettuce Strike of 1934” Amerasia Journal, Vol. 2, #5, 1978
[xviii] The Farmworker’s Website http://www.farmworkers.org/strugcal.html.
[xix] Kim, Marlene. “Organizing Asian Americans into Labor Unions” U of Massachusetts, Boston
[xx] Ruiz, Vicki and Korrol, Virginia Sanchez. “Latinas in the United States: a historical encyclopedia: Vol. 1 pgs. 117-118
[xxi] Gonzales, Gilbert G. “Company Unions, The Mexican Consulate, And The Imperial Valley Agricultural Strikes, 1928 -1934” The Western Historical Quarterly, 27, Spring 1996
[xxii] Jamieson, Stuart Marshall. “Labor Unionism in American Agriculture” p.123
[xxiii] Leighton, Kathy. “Footprints in the Sand”
[xxiv] “The Farm Labor Problem Grows Acute” The Pacific Rural Press, May 9, 1936.
[xxv] The Farmer Labor News, Modesto, April 23, 1937
[xxvi] Salomon. Larry. “Filipinos Build a Movement for Justice in the Asparagus Fields” Third Force, Vol. 2, # 4, Oct, 31, 1994, p.30
[xxvii] Salomon. Larry. “Filipinos Build a Movement for Justice in the Asparagus Fields” Third Force, Vol. 2, # 4, Oct, 31, 1994, p.30
[xxviii] Bacon, David. “ The Living Tradition of Filipino Union Activism” http://dbacon.igc.org/Phils/06LivingTradition.htm
[xxix] Scharlin, Craig and Villanueva, Lilia. “The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement”
[xxx] DFA Press Release.“California Assembly Honors Late Filipino Labor Leader Larry Itliong” April 6, 2006
[xxxi] Bulosan, Carlos. “America Is In the Heart”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Little Manilas

At the time of the 1930 Census, Uncle Raymond, age 17, was living with Uncle Del on Telegraph Avenue in Mt. Eden, California. Uncle Raymond was listed as Uncle Del’s nephew. Both men were listed as Negro and employed as laborers/gardeners. Possibly due to the communication issues which arose between two parties speaking different native tongues, the Census taker listed Delphine Gaumatico as E. P. Senmatico. (Note to those who wish to research using Census records: Census takers are human and tire after a long day of knocking on doors and interviewing residents. Errors in Census information such as incorrect or phonetic spelling of names, incorrect dates of birth, and even the incorrect sex of the individuals listed are not uncommon. Double check the data you find with other sources.)

In the 1930’s, Filipinos were still classified as nationals and as such were ineligible for U.S. citizenship, could not vote, could not start a business, could not hold a civil service or government job, and could not could not own land or real estate. Thus, Uncle Del and Uncle Raymond were renting.

“…Filipino men used available rental space efficiently. Migratory field hands who lived off of seasonal income especially had to be cost conscious…” [i]

In California cities from Sacramento to Los Angles, Manongs found themselves facing racial segregation as they applied to rent rooms or apartments. Frequently, due to racial and economic restrictions, Manongs were limited to rental accommodations in low rent areas. Many times, they chose to settle near Chinese or Japanese enclaves. “Little Manilas,” also known as Manilatowns or Filipinotowns, sprang up in Stockton, San Francisco, Los Angles, San Diego, and Long Beach. These little islands of acceptance, filled with Filipino markets, cafes, pool halls, social clubs, and dance halls, offered the familiarity of their home culture and became the homes to which Manongs returned to at the end of each work season.

“The Filipino boys all know each other. We are drawn together. We all come from the same place. We feel at home here."[ii]

It is no longer possible to see the buildings in which Uncle lived during his early days in the United States. In the late 1950’s Mt. Eden was consumed by urban sprawl and unceremoniously incorporated into the city of Hayward. The area that was once the heart of Mt. Eden now lies under a nondescript freeway interchange. Only Telegraph Avenue remains, renamed as Hesperian Boulevard.

