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American Workers, Colonial Power

American Workers, Colonial Power: Philippine Seattle and the Transpacific West, 1919-1941

Dorothy B. Fujita-Rony
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    American Workers, Colonial Power
    Book Description:

    Historically, Filipina/o Americans have been one of the oldest and largest Asian American groups in the United States. In this pathbreaking work of historical scholarship, Dorothy B. Fujita-Rony traces the evolution of Seattle as a major site for Philippine immigration between World Wars I and II and examines the dynamics of the community through the frameworks of race, place, gender, and class. By positing Seattle as a colonial metropolis for Filipina/os in the United States, Fujita-Rony reveals how networks of transpacific trade and militarism encouraged migration to the city, leading to the early establishment of a Filipina/o American community in the area. By the 1920s and 1930s, a vibrant Filipina/o American society had developed in Seattle, creating a culture whose members, including some who were not of Filipina/o descent, chose to pursue options in the U.S. or in the Philippines. Fujita-Rony also shows how racism against Filipina/o Americans led to constant mobility into and out of Seattle, making it a center of a thriving ethnic community in which only some remained permanently, given its limited possibilities for employment. The book addresses class distinctions as well as gender relations, and also situates the growth of Filipina/o Seattle within the regional history of the American West, in addition to the larger arena of U.S.-Philippines relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92772-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Note on Terminology
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. INTRODUTION: The Role of Colonialism
    (pp. 1-22)

    Most discussions of Filipina/o American history in the 1920s and 1930s focus on the role of young men like Carlos Bulosan, who migrated to the United States in search of opportunity. Margaret Duyungan Mislang’s life suggests a different way to approach this history. Mislang met her first husband, Virgil Duyungan, at a church social in the Pacific Northwest. Duyungan was, according to Mislang, from a “very high class” background. They married when she was twenty-three. Interviewed in an oral history project in 1975, Mislang remembered that Duyungan worked in a smelter, and then as a contractor “over east of the...

  7. PART ONE Charting the Pacific

    • CHAPTER 1 Empire and Migration
      (pp. 25-50)

      A popular portrayal of pre–World War II Asian American history is that of Asian workers, almost always men, coming to the United States in search of opportunities. This portrayal, which tends to privilege people’s individual motivations for journeying to the United States, usually downplays the United States’ interest in gaining control of lands and resources in the Pacific. The realities were far more complex, as suggested by Rufina Clemente Jenkins’s story, which spans both Spanish and American colonization of the Philippines. Rufina Clemente Jenkins was born in Naga, Nueva Caceres, in the Philippines, in 1886. Her father was “Castilian...

    • CHAPTER 2 Education in the Metropole
      (pp. 51-76)

      Of all the factors that would mark Filipina/os as different from the first generation of other groups who migrated to the American mainland and Hawai‘i, the widespread emphasis on university education because of American colonialism in the Philippines would be a crucial distinction. While education was an important value for Asian Americans as a whole, particularly because of its connection to class mobility, it is important to recognize how in the Filipina/o case, education in the United States was seen as an extension of education in the Philippines. Belen DeGuzman Braganza was one such early pioneer who received a university...

  8. PART TWO Working the American West

    • CHAPTER 3 Region and Labor
      (pp. 79-115)

      The link between migration and labor formed a fundamental part of the reality of almost all Filipina/os in the American West. For example, Paula Nonacido, another early pioneer to the Seattle area, made several choices shaped by the experience of migration and the pull of job opportunities. Born in the Bicol province, Nonacido was the second of five children. She “took nursing” at a hospital in Manila and then decided to continue her education in the United States. She came with a woman friend in 1926, working first in a hospital in Cleveland for three years, then in New York....

    • CHAPTER 4 Crossings and Connections
      (pp. 116-138)

      In contrast to the dominant characterization of the pre–World War II Filipina/o American community as a “bachelor society” populated by “single” men, a study of Seattle and the area immediately around it suggests a range of different social possibilities.¹ For example, although most long-term relationships between Native Americans and Filipina/os on Bainbridge Island developed after World War II, Mary Rapada and Honorato Rapada were an early couple. They met while both were pickers for Japanese farmers in Bainbridge in 1938, and they married that same year.² Bainbridge Island, just a short ferry ride from the Seattle city limits, would...

    • Figures
      (pp. None)
  9. PART THREE Power and Choice

    • CHAPTER 5 Resistance, Return, and Organization
      (pp. 141-168)

      In the 1920s and 1930s, Filipina/o Americans had an expanded sense of their place and space within the Filipina/o diaspora, and they made their decisions according to these options. Unlike most Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans, they were able to travel relatively freely between Asia and the United States at a time when the United States’ interests in the Pacific region increased the possibility of their travel, education, and employment, despite the hardships of the Great Depression. This mobility in the pre–World War II era is demonstrated by the choices made by Josefa Barrazona.

      Like many of her generation,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Insiders and Outsiders
      (pp. 169-200)

      Margaret Duyungan Mislang, the wife of Virgil Duyungan (who was the first president of the Cannery Workers’ and Farm Laborers’ Union in Seattle), offers one story of the union’s founding in the 1930s. According to Mislang, she and her sister learned from a German baker about new opportunities for unionization. As she recalled, “He told me that [the] Chamber of Commerce was starting, you know, for the businesses[sic]people now to take in and start a union.” Mislang related, “So I went home and I talked to my husband about it and he thought it sounded interesting from what...

  10. CONCLUSION: The Past and the Future
    (pp. 201-210)

    Adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Church on Capitol Hill in Seattle is a converted elementary school building, which houses several community organizations. On any given day, the building is alive with activity—preschool kids going off to recess, young people hanging outside Filipino Youth Activities before dance practice, adults reading bulletin boards as they wait to pick up family members. On the second floor is the office of Dorothy Laigo Cordova, the executive director of the Demonstration Project for Asian Americans. She is likely to be on the phone long-distance, patiently helping a researcher from the East Coast who is...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-274)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-302)