Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Filipinos in California: From the Days of the Galleons to the Present. By Lorraine Jacobs Crouchett. El Cerrito, California: Downey Place Publishing House, Inc., 1982. Bibliography, Appendices, Index. 154 pages. $10.95.
Reviewed by H. Brett Melendy, Professor of History and Territory of Hawaii History Project Director, San Jose State University, co-author of Governors of California (1965) and author of The Oriental Americans (1972), Asians in America (1965), and several articles on Filipinos in the United States.
Crouchett’s slim book, ranging widely over the history of the Filipinos in the Philippines and in California, draws extensively from secondary works with but one notable exception: the role of the Filipinos in World War II. The author’s aim is to report the “essential facts” of Filipino contact with California from the days of the Spanish galleon trade to the present. Additionally, she seeks to show the contributions of the Filipinos to the economy of the Golden State and to trace the process of acculturation.
Crouchett begins with four background chapters, reviewing briefly Spanish control of the Philippines, recounts the role of the islanders in the Spanish trans-Pacific trade, and then describes the impact of American imperialism upon the people of this Far Eastern archipelago.
The author briefly reviews the emigration from the islands to California from 1903 until World War II, and describes the uneven reception that the Filipinos encountered as they joined agriculture’s migrant work force. With the attack of Japan upon their homeland, Filipinos sought to join the armed forces. The combat service of the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Filipino Infantry Battlion is well recounted. The issue of citizenship for those men of the Commonwealth’s army and the Philippine scouts who had been transferred into the United States Army was not settled until 1976.
Filipinos in the post-war period have come to the United States in increasing numbers, creating two distinct groups – older arrivals and their children and new arrivals who have been better educated and able to move more easily into urban and technological California. Those who still depended upon the fields for their livelihood had a major impact upon agriculture as a consequence of farm workers’ strikes in the 1970’s.
Crouchett concludes that California has been enriched by the Filipino presence but the path to acculturation has not been easy for any of the several waves of immigrants. She correctly holds that the Filipinos have been significant contributors to the state’s development and she remains optimistic about their future.
The book’s title is something of a misnomer for more than 50 percent of its content discusses the Philippines or the ephemeral contacts by a few Filipinos during the days of early California. The book provides a fine introduction regarding the Filipinos’ place among this state’s multi-faceted population.