Little remains of the Mt. Eden of the 1920’s and 30’s

“The pioneer generation was also versed in using the legal system. For a long time, I had assumed that legal housing segregation by race and national origin had been eliminated by the 1968 Civil Rights Act. Certainly one of the first thing sour parents taught my siblings and me even before we started school was knowing the different racial and ethnic neighborhoods in San Francisco and their boundaries. We initially lived in a flat in Japantown, which was the buffer zone between the blacks of the Fillmore and the whites of Pacific Heights. It was only by looking at old family pictures, with my college friends Anita Sanchez and Joe Alfafara that I learned about the California Supreme Court case Alfafara vs.Foss (1945) 26C2d358. Celestino Alfafara, Joe’s Uncle, successfully challenged the California 1921 Alien Land Act, which prohibited aliens not eligible for citizenship from owning property. In June 1944, Mr. Alfafara had entered into a contract to purchase land in San Mateo for Sixty-five dollars. Bernice Foss, the owner of the land, refused to convey the property, citing the Alien Land Act. The Court ruled that Celestino Alfafara was not an alien but a U. S. national who owed allegiance solely to the United States and not to a foreign government (the Philippines was then a commonwealth). Alfafara was another step forward in greater civic participation and equality for Filipino Americans specifically, and in general for other Americans, paving the way for other steps that culminated in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act.”[iii]

The following three photographs show Manongs with whom Uncle shared housing during the 1930’s. If you recognize any of these gentlemen, please contact me.

Uncle Raymond (right)

Uncle Raymond (left)

Unable to determine individuals or location with certainty

[i] Guevarra, Rudy, Jr. “Skid Row: Filipinos, Race and the Social Construction of Space in San Diego” The Journal of San Diego History
[ii] Maniliatown Heritage Foundation. “Our Past: Seeds of the Community” http://www.manilatown.org/ourpast.htm
[iii] Lott, Juanita Tamayo. “Common Destiny: Filipno American Generations” p. 34

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Did the Manongs Stay Single?

Not all Filipinos in the United States during the 1920’s and 30’s remained single however, because of the negative social currents and open racism against them, starting a family in America was extremely difficult for most Manongs. Filipina wives and girlfriends were forbidden by U. S. law to join their sweethearts.

Matters became worse in 1926 when the state of California passed anti-miscegenation laws that prevented Filipinos from marrying white women, including Hispanics. However, some men simply drove out of state in order to marry their white sweethearts. On January 26, 1930 a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that all marriages between Filipinos and Caucasians performed since 1921 were invalid.[i]

Desperate, some Manongs attempted to pay a bride pay and enter arranged marriages:

Early on the morning of 2 December 1929, police raided the room of Perfecto Bandalan, 25, and found in the darkness two scantily attired white girls, Bertha and Esther Schmick, ages ten and sixteen. To a shocked public it was announced in court that the father of the girls had wanted to sell Esther to Bandalan for $500.[ii] Subsequently he charged that his wife had urged the deal so that she could “live on easy street.”[iii]

A flood of what editor David P. De Tagle coined “Filiopinomania” swept the state.

“…if the present state of affairs continues….there will be 40,000 half breeds in the State of California before ten years have passed”

~Judge D. W. Rohrbach, The Watsonville Evening Pajaronian, 10 January 1930

Until 1931, women who dared marry foreign born men with dark skin faced being stripped of their own U.S. citizenship.

While many whites also hardened their stance, young white girls still fell in love with their ardent “little brown brothers,” causing the occasional scandal: Dorcia Wilson (15) eloped on 21 March, and Velma Espinosa (15), “a mere slip of a child with golden brown curls falling to her shoulders, and blue eyes filled with tears,” was dragged into Salinas court on 1 July for marrying Rufo Canete.[iv] [v]

In 1932 Salvador Roldan filed suit in Los Angeles County, testing the anti-miscegenation laws.[vi] An Appellate Court ruled that Roldan could marry Marjorie Rogers, an Anglo woman because Filipinos are "Malays, not Mongolians." Marriages between Chinese men and white women were prohibited by existing anti-miscegenation laws.

