April 7, 2006

Mexicans and Filipinos share common history in California

Discussion at UCSD will highlight the historical coalitions of the two groups during the farmworker movement.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Andy Imutan. Larry Itliong. Philip Vera-Cruz.

Although many people don’t know the names above and textbooks rarely mention them, they, just like César Chávez, were leaders in the movement in favor of the rights and better work conditions for farmworkers in the fields of California.

The difference? They were Filipino-Americans.

The reality is that Chicano leaders such as César Chávez and Dolores Huerta have become the names mentioned the most in the farmworker movement. Filipino leaders are hardly known.

But it was Filipino-Americans the ones that initiated the first farmworker strike in 1965, in Delano, according to Nancy Magpusao, programmer/fiscal director for UCSD’s Cross Cultural Center.

Then, Filipinos and Chicanos leaders formed the United Farm Workers organization. On April 10, Magpusao will join Anthony Valladolid, UCSD’s interim director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs, for a discussion on historical coalitions of Filipino and Mexican farmworkers in California.

Before the discussion, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) de UCSD and UCSD Filipino student organization Kaibigang Pilipino (KP) will present Los Vendidos, a one-act play by El Teatro Campesino, the cultural arm of Chávez’s United Farm Workers. Los Vendidos was written by Chicano playwright Luis Valdez and it tells the story of how young Mexican Americans face the pressure of assimilation and cultural loss.

The event, which begins at 5 p.m. at UCSD Cross Cultural Center, is part of the university’s month-long tribute to César Chávez.

It will be a great opportunity for the public, and young people in particular, to recognize that Mexicans and Filipinos share a common history in California.

“We often don’t hear the stories of these coalitions,” said Magpusao, who in addition to working at the Cross Cultural Center teaches a Filipino-American history class at Southwestern College.

“It’s a matter of getting the word out about these stories,” she said.

Some of those stories took place here in San Diego County, where Filipino and Mexican communities have shared the same issues and barriers. National City and San Ysidro are great examples of communities where the two groups have developed positive relationships.

In his article “Burritos and Bagoong: Mexipinos and Multiethnic Identity in San Diego, California,” Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes that Filipinos and Mexicans have a many things in common.

“San Diego Mexicans and Filipinos have a mutual understanding of each other because of their common history of conquest by Spanish colonists and their culture, language, and Catholic religion,” states Guevarra, who is of Mexican and Filipino descent. “In addition, they share common interests and purposes through the bonds of intermarriages, fmaily and extended family relations, kinship networks, and compadrazgo, or god-parenthood.”

For Jorge Mariscal, director of UCSD’s Chicano/a – Latino/a Arts and Humanities Program and one of the organizers of the university’s César Chávez events, said that the performance of Los Vendidos and the discussion on Mexican-Filipino relations has two important points.

“I think that it will revisit the Chicano Movement’s theater and it will make it up to date. It will also urge youth to learn more about the common history shared by Chicanos and Filipinos,” Mariscal said.

Los Vendidos performance will begin at 5 p.m. on April 10, at UCSD’s Cross Cultural Center. The Mexican-Filipino relations discussion will follow the one-act play. For more information call (858) 822-4059.

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