Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Little Manilla, Filipino history

Good piece in the Sacramento Bee by Steve Magagnini

On Oct. 2, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB123 requiring public schools to teach their students about the contributions of Filipino Americans to the state’s fields of plenty and the farmworkers movement that transformed American labor.
Many Californians don’t know that Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers movement were inspired by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz and other Filipino farmworkers who led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and started the Delano grape workers strike of 1965. “The students of California need to learn that the sacrifices made by both Filipino and Latino workers benefited all California,” Huerta said.
Much of that history is detailed in “Little Manila Is In The Heart,” a new book by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, an associate professor of history at San Francisco State University and a daughter of Stockton’s once-vibrant Little Manila District – for half a century the apex of Filipino life in America. Little Manila – like Sacramento’s Japantown and Chinatown – was wiped out by urban redevelopment in the 1950s and ’60s. But its legacy lives on in California’s fields and levees, said Mabalon, 41.
What do Californians need to know about Filipino Americans?
They built the Central Valley with their bare hands in asparagus, tomatoes, celery, peaches, tomatoes and grapes. Filipino and Mexican immigrants and their families turned California into the seventh-largest economy in the world. There are still Filipinos working in the fields and sorting asparagus with Mexican immigrants. The first seven Filipinos – called Indios by the Spaniards – arrived on a Spanish galleon that landed around Morro Bay on Oct. 18, 1587.

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