This ruling did not sit well with the white majority. Anti-Filipino forces soon persuaded California lawmakers to pass legislation adding to the existing anti-miscegenation laws. Filipinos were again prohibited from marrying white women. All marriages between Filipino and white Californians were legally invalidated in 1933.

By 1936, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington also enacted laws prohibiting marriages between Filipinos and whites. Consequently, some white women became common-law wives.

Other Manongs, believing they had no alternative but to remain single, lavished their attentions on taxi dancers. Given that in 1920 the ratio of Filipino males to Filipina females was twenty to one and the 1930 rate was fourteen to one, it was only natural that the Manongs would seek companionship with women of other races. However many white citizens believed that meetings between the young Filipinos and taxi dancers, women whose morals were assumed to be questionable, led to “inappropriate behavior.”

“The Filipino male is often still portrayed as a rake, especially by the Western male observer. But this stereotype too does not account for the majority of Filipino men who are good fathers and husbands. In many ways, what attracted white women in the 1920s and 30s was not so much the sexual passions of the Filipino male, but their ability to care for and treat a woman, of any race.”[vii]

Not being able to find a wife was not always a matter of race. The opinion of some young Filipinas toward men of the Manong generation were not favorable. They too looked down upon Manongs and “fished” for all gifts, clothing, and jewelry they could get.

The "ladies of the evening" saved young Filipinas from the sexual aggression of the manongs in the 1930s and 1940s.

They were reviled as "taxi dancers" or "ladies of the evening," the women who fulfilled the sexual proclivities of the manongs (Filipino farmworkers) in the 1930s and the 1940s. But to us, Pinay and mestiza (mixed race Filipinas) teenagers growing up in Stockton, California at that time, they were our buffers and saviors. Without them, we would have been aggressively and sexually pursued by the lonely bachelors, ages ranging from 17 to 30 years old, who outnumbered us girls by 14 to 1.”

~Anita F Bautista[viii]

Not all Filipinas held such catty notions. Just as women today hold a wide varity of opinions on any given subject, so did the women of yesteryear. Having grown up in the “Skid Row” section of San Diego, another Filipina claimed it was “not a scary place because it was home.” She and her siblings walked the streets without care, even after dark or when carrying shopping money. She recalled members of the Manong Generation as friendly, kind, and frequently purchasing candy for the neighborhood children.[ix] Our perspectives color our memories of the past. It is important to listen carefully to all points of view. Sometimes, there is more than one “truth.”

Not until after WWII was the constitutionality of anti-micegenation laws challenged.

Before the 1st Regiment departed for the western Pacific in May 1944, Colonel Offley had a major dilemma on his hands. Even though his regimental chaplains were prepared to perform marriage ceremonies between the Filipino soldiers and their white girlfriends, the strict anti-miscegenation laws in California prevented the men from applying for marriage licenses. Colonel Offley solved this by sending his soldiers and their sweethearts to Gallup, New Mexico on chartered buses that soon came to be called the "honeymoon express."[x]

Finally, in 1948, the California Supreme Court, in Perez v. Sharp, ruled that the Californian anti-miscegenation statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment. California repealed it’s law. Some Manongs chose to finally begin a family, often marrying women one or two generations younger than themselves.

However, it was not until 1967, during the height of the civil rights movement, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Loving v. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Horrifyingly, on that date, 38 states still had such laws on their books.

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

~ The United States Supreme Court

Statistics today show that U.S.-raised Filipino Americans have a very high level of intermarriage with people of other races.[xi]

Let us always cherish the memories of all early interracial couples. We too must stand with courage and tenacity in order to prevent injustices from continuing as couples today fight for right to marry.

