Filipino American recreation hall at 245 S. Main Street, Los Angeles. 1940.
Though most of the Filipinos living in Southern California today made their residence in the United States after the Immigration Act of 1965, immigrants from the Philippines established settlements in the region decades before. A 1924 immigration law prohibited any immigration from Asian countries. However, since the Philippines was U.S. territory, immigration to the United States was not restricted for Filipinos. Between the years of 1924 and 1934, an additional law was enacted to restrict the number of Filipinos who could enter the States to 50 per year. The first substantial wave of Filipinos settled in Los Angeles in the 1920s. By the first quarter of the 20th century, a small Filipino enclave was developing in the impoverished Downtown area, between Main and Los Angeles Streets. Due to racially restrictive covenants and discrimination, this was the only area in Los Angeles that the rental market allowed them to rent at that time.
Filipino youths in the SOMA, San Francisco 1990s photo: Liwanag
After the passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, many more Filipino immigrants continued to settle in the South of Market. By the early-1970s, the Filipino population reached a critical mass and was able to convince San Francisco and the Federal government to fund programs that would serve the needs of newly arrived immigrants and elderly Filipinos.
Filipino Cannery Union. Late 1930’s. Filipino seasonal migrant workers, “Alaskeros,” worked in salmon canneries in Alaska during the summer and along the west coast during other seasons.
“A correspondence by a Filipino community leader in 1906 revealed that at the turn of this century, Louisiana was already home of several hundred Filipinos, with over two thousand of the Manilamen in the New Orleans community alone. Whereas, the UW census of 1910 had set the Filipino population in the US at the low figure of only 160.”
Quoted by Marina Espina, 1981 in Fred Cordova, Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt, 1983)
Filipino WWII Veterans; courtesy Antonio Somera/Daguhoy Museum