[i] Mabalon, Dawn Bohulano, Phd. “A General Timeline of Filipina/o American History” http://magnorubiounit.wikispaces.com/Timeline
[ii] “Salinas Index-Journal”, 2 December 1929 and 6 Decmber 1929
[iii] Meynell, Richard B., “Remembering the Watsonville Riots” http://www.modelminority.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=271:remembering-the-watsonville-riots-&catid=40:history&Itemid=56
[iv] “Salinas Index-Journal”, 11 August-24 September 1930.
[v] Meynell, Richard B., “Remembering the Watsonville Riots” http://www.modelminority.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=271:remembering-the-watsonville-riots-&catid=40:history&Itemid=56
[vi] Mabalon, Dawn Bohulano, Phd. “A General Timeline of Filipina/o American History” http://magnorubiounit.wikispaces.com/Timeline
[vii] Manasala, Paul Kekai. “New Historical Perspectives” http://asiapacificuniverse.com/pkm/phil.htm.
[viii] Bautista. Anita F. “Love in the Time of Taxi Dancres” Filipinas, Oct. 2007
[ix] Hemminger, Carol. “Little Manila: The Filipino in Stockton Prior to World War II”, Part II The Pacific Historian, Vol. 24 (Spring 1980) p. 214
[x] Fabros, Alex. S. “california and the Second World War: California’s Filipino Infantry” http://www.militarymuseum.org/Filipino.html
[xi] Le, C.N. "Interracial Dating & Marriage" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Positively No Filipinos Allowed!

Sign on a hotel doorway in Stockton, California

Seen as outsiders, Flipinos were shunned by Californians. As the economic conditions worsened during the early1930’s, the men of the Manong Generation competed with working class white men for available jobs and women. Due to this constant competition, Filipinos became the focus of blatant discrimination and open hatred. One annonymous California businessman spitefully reported, “The Filipinos are hot little rabbits, and many of these white women like them for this reason." [i]

Tensions grew across the state and Filipinos were made to feel increasingly unwelcome. Many hotels, restaurants, and swimming pools bore signs reading "POSITIVELY NO FILIPINOS ALLOWED!" or "NO DOGS OR FILIPINOS ALLOWED!"

Farm owners used the “divide-and-rule” policy pitting various ethnic groups against each other and keeping them vieing for jobs and wages. Hardworking Filipinos were viewed as cheap, docile labor. Because they were “nationals,” not citizens, farmers believed Filipinos would not risk joining labor unions. The Manongs had no protection from race-based labor exploitation.

As the U. S. economy worsened in the face of the Great Depression, discrimination and violence were increasingly directed at the Manongs. It was not uncommon for whites to shout insults such as, “ Hey Monkey! Go home!” as they past a Filipino.

Even educated individuals who should have known better were caught up in the frenzy of discrimination. Judge D. W. Rohrback of Monterey County referred to Filipinos as "little brown men about 10 years removed from a bolo and breach cloth...strutting about like peacocks, endeavoring to attract the eyes of young American and Mexican girls."

When crop prices fell by as much as sixty percent, Filipinos became the favorite scapegoats of those aversely affected by the Depression.[ii] In 1928 all Filipino workers in the Yakima Valley in Washington State were driven out by force. It would not be long before the violence made its way to California.

"These Filipino boys are good dancers. They can dance circles around these 'white' boys, and the 'white' boys don't like it -- especially when the Filipinos dance with 'white' girls. It's no telling what these Filipinos will do if they keep comin'; and it's no telling what the 'white' man will do either. Something is liable to happen."[iii]

On the evening of October 24, 1929, a knife fight broke out in Exeter when several white men claimed that Filipinos were “corrupting” white women. The accusers were a group of white farm workers who had lost their jobs harvesting figs and grapes to Filipinos. An estimated 300 white men attacked a Filipino labor camp, injuring residents and ultimately burning the camp to the ground. As a result, all Filipinos were driven out of Exeter by the chief of police.

An anti-Filipino resolution was adopted by the Northern Monterey Chamber of Commerce, echoing the California State legistation which called for a Congressional Act restricting Filipino immigration. In part, the Chamber of Commerce resolution read "The unrestricted immigration into the State of California of natives of the Philippine Islands is viewed with alarm both from a moral and sanitary standpoint while constituting a menace to white labor."

Police officers in San Francisco stated, "The Filipino is bad; by nature he is a criminal. Their crimes are of a violent nature. And in addition they associate with white girls..." and "...The Filipino is our great menace. They are all criminally minded. They are great chasers of white women..."[iv]

Five days of rioting in Watsonville began when residents objected to white taxi dancers working at the Filipino clubhouse in Palm Beach and a Filipino man dating a white teenager (with the permission of the latter's mother). Police officers stood idle by as an angry white mob attacked Manongs. Only after a young Filipino named Fermin Tobera was killed did the police finally disperse the mob. After the riots, residents of Watsonville justified their actions claiming Filipinos “spent money on flashy clothes and new cars in order to attract white women.”

Judge D. W. Rohrback also blamed Filipinos for the violence saying, "Damn the Filipino! He won't keep his place. The worst part of his being here is his mixing with young white girls from 13 to 17, buying them silk underwear ...keeping them out till all hours of the night. And some of these girls are carrying a Filipino's baby around inside them."

The violence drew national attention.

"The Filipinos got in trouble at Watsonville because they wore 'sheikier' clothes, danced better, and spent their money more lavishly than their Nordic fellow farmhands and therefore, appealed more than some of the latter to the local girls."

~ The Baltimore Sun

The most frightening event occurred on January 29th, 1930, when the Filipino Federation building just outside the boundaries of the four block “Little Manila” area in Stockton was bombed. The entire building was destroyed.

The same year white males made their feelings regarding Filipinos known speaking before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization stating, "The Filipinos are a social menace. They will not leave our white girls alone and frequently intermarry." and "As we were looking at some of the nicer cars along comes a Filipino and a nice looking white girl. We followed them around to be sure we were not mistaken...I don't know what she saw in him.”[v]

The Manongs were suffering and had only each other to turn to.

“I am told that there were no Filipinos on welfare lines during the Depression. Because of their highly communal life they pulled together their inner strength and resources to survive when the economy of the United States collapsed.”

~ Lemuel Ignacio

“Filipino Americans sought out male relatives and compadres from their barrios to cook, eat, and live together in bunk houses. They formed a surrogate family, known as a kumpang, with the eldest man serving as leader of the "household." In addition, Filipino Americans compensated for the lack of traditional families by observing "life-cycle celebrations" such as baptismals, birthdays, weddings and funerals. These celebrations took on a greater importance than they would have in the Philippines, providing the single Filipino men without relatives in the United States the opportunity to become part of an extended family. Such new customs became an important part of the Filipino American strategy to adapt to the new world and culture in the United States.”[vi]

Far from a land of dreams, life in the United State had become a nightmare for the Manong Generation. And it was about to get worse.

On March 24, 1934, Congress approved the Tydings-McDuffie Act which provided for Philippine independence after a period of twelve years. While this was wonderful news for the people of the Philippine Islands, it was horrible for the Manongs. They were immediately reclassified as “aliens” and an immigration quota of fifty persons per year was established.

Adding insult to injury, the U.S. Congress passed the Repatriation Act the following year. It provided free passage to the Phillipines to any Filipino desiring to leave the United States. The catch was that once a person accepted this offer, they would become subject to the Tydings–McDuffie Act quotas should they wish to re-enter the United States. In the five years before the Act was declared unconstitutional, only 2,190 Filipinos decided to return to the Phillippines. The majority of Filipinos in California chose to stay in the United States, knowing that they may never see their loved ones in the Philipines again.

Yet not everything was dismal. Congress has also passed the Warner Act which gave workers the legal right to unionize. Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged unions. He believed that Unions would raise wages, higher wages would increase the purchasing power of the working class, and the Depression would end sooner. Recognizing that they occupied the bottom of the wage scale, faced all forms of discrimination, and did not have a sovereign government to speak on their behalf, the Manongs organized unions.

Yet change would be a long time in coming. In a “Time” article published in January 1936, Judge Sylvain Lazarus of the San Francisco Municipal Court curtly stated, "Some of these [Filipino] boys, with perfect candor, have told me bluntly and boastfully that they practice the art of love with more perfection than white boys, and occasionally one of the [white] girls has supplied me with information to the same effect. In fact, some of the disclosures in this regard are perfectly startling in nature."

Another “Time” article proclaimed, "To the intense dismay of many race-conscious Californians these little brown men not only have a preference for white girls, particularly blondes, but have established to many a white girl's satisfaction their superior male attractions."

White Californians presented contradictions that confounded the Manongs. On one hand, farmer owners and certain urban enterprises welcomed Filipinos because they provided cheap labor. Yet, on the other, over riding discriminatory attitudes relegated Filipinos to low-paying jobs forcing them into an inferior social and economic existence. Consequently, white Californians criticized the Filipinos' substandard living conditions, accusing them of creating health problems and lowering the overall standard of living.

“For immigrants who were perceived to be poor and "dirty," dressing up in ultra-clean, neat clothes was an act of subversion.”

~ Kenny Tanemura[vii]

“Flashy clothes and new cars” caused jealousy

Uncle did not often discuss the discrimination he had faced. He very carefully omitted pieces of stories when speaking in front of my mother-in-law or with me. After all, I was female, younger, and someone he felt protective of. Yet, once in a great while, usually inclusive of the presence of my husband or my youngest brother-on-law, Uncle would not feel the need to hold back and he would tell us everything. It was during these “let your hair down” periods that Uncle would mention a Manong carrying a knife “for safety” or groups of men carrying “chains” to a fight.

[i] Takaki, Ronald. “Strangers From A Distant Shore: Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance” p. 328
[ii] US Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/data/ and Cochrane, Willard W. “Farm Prices, Myth and Reality” p. 15.
[iii] Takaki, Ronald. “Strangers From A Distant Shore: Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance” p. 327
[iv] United States Commission of Law Observance and Enforcement, _Report on Crime and the Foreign Born_, no. 10, June 13 1931, p. 362
[v] Takaki, Ronald. “Strangers From A Distant Shore: Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance” p. 328
[vi] Melendy, H. Brent. “Filipino Americans” http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Du-Ha/Filipino-Americans.html
[vii] Tanemura, Kenny. “Creating Masculinity” Asian Week, November 24, 2006

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Music, Dance, Poetry and the Need to Feed the Soul

There aren’t many people in this small rural town who, without some struggle, can find the Philippines on a map. Fewer still avidly discuss genealogy, sociology, or ethnography. I’m growing so bold in my attempts to find someone to communicate with that last night I dared to mention the Manong Generation at a dinner party. While I was met with dull blank stares, at least they were polite enough not to yawn. Thus, today I’m indulgently departing from my normal blogging about the past to draw attention to living artists that have drawn inspiration from the Manong Generation.

If I had the ability to recast last night’s dinner party inviting any Pinoy I wished, this would be my guest list:

Apl de Ap

In 2006, when a vast majority of music videos were merely soft porn, Apl de Ap’s “Bebot: Generation One” paid homage to the Manong Generation. The video deftly covers examples the struggles Manongs faced on a daily basis by following a group of farm laborers from the asparagus field into town for a night of taxi dancing.

Stockton History & Behind the sences: Bebot in Little Manilla

Generation One

~Black Eyed Peas

(Lyrics and rough translation)

*Bebot bebot bet :Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet :Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay : You're a

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

Hoy pare, pakinggan n’yo ako : Hey friend, listen to me
Heto na ang tunay na Pilipino : Here I am, a true Filipino
Galing sa baryo - Sapang Bato : From the barrio of Sapang Bato
Pumunta ng L.A. - nagtrabaho : Went to L.A. and I worked
Para makatulong sa Nanay : In order to help my mother
Dahil sa hirap ng buhay : Because life got so hard
Pero masaya pa rin ang kulay : But I’m still proud of this brown skin
Pag kumain - nagkakamay : Still eat with my hands, no spoon and fork
‘yung kanin - *chicken adobo : We eat that - chicken adobo*
‘yung *balut - binibenta sa kanto : The balut* - sold on the street corner.
Tagay mo na nga ang baso : Pour the shots, let’s share
Pare ko, inuman na tayo : My Friend, let's start drinking

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay : You're a

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

Masdan mo ang magagandang dalaga : Checkin’ out the beautiful ladies
Nakakagigil ang beauty mo talaga : Your beauty is mesmerizing me
Lambing na hindi nakakasawa : This romance, I’ll never get enough
Ikaw lang and gustong makasama : You’re the only one I want to be with

‘yung bahay o kubo : I’ll live in a mansion or a small wooden hut
Pag-ibig mo ay tutoo : Because your love is true
Puso ko’y laging kumikibo : My heart keeps telling me
Wala kang katulad sa mundo :You’re the only one in my world

Pinoy ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're a Pinoy* shout, c'mmon
Kung maganda ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're beautiful shout, c'mmon
Kung buhay mo’y mahalaga - sige : If your life is of value shout, c'mmon
Salamat sa ‘yong suporta : Thanks for your support

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!
Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay aking : You're my
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Bebot bebot bet : Baby, baby, boo
Ikaw ay : You're a

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

Pinoy ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're a Pinoy* shout, c'mmon
Kung maganda ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're beautiful shout, c'mmon
Kung buhay mo’y mahalaga - sige : If your life is of value shout, c'mmon
Salamat sa ‘yong suporta : Thanks for your support

Pinoy ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're a Pinoy* shout, c'mmon
Kung maganda ka - sigaw ng - sige : If you're beautiful shout, c'mmon
Kung buhay mo’y mahalaga - sige : If your life is of value shout, c'mmon
Salamat sa ‘yong suporta : Thanks for your support

Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino! - Filipino!

La la la la la la la . . . .
la la lo . . . .
La la la la la la la lo . . . .

*Bebot: a beautiful, sexy young woman. Akin to baby or boo
*Chicken adobo : a well known Filipino chicken stew.
*Balot: snack consisting of a boiled fertilized duck egg
*Pinoy: Filipino male

Noel Gamboa

Noel Gamboa captures the music, laughter, and love of dance embedded deeply within Filipino culture. His simple line dances set to contemporary Tagalog music are fun and easy to follow.

Noel’s latest project “"Sayawan Na!!!" (Let's Dance!!) is an interactive Pinoy music and dance show about the lives of Filipino Immigrants set in folklore, comedy, and dance, wherein the audience participates in every scene by dancing as guests to the various parties that are celebrated within the show.”

Peter Bacho

Peter Bacho’s grasp of language astounds me! This man is a master at the art of imagery, painting with words to capture people, places, and dialects that are sadly slipping further away from us with each passing day. His collection of short stories, entitled “A Dark Blue Suit,” is my personal favorite.

A man of wicked wit, you will enjoy reading “The Seattle Times” http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980301&slug=2737015
and Whidbey Student Community interviews with Peter Bacho http://whidbeystudents.com/childrensyoung-adult
(about a quarter way down the page, under the book review).

Vince Gotera

Vince maintains one of my favorite websites, “Man with the Blue Guitar” (nod to 30’s poet Wallace Stevens) http://vincegotera.blogspot.com/

His culturally inspired poetry, especially “Madarika” http://vincegotera.blogspot.com/2009/05/al-robles-rip.html#poem
and “Manong Chito Tells Manong Ben About his Dream over Breakfast at the Manilatown Café” http://vincegotera.blogspot.com/2009/05/in-memoriam-al-robles-manong-chito.html#poem, invokes pieces of the old San Francisco that Uncle Raymond knew and loved so well.

There now, with the addition of my wonderful husband, my dream party guest list is complete. This rant is over. The self-pity is all out of my system. I’m lucky to have friends that invite me to dinner